I have been speaking with Goia Mujalli about painting for many years, I consider her a great source of knowledge, critical thought and creative innovation; a true painter’s painter. Her experimentation and proliferation within the studio is impressive, her dedication to her craft and journey as an artist even more so. It was an absolute honor to interview Goia Mujalli recently to gain a glimpse into the creative processes behind her most recent bodies of work, hear about her experiences exhibiting internationally and get a sneak peek at the work in progress within her studio as Mujalli currently prepares for her MA degree show opening in June at The Royal College of Art.
Goia Mujalli is a Brazilian artist currently based in London, UK. Mujalli studies painting at The Royal College of Art and recent exhibitions include ‘Resíduos de um Ritmo’ at Marcus Soska, Rio de Janeiro 2016, ‘The Spiral’ at The Library, London, 2017, ‘Seamless Territories’ at Blyth Gallery, London, 2017, ‘The Abstraction of Continents’, at Lychee one, London, 2016 and ‘Mutable Archives’ at the Embassy of Brazil, London,2016.
ON PAINTING AND COLOR THEORY
My research into the materiality of pigment has recently become much more scientific, for a long time I thought that wasn't enough, but for now i've decided this will be my research.
Currently in my studio there is this yellow oil painting which I’m quite excited about. It has been an ongoing painting for about two months now; I kept covering and covering it until it was this white yellow background then I decided to limit myself to two tones of yellow. I was looking at paintings by Cézanne. In his paintings there is a lot of abstraction which comes from observations of landscapes, so I was observing how he would do these marks and how one would be in contrast with the one behind. So I thought to myself, what would be the opposite of this warm yellow on the surface? Cold grey? I mixed the panes grey color with white and placed a large block on the painting. Immediately once it is next to the yellow and it appeared to be a purple lilac color. I am interested in what scientists would call subjective color. How one color visually changes beside another color. This led me to look closer at Josef Albers color studies displayed in his book 'The Interaction of Color' which is a lot about how colors vibrate next to each other and can appear there color depending on their color context.
Moreover, I recently listened to Amy Sillman's talk on colour. She talks about pigments and the prices of pigments and about how painting is a very conceptual thing as you need a lot of study to understand how the paint functions. Sillman's talks about documenting colour, as has made a yellow painting that has proven impossible to document correctly. I am interested on how a lot of the paintings are seen through photographic reproductions or online.
I use a lot of Acrylic Paint as well, and recently found this material that looks like fabric but it is actually woven fibre glass. Much of my previous work has explored the relationship between graphic design, printing techniques and paintings, so I think using this fibre glass fabric is the next iteration of my curiosity. I have been doing many small experiments on the surface with acrylic paint to explore it's properties. Fibre glass traditionally is a very industrial material so it is amazing that it has been made into a soft malleable fabric used to make moulds of boats, surfboards, and large scale casts. Why I am drawn to is the fact that it creates a material that is water resistant and I have been recently investigating water. It flows, it changes constantly, its surface reflects what is above or underneath it.
ON LOOKING AT OTHER ARTISTS
What made me push my work recently was this feeling like there needed to be more in the paintings, that it was not enough, everything had a thin layer so eventually I decided to go back to oil because sometimes I think that acrylic doesn’t have this presence. But the thing is I am using both all the time, I need both but in my head I flip between the two and idealising one and then the other. It’s quite funny.
I often hide paintings away in storage and then after two months or so I understood what I had to do with it. Responding to what is there on the surface. I am interested in the history that a painting has and how it is revealed through the surface. There is a painting now in my studio that I thought of having a relation to the sea, I was looking at a lot on images of water, especially the images Roni Horn took of the river thames. I also listened to her 40 minute talk about water. For me, having grown up by the sea and spending most of my time either going once a day to the sea or the waterfall. Painting feels like it has become a way of breathing in a city, I don’t think I could survive in a city without some sort of water around.
I find abstraction more mysterious. I think working on many different size paintings is very helpful in the flow process of the studio. That allows me to work on many paintings at the same time. I find that when I am not in a good state of mind I cannot be present when painting. Painting can be like relationship, it can be an obsession, you are going after this thing, trying to find something. I am interested in this paradox with painting. I think an awareness of this paradox comes across in the subtle sense of humor that a lot of my paintings end up holding.
ON EXHIBITING IN RIO, BRAZIL
It was a very strange feeling to have a show in Rio and then leave back to London. I was thinking about the gallery space and Rio itself whilst making the paintings. After making many paintings on paper and canvas, thought removal I achieved a print effect on them. That is what took me to screen-printing on canvas. For this show I used screen-printing. My intention for these works was to make a repetition of motifs on each painting. I wanted to go against the idea of 'series', of the same. Through this repetition of marks I was trying to make a rhythm throughout the space but also each painting had its own rhythm, so creating a sense of syncopation.
