There are monsters hidden, born, and revived in the work of Swedish Mia Makila. Some say she has the sensibility of Bosch, and indeed her work is appreciated for its darkly powerful subject matter and tales of physical and moral deterioration.
If one likes, it might be said that popularity of her art reflects a voyeuristic fascination with the grotesque. Nevertheless,some will find her work revelatory, cathartic, and resonant on a personal and profoundly disturbing level.
In many ways, this generates, for me, any way a deep sadness, and feeling of enduring sadness. Many of the protagonists are children, and there is a terrifying compression of childhood into a time of entrapment and illness. Rather than catharsis, I see a pollutant, imbuing every detail with a kind of terror. I should add a qualifier of sorts, this is not a value judgement, or prognosis of the artist’s mental statement or that of any one else who loves her work. Rather, it is a testament to the strength of the work, its power to disturb….Nevertheless I find many of us seem in an imaginative or intellectual view of the world that seems a sort of static place mired in a convoluted Freudian theory. Perhaps we might see Mia’s pictorial view of the world as more related to the idea of work in the Jungian sense, a dynamism that moves throughout one’s life, changing, shifting and evolving…a confrontation of the primordial …to give oneself to this place, is an act of bravery and defiance.
“Whoever speaks in primordial images speaks with a thousand voices; he enthralls and overpowers…he transmutes our personal destiny into the destiny of mankind, and evokes in us all those beneficent forces that ever and anon have enabled humanity to find refuge from every peril and to outlive the longest night.” (The Red Book, Liber Novus, C.G. Jung)
As well, one must remark on the model of Catholicism, the canon of suffering as a passage to redemption and clarity. These leitmotifs are to be found throughout the artist’s work, a pictorial vocabulary adopted and remade for personal expression.
See for example the memories of physical suffering often easily read as a sort of sadism. And yet, in spite of, or perhaps because of these elements, there is a power in these images, an inversion of trauma, a confrontation of the ugliness of life, and that poignancy achieved only through passage through fire. Mia shares:
“My art deals with primitive and basic expressions; fear, angst, rage and self-protection but always in an unnatural context, which in turn creates juxtaposition and tension between these emotions.”
Mia notes an estrangement of sorts from her native Sweden, noting that the genre she works within is under-recognized among gallerists, and her audience seems to be more international.
Self taught, she shares that she feels a sort of panic if she is forced to follow instructions, and makes her way instead by experimental methods and also through the observation and study of fellow artists whether contemporary or historic. One can understand such a feeling, copying something that seems counterintuitive seems in direct opposition to a creativity energy achieved by accessing and trusting the richness of the tremors of one’s imagination. Finding a path to artistic voice will often involve acceptance of one’s difference.
Mia comes to this creativity naturally, her Finnish grandmother was a poet and maker who imbued her home with creativity despite poverty, Mia shares a particularly astonishing invention:
“My grandmother created a forest in her living room for the kids to play. She went out in the forest, collected moss, grass, branches, stumps, leaves, small tress, sticks and stones and arranged it on a huge rug in the corner of the room to make it look like a real forest. After a few weeks it all began to decay and smell, so she went back to the woods and gently returned the moss and the trees to its natural environment. It was a lovely project and I think if she was young, today she could have been a real artist, perhaps doing installations.”
Mia’s wizardry takes numerous forms including includes mixed media, painting, collage and digital work, however, she makes a distinction between the processes and meaning:
“While painting I work slowly and with precision to create a very controlled expression. My paintings deal with the physical world whereas my digital practice is more concerned with my inner world. I am freer to experiment and let my subconscious do most of the work, almost like being in a trance. The two working methods are very different. Today, I prefer the digital process because I love being on unfamiliar ground, not knowing where I am going. This series is a more positive place where I dissect my dreams, fantasies, and psychological processes.”
The artist often uses explicit, horror or gothic motifs, many pairing images of disgust with feminine being, and lean towards a sort of neo-expressionist style, echoing her own life including as a survivor of unnamed traumas, a total loss of self to fear, and painful health issues.
“As a child, I developed a serious case of atopic eczema and a lot of different allergies that would make my skin break out in violent rashes that would itch and make me scratch myself until I was without any skin on my hands, and I had to wear bandages. This childhood trauma is visible in my paintings where my characters are often without skin with the nerves exposed or with bleeding wounds.”
RB: Many people are attracted to the intimate grief and visceral appeal of your work, the motifs often resonate with their own experiences of suffering, but also the images appeal to those interested in the power of the ugly. I see a catharsis and freedom the more I look, but also an unyielding sorrow. What does making art mean to you?
MM: To be able to be myself without any limitations. To let my core breathe. To feel intimate with the world. To create magic. To feel like I approach life from a genuine viewpoint instead of a pre-made one.
In addition to further independent explorations of the digital medium, Mia is currently collaborating with the French artist Candice Angelini and has plans to work with Swedish digital artist Mats Tusenfot.
Learn more about the Artist MIA MAKILA