In the last few years Cape Town based painter Mia Chaplin has gone from a graduate to a signed artist, and we’ve been watching her work the whole time. Her current exhibition, Binding Forms, is her first solo show with Whatiftheworld Gallery, and presents 12 large impasto canvases that are linked by a colour palette of pink fleshy tones and golden highlights. The accompanying statement describes the show as “a meditation on the quiet intimacy borne of the familiar”. In this sense that familiar is studio life, and the act of painting itself. The subject of the works seem incidental – still lifes and figure studies – with the lavish brush marks and thick pigment taking centre stage. The titles of the works are wry and self-referential, and seem to comment on her experience as an artist. We decided to check in with Mia again to find out more about this, her recent work and her residency in Portugal.
Since we last spoke back in September 2013, what are some of the main things that have happened in your life and artistic journey?
I aged three years and moved studios twice. I had a solo show at Salon91 and suddenly people knew my name. I quit waitressing. I went on a trip to Europe and did a residency in Portugal. I started a relationship with Whatiftheworld. I had another solo show. I bought a vacuum cleaner.
Back then it looked like you were experimenting a lot with style and technique. How has your work changed since then and do you feel like you’ve found a groove, at least for the while?
Yes I am currently stretching out on the lounger that is my groove! I was searching for a way to be looser and yet still descriptive and I think Impasto came in on a black horse.
Can you tell us about your choice of subject matter in your current show, Binding Forms, and practice in general?
For my current show I wanted to paint only from life (as opposed to working from photographs) hence the still lives, interiors and portraits. I chose whatever was closest to me and easiest to work from. In general I have come to realise that my subject matter plays secondary to my style and medium. My subject matter is generally chosen on a whim and by an initial feeling that is worked through by painting it.
The warm, pinky colour palette, subject matter and the titles of your work convey a strong sense of nostalgia. Is this a theme you’re intentionally evoking? What other themes are at play in your current work?
My work is autobiographical and that seems to emerge as nostalgia. The colour palette is
evocative of flesh and femininity and a feeling of warmth and safety. But there are also warnings of danger, betrayal and a need for protection.
You were on a residency a little while back in Portugal. How was that experience and how has it influenced your work?
It was not the easiest experience for me emotionally but it was a period of growth. It inspired me to explore and play without pressure. A lot of my method of working now was formed during that time.
You seem to surround yourself with fellow artist friends. Do you draw inspiration from your peers? Can you share any names of people whose work you admire?
Yes, my friends are the best and so inspiring to me. We meet up and bask in each others’ artiness.
I admire the work of so many people, I can’t even begin because I’ll leave out so many. Olivié
Keck, you can start there.
Painting seems to be on the rise in Cape Town for a while now. Do you have any thoughts on why this might be?
The rise of global interest in Cape Town as well as initiatives such as First Thursdays have increased the local public’s interest in art and investing in local talent. I think paintings tend to sell quicker than some other mediums and this could be the cause for it being ‘on the rise’.
Binding Forms is your first solo show with Whatiftheworld. When did you sign with the gallery and what does this mean for you as an artist?
I joined Whatiftheworld gallery the middle of last year. For me this means I am in company with incredibly inspiring artists such as Moffat Takadiwa, Olaf Hajek, Julia Rosa Clark, and the list goes on…I have support and assistance from the gallery with anything I need and a professional team handling my shows, sales and everything in between.
Mia Chaplin’s current show Binding Forms is on at Whatiftheworld Gallery until 20 August.