Emalia is a young artist living in Glasgow. Performance art and painting are their main artistic expressions, in which they denounce the lack of representation of the person behind the artist, the privileges for few and the effects of the lockdown, through a meticulous design of spaces and environments.

Hi Emalia. Tell me about yourself and your path.

I am 27 years old and I live in Glasgow. I moved here at the end of 2018, after studying in Italy. I was born in Washington DC because of my mother who is American, but when I was 10 we moved to Liguria, near Ventimiglia where my career in art began. From the Institute of Art and the path in decoration and restoration have passed to sculpture at the Academy of Carrara. Then the Erasmus in Lisbon and Venice I finished my studies.

After a short period in Milan I arrived in Glasgow, for a Master’s degree at the School of Arts. Until Covid arrived to upset all plans. Having changed schools several times I have noticed how the art education system is really bad, both in Italy and in the UK.

It surprises me. We complain so much about the Italian system and how it is negatively compared to foreign institutions…

In the UK it’s all about profit, no support even in times of pandemics. A completely practical master was impossible to carry out in a video lesson, we had no news for months, we could not recover our work tools. So me and other students of English art schools founded the Pause Or Pay collective.

emalia artist
Courtesy of Emalia Mattia

Are you completely dedicating yourself to art right now?

Actually, no. I’ve always worked, even in Italy, during my studies and I care a lot about the topic of work, it is fundamental indeed. Before being an artist I am a worker and undoubtedly this part of my life takes a lot of time away from my days. After nearly nine years in the restaurant business it is practically my career! And it is important to “talk” about this in my work.

Well, let’s talk about your art forms. Do you only deal with painting?

Today my main art practice is painting. Before covid I was doing performance art here in Glasgow. I also organized events in special spaces, with artists who brought specific themes to the stage. I also tried to translate these performances into video art.

emalia artist
Courtesy of Emalia Mattia

… But clearly it’s not the same thing. There is no relationship with the public, which defines this type of art.

Exactly. My performances in particular require the presence of an audience that interacts with me and with the objects I have created, which take on a precise meaning. They are also improvised performances, within the limits of such objects, but always improvised.

What do these objects represent? Are you inspired by anyone in particular?

Keijuan Thomas and Sandra Johnston are among the main inspirations. What I was doing represented “wage labor”, working conditions and workers’ movements. For example, I used a papier-mâché hammer to “hammer” the audience in the head. I have often used classically communist symbols, which take on political and social significance. I almost find it hard to talk about it, because now the scene is a distant memory.

bar corner
Courtesy of Emalia Mattia

From these “humanoid” figures in china to very specific representations, with these recurring and impactful motifs. What do they represent and what was the transition?

Ink representations are usually my starting point, the basis of the complete drawing. I am not sure how to explain why I started from one thing to get to the other. Certainly having the studio helped a lot, it gave more possibilities to vent the creative impulses and use all kinds of tools.

One of your latest drawings reminds me a lot of David Lynch’s Red Room! Is it a desired reference?

Not exactly. I’m noticing that all the things I do start from a desire… The concept of “designer” belongs to me a lot… but it’s complicated to explain in Italian, it makes more sense in English.

emalia mattia
Courtesy of Emalia Mattia

Designer as a “designer” of a space – concept? I notice that they are all well-defined places.

Yes, especially the last. Specific places, such as the one of the bar. It is a place that I love very much and is located here on the South Side, the only place I frequented in the last months of the restriction: it is a very close community, which inspires me every day. Living here has really helped me a lot in doing what I like, leaving me a lot as a person too. All the spaces I imagine are without machines, in which trans or non-gendered people live. When I paint there is a desire for something I don’t have, something I can’t access.

I feel this very much and it affects my art and the scenes a lot. Like my last drawing on paper, in black and white: we are always in Glasgow, in a space born from the desire to go out, to be able to be outside and see people … aware of its limits, it represents the feeling of something that is about to happen but you do not know. I like to give the feeling of depth, to give the idea of ​​space in a tricky way. A perspective of plans in which to immerse yourself completely.

emalia bar
Courtesy of Emalia Mattia

Well, looking at it’s like being transported into that scene.

Yes, even when it hung in my studio it greatly affected the surrounding space and who entered. If initially painting did not fascinate me it was because in performing I created a multidimensional space, an atmosphere. I really like the idea of ​​seeing one of my paintings in someone’s home, in their space … I think they are different degrees of intensity that, in a more subtle way, affect them in the same way. I also really like the idea of ​​domestic space, living space, and the works that have weight in these locations.

emalia vase
Courtesy of Emalia Mattia

Do you have any active or future projects?

I produce my custom t-shirts, painted and illustrated with screen printing. It is a slow process since each garment is different from the other and this requires special attention. I like to do things right and that clearly means spending a lot of time on it. For the future I think I will dedicate a lot to this production of personalized clothing and accessories.