Questions & Answers with Anna Di Mezza

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Anna Di Mezza-The Elevator

Anna Di Mezza is an Australian artist featured in my previous post Double Take. Anna graduated from Billy Blue Design School and worked as an illustrator for Disney Studios before setting out as an independent artist.
I contacted Anna who very kindly agreed to be interviewed and forwarded me a photograph of her new painting The Elevator (see above). For further information and examples of her work please visit her website Anna Di Mezza and her representatives Saatchi Art .

AS) In your Saatchi artist bio you unassumingly state that your primary subject matter is realistic portraits and the odd landscape or two. Although you paint in the photo-realistic manner, the collage like compositions and the Alice-In-Wonderland variations in size and scale completely subvert the conventions of pictorial realism. So when you say that what you paint are realistic portraits are you having some mischievous fun or are they accurate portrayals of your subjective vision?
AM) When I first started with Saatchiart my paintings were more in line with conservative renderings of people and landscapes. Later on, I started to evolve as an artist and experimented with conceptual work, which was around three years ago which brings me to where I am now.

AS) How do you select the found images that you incorporate into your paintings?
AM) Most of the images I work with are found on the internet. If I am lucky, an image may come by easily, otherwise I have to work hard to look and forage through hundreds of old photos until I find the right one that would work best for my objectives. I try to look for images of anonymous people going on about their daily lives. I want to celebrate their anonymity and uproot the setting for them so they are involved in some sort of narrative that is the fine line between reality and dreams.

AS) A lot of your paintings have a limited mono-chromatic palette yet others have bold, vibrant Pop Art colours. What dictates your use of colour?
AM) The photos I paint from are usually in black and white so that usually dictates the reason why I go for these monochromatic colours. I like the occasional use of colour as I enjoy colour too for added visual interest. I would like to experiment a lot more with colour in the near future.

AS).You mention Magritte and De Chirico as influences. Have other surrealists influenced you, if so, who?
AM) I’m not sure they would class themselves as Surrealists, but definitely the contemporary painters Paco Pomet and Gottfried Helnwein.

AS) Is the Surrealist influence upon you confined to the works of the figurative, pictorial school or does the other aspects of Surrealism, the abstract, collage and film bear upon your paintings?
AM) There is a lot of collage work by contemporary artists I have seen that I admire. They mostly make their art digitally. Some examples are Eugenia Loli and Sammy Slabbinck. Their works are to what I am doing except I paint the images. I admire a lot of left of centre films that have surreal aspects to them. Films from David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick in particular.

AS) In your painting closeencountersmashpotato there is a glitch smear in the bar-code design. Was this deliberate or ‘objective chance’.
AM) The glitch smear was an experiment in design rather than an accident. It started out as an aesthetic more than anything else. What was interesting about it was hearing people’s interpretations of the work. As the glitches reminded some people of bar-codes, the painting would be about mass consumerism or tuning a TV to the correct channel until one comes upon a random image.

AS) Does the Surrealist theory of objective chance play a part in your paintings?
AM) Yes, most of my work is about juxtaposing people with unrelated backgrounds to create an element of surprise so the theory is prevalent in that way.
According to the concept of objective chance, it involved the most powerful imagery which caused the greatest surprise. In order to create marvelous images, Surrealist poets juxtaposed two terms that appeared to conflict with each other but were secretly related. The power of the resulting imagery was directly proportional to their apparent dissimilarity.

AS )Your paintings present a retro vision of the future that never came to pass. Do you experience (as I do) a nostalgia for a time before you were alive?
AM) I definitely feel nostalgic for a time that precedes my life. The music, the fashion, the culture, the industrial design from the mid-century to me are the ideal aesthetic therefore I am attracted to this era and keep returning to it for inspiration

AS) David Lynch is quoted as saying that the fifties where a time of tremendous optimism and energy, yet frequently his films show the dark underbelly hidden beneath the shiny surface. What is your view on the immediate past (and its vision of the future) that is frequently displayed in your paintings?
AM) What he says is true. At the same time the 50’s were a time when women’s roles were diminished and women were being expected more and more to stay home and be housewives. African-Americans in the South, meanwhile, were living under conditions of segregation. There will always be negative and dark aspects whenever human nature is involved.
The space age era would have been a tremendously exciting time to live in thinking about the possibilities of how far humans could go thanks to the power of technology. It is also the idea of the unknown that fascinates me.

AS) Your paintings frequently feature inaccessible and inhospitable landscapes: mountains, Polar Regions and the Moon. Is this conscious romantic symbolism?
AM) Inhospitable, yes and even claustrophobic. These people all seem to be caught in a moment in time that they cannot escape and are forever trapped in. The paintings make them appear as if they were meant to be there due to their seeming lack of concern . I am trying to tap into dreamlike states of consciousness in using these places one could not survive in.