Whilst curating the show, at one point the whole show was monochrome so we added this red painting called "hairballs" and it transformed the show. It also made me realize how strong that painting could be together with the other paintings by disrupting the limited pallet. I am interested in this idea of reducing the pallet as well as reducing the amount of elements in a painting whilst still creating a strong atmosphere and feeling.
However ‘Hairballs’ made me question my process again; "Hairballs" has red stripes as the background, and there is a line at the bottom, they are both knowingly done within the frame however what appeared surprisingly was a ball form that I made through the removal with fabric of the paintings that was on the surface. On that moment I realized it looked like a hair ball, which seemed a humorous objects to define in a painting. But again this was in line with the rest of the paintings in the show as all the paintings were given names of everyday things that they could be but they would all resemble an abbreviation of those things, for example 'Cloud', 'Sky','Piano', 'Window'.
ON EXHIBITING IN LONDON AT LYCHEE ONE
This interest in rhythm is continuing and it was developed recently when hanging my work within a group show called The Abstraction of continents and continents of abstraction at Lychee One in December 2016. It was a very important hang for me as I placed one larger painting beside two smaller ones. I am really interested in that right now, playing with a large painting and a small painting next to each other.
Again perhaps the reason why is connected with the power of rhythm. I was thinking about Samba and being at carnivals in Rio. How they occupy street blocks and how the band is in the middle of the street and I find it sort of liberating, everyone can go, there is no prohibition, everyone has a different costume, the music and the movement of the bodies dancing has a repetitive and rhythm whilst also building to moments of surprise and drama.
ON EXHIBITING AT THE BRAZILIAN EMBASSY IN LONDON
It was really good to get into the Embassy here in London and be able to speak Portuguese. It was really curious to me the idea that once you are inside you are in a Brazilian territory. I like this idea of being in another country but being in my own territory and speaking my own language. I think when you can speak your own language, one's mother tongue, you somehow feel closer to someone. The curator Gabriela Davies had brought together a selection of Brazilian artists who all were living and working in London, UK. Our works were all very different and I think that is what made it a good show however there was a solid link between the conversations of Environment that tied us all together more than just the fact we were Brazilian. The two paintings that I showed at the Brazilian Embassy were 'Stream' and 'Bambo.
ON BRAZILIAN IDENTITY, MIGRATION AND GLOBALISATION
I wrote a recent lecture about Brazilian Identity. Focussing particularly on how when I first got to London many people were saying I had to make work about 'Being Brazilian' which I thought was strange. Because for a start, what is it to be Brazilian? It is such a mixture of many cultures, Europeans, Africans, Americans, Chinese, Japanese and many others. The recent history of Brazilian identity was one were Brazilian cultural sectors eg, the fines arts, media, architecture and pop culture allowed a lot of American influence and looking outside of our selves instead of digging into our own cultural history.
For me I never felt like I belonged anywhere, until I went to Spain once when I was 19 and thought I had to live there. When I came to London to develop my artistic career I realized it is a place where everyone is from everywhere so I thought this could be a place where I belong. Within my lecture I link this feeling to the materiality of water; it unites the continents, it is part of our everyday life, we are 70 percent water, it is also a reflection, it is never something that you can purely see, it is always a reflection of something.
Within my lecture I used the exotic yet now every day pineapple as a way to trace the effect that globalisation has had on Brazilian national identity. The history of the Pineapple originated from the south of Brazil, however the fruit was taken by the Brazilian cannibal tribes who spread it across South America until it got to the Caribbean when there the Spanish found and brought it back to Europe.
It's European name was the 'Apple of Paradise' because every fruit that looked exotic at that time the Europeans called apples, like the dates was called finger apples. So I wondered if the Pineapple could be a symbol of Brazil? And in sense a true idea of what is to be from a place that was colonized and therefore it’s identity spread, diluted and banalised.
Perhaps I can only speak for myself and how I feel like the Pineapple, feeling like this transplanted being that is made up of many types of people, and never feeling truly placed or displaced, but instantly a cultural reference to something exotic and often over sexualised. That feeling is very strange and also perhaps humorous, there is something a bit extrovert and funny looking even in the form of the pineapple that I relate to in the way that when I paint I allow the abstraction to form in this fluid way that in a sense understands a history of things not being fixed in place but in constant flux and often in the hands and actions of the force of history and human nature.
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Poznansky is a British artist currently based between Oakland and London. She studied at the Slade School of Fine Art London and School of the Art Institute Chicago. She currently works from her studio in Oakland’s Fruitvale district, making paintings, music, and writing short stories. www.harrietpoznansky.com