Starting the New Year with a profile of Emalia Mattia, who works in performance and painting, and is currently based in Glasgow. They met us online to speak about the specificity of the moment and how the work they make has changed in lockdown.
I’ve been doing them here as if it were asking people to met me at a cafe or a museum lobby
Oh I’m grateful soul, lol.
Cool, Did you make this website? (refering to the chat room were we did the interview)
It was supposed to be a pop up show, my friends had group shows cancelled over the summer, and normally we would have had a show in a gas station bathroom or something, the back of a cafe, so I felt like we could do something with the same degree of formality-
It looks great, I have a real block with programming so I really admire anyone who can do it
It’s pretty simple in terms of the html
I’ve seen a couple of things online and I guess everyone is experimenting with different formats, this one feels good to me,some of them are like RPG style
Yeah RPG style, like MYST. Did you see the VR show that the GSA BFA did ?
(laughs) oh my god, Myst. I played Myst and never solved anything.
I did see that show, honestly going through 3-D rooms gives me vertigo, I find it very unsettling. That time was such a blur for me.
– For everyone
Because i was dealing with so much heartbreak and frustration with GSA and constantly trying to have this line of communication with them
How have you been seeing work, or showing work?
I’ve seen 2 IRL shows since lockdown began, both of which made me feel very emotional. “Shoving from all sides” at platform 2020 , in Edinburgh , I really loved seeing work by two people I know, Susannah Stark and Rabindranath A Bhose. Maybe because I’ve seen their work develop over the past 2 years.
You were on the same course as them?
No, I just know them in Glasgow.
There is something more special about making an appointment, having to wear a mask, and so on.
Yes it feels more intentional. It feels special to see someone’s work in the flesh. also, in Milan Trisha Baga’s show “the eye, the eye and the ear” at Hangar Bicocca ,which is a massive space
The show covered 15 years of her work, it was so MUCH ,these big video installs , It was a little overwhelming ,after not seeing work for a long time. We just spent hours in there
Trisha Baga would really be kind of perfect for this moment, because her work is at this intersection of screen and physical object
Yeah definitely, many layers. It almost felt interactive, different videos were different outcomes of the same rpg game adventure to me.
How have you been sending your work into the world these days? you were doing zines before and that doesn’t seem like it would have to change much, but performances are kind of limited.
I made a pretty drastic change with covid, because I was focussing mainly on performance , Painting and drawing has been something I go back to sometimes, but in particular last year while I was doing the MLitt I had a lot of ideas for performance. I was really interested in organizing live events in Glasgow. That all fell through obviously.
Making smaller things to sell has been a focus for me, I filter most things through social media
That allows you to select an audience?
Or that changes the audience, it’s still self selecting, but in a different way than people who would come to a performance.
There is a coherent visual language though, your 2D work has similar imagery even something as basic as like, some of the characters having the same haircut as you.
Yeah exactly, I like self portraiture. A running theme for me would be movement, for sure, but also how using your own image becomes this abstraction of self. When I started painting again during lockdown, specifically all the “Pastoral” paintings I think I was speaking to people who would follow me on social media, trans people in my circle. I knew that they would get it, and it felt like some kind of intimacy.
With live performance people beyond the extensions of my social scene would be there but because we’re all experiencing this at this same time it feels like I can control it more.
People are kind of primed to see things as a specific historic moment or having increased gravity.
I do find a lack of audience now frustrating, I have done an online show but honestly I find that very dissatisfying. The experience of not getting a degree show was a major heartbreak.
Someone told me that it’s a bit like a badge of honour or more like a crystallization experience people will read that list of twenty people or whatever , from each institution, more closely than the year before , or the first year back.
Like an online degree show people would look more closely at the artists, or a post covid IRL degree show?
I don’t mean the specific exhibition , I mean like a register,there is this plaque at the basement of (the Glasgow School of Art) of all the students who died in World War 1–
Oh Lord ,Wonder where it is in the new building.When I was in Edinburgh I saw an exhibition with paintings from that time From Scottish painters, it was a couple floors below the platform show
What were they like?
Maybe this is going off on a tangent but there have been a lot of comparisons between now and that time, early 1900s,because of the spanish flu. The paintings felt like they were a bit outdated for their time? Like there was futurism going on and they were very sweet nature paintings ,portraits of women taking baths. Scotland feels so remote sometimes, maybe that’s why I haven’t seen a lot of portrayals of covid life in art.
Almost none, not in fashion photography or anything that’s mediated.
Though I did watch a few episodes of the Kardashians because it shows them dealing with the beginning of covid
Are there specific visual reference to paintings that I might be missing or other art historical references , like the drawing of the sword swallower
I went to a vocational high school in italy and we were trained to do frescoes, decorating and some light art restoration .So I had to paint a lot of early renaissance and medieval reproductions.
That imagery is my main influence, medieval concepts of space ,weep not, a lot of the phrases I use I steal from religious music, country music.
Two final cheesy questions; is there anyone, could be a visual artist, or someone else, who you think is underrated and due to be rediscovered, someone who is forgotten who you would like to bring back and the other question is, can you share with us a “guilty pleasure” something that you think is lame or stupid, but nonetheless love
Gosh the first one is hard , I think there are so many artists that are underrated or just don’t get that much exposure I really love the artists Keijuan Thomas and Sandra Johnston ,They’re both performance artists who make incredible work and definitely aren’t known enough, I saw both of their work in Birmingham last year and really changed how I think about performance As for the guilty pleasure, This is really boring but I love ambient TV.
like the fireplace video?
TV that’s in the background, but a specific kind of TV that you don’t have to follow that much, Like reality tv – just always playing and everything is very horizontal
Real Housewives, old ones too, like Anna Nicole Smith ,interior decorating shows.
Thank you for speaking with us
Thanks for the chat!
interview by Ben Duax, December 2020