AS) Finally what is your favourite movie?
AM) There are several films that are superlative. My favourite movie growing up was The time machine (the original 60’s one). I was completely blown away by that film with its fantastic possibilities of ideas of  fast forwarding time and the vision of the Eloi future. Other films I love are Antonioni’s “Blow up”, Kubrick’s “Space Oddyssey”, Hitchcock’s “The Birds” and “Rope”, Lynch’s “Mulholland Dr”, and more recently “Under the skin” by Jonathan Glazer.

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Anna Di Mezza-The Politics of Happiness
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Anna Di Mezza-We Can Never Go Home Again
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Anna Di Mezza-Closeencountersmashpotato
 

Questions & Answers with Nádia Maria

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Nadia Maria 2017
Nádia Maria is a contemporary photographer currently residing in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Her work has been featured in National Geographic and Paris Vogue. After featuring her stunning ethereal portraits in my previous posts Heavenly Bodies and Transformations I contacted Nadia who kindly agreed to an informal interview. Further information about this exciting young talent can be found at her website http://www.nadiamaria.com.

Many thanks to my friend Jason Lock, himself a professional photographer, for his invaluable assistance and suggestions in relation to this interview.

AS: Your website gives the indication that you are professional trained, but by obscuring the informative text and concentrating on the creative element it suggests that inspiration is more important to you than technical acumen. Is this the case for yourself?

NM: Training has its importance, or rather, construction has its importance. However when I want to give concrete expression to an image that has suggested itself to my Self I have to, it a sense, deconstruct my training. Only then can the image be set free.

AS: Do you think that studying the creative arts is important for inspiring/aspiring photographers?

NM: I think everything you study, question, observe, believe you know, is important and collaborates with the image.

AS: Where would you say the major influences come from for you photography?

NM: Art, literature, meditation.

AS: Which artists and writers have provided you with inspiration?

NM: It depends a lot upon the moment. I’m always discovering new things, but I have some favourites: Rilke, Fernando Pessoa, Sylvia Plath, Alejandra Pizarnik, Borges, Murilo Mendes, Khalil Gibran, Hilda Hilst, Manoel de Barros, to name a few … I find that one thing leads to another, a piece of music will lead me to myths that leads me to philosophy. There is a whole universe of inter-connected inspiration out there.

AS: In your own field what photographers you admire?

NM: There are so many, but for their complete bodies of work it would be Sally Mann, Masao Yamamoto, Francesca Woodman.

AS: Of the photographers you mentioned I would be most familiar with Francesca Woodman (I have written an article called Angel about her), whose work leaves me with a sense of awe. When did you discover her work and is she a conscious influence?

NM: I discovered Woodman while I was at school. I have always enjoyed long expositions, and when I studied photography I used to make the exercises all “wrong”. I had an open shutter craze and one of my teachers said that I should take a look at her photographs; that I would identify with them. I felt an affinity, but in a different way than my friend thought I would.
I definitely admire her work but she isn’t a conscious influence. Woodman reflects the world that she saw and I reflect mine. Sometimes artists worlds cross but they are private reflections of particular kinds of self-knowledge.

AS: Where does that particular kind of inspiration come from in your work?

NM: From reflection, internal dialogues, dreams, the void…

AS: Do you create a narrative before creating the images – or – is it the case that you create images first then work a narrative around the picture?

NM: Usually there is a narrative before the image, but sometimes the images give me a narrative, however it is always a leap into the abyss.

AS: Do you use any analogue process in your work or are you totally digital?

NM: I use both.

AS: How does your use of analogue influence your work?

NM: I have a greater affinity with analogue as it what I started with, but it is becoming harder to work with today here in Sao Paulo, Brazil. My photographic thinking is built on analogue so even when I am using digital I keep what I can from the analogue process.

AS: When using digital, are you imagining the final image before actually capturing the image?

NM: Yes I usually see it in my mind beforehand, however sometimes there is an element of chance where the unconscious manifests itself.

AS: There is a major up take in photography due to the digital world and the access to smart phone technology. People consider themselves ever more creative and explore the world of Instagram etc – do you think that this hinders or promotes the conceptional/experimental genre of photography?

NM: Well, everything has its positive and its negative side, don’t you think?

AS: I do certainly agree that everything has a positive and negative side. What are the positives and negatives with the ever increasing popularity of social media on the arts?

NM: The most striking positive I think is the increased visibility and reach a work can have, and all instantaneously. A few years ago that wasn’t possible. The negative side, and unfortunately I have experienced this myself, is the devaluation of creativity, a lack of sensibility, a levelling effect.

AS: Where do you see your future as a photographer?

NM: Who knows where this will lead me. Maybe the photograph will cease to exist as it now. Maybe I will no longer feel the need to be a photographer.

AS: And finally (and this is an old chestnut) what advice would you give for future generation of image makers?

NM: Whenever I am asked I always quote Jung: “Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” That about sums it all up.

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