21 days

December 1st, early morning. I can’t believe Johnny will be here in 21 days. I am a workday away from accessing my own world of art and creativity. I have to finish up the digital piece I’m currently working on and start something new and fresh. A new painting perhaps.

Yesterday, I got a notification on Facebook from writer and scholar Line Henriksen that the new special issue of Women, Gender & Research by herself and Morten Bülowa and Erika Kvistad, had been published – with my art ( “Iceland” ) on the back cover! This is yet another reminder that my art belongs out there in the world. I have to wrap up the work on my new collection – and hand it over to the audience. ♥

All the different me’s

All of my different sides are visible in my art.

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I haven’t felt like myself for a while. I’m a little torn between different versions of myself. The office-me, the artist-me, the Swedish-speaking-me and the English-speaking me, the strong me, the scared me etc. It can be a confusing at times. I’ve always had many sides to my personality and also many layers within each side which makes me a bit complicated to say the least. This is also visible in my art. I don’t have one single signature style, but various forms of expressions. I can be raw, I can be cute, I can be dark, I can be colorful. And I can be all those things at once. Even though I win many different followers and collectors by using different techniques and styles, I sort of envy artist with a clear signature style – because they are so dedicated to it. I am too restless, too curious about the next level of expression. I am always moving forward and I can’t go back to a successful style or expression even if I’d want to. When I move on, I never look back. Going back to an old style wouldn’t feel genuine and it would look forced. So, I guess that is my style – to always reinvent myself and my visual expression. On a deeper level, I believe I’ve used my art to rediscover and reclaim all the sides to myself that used to be censored or oppressed by other people.

Black on black

Dead Lolitas by Mia Makila

“Dead Lolitas” by Mia Makila, 2017 [digital[

I had some kind of breakthrough in my thoughts about my future painting last night. It was wonderful. The Dead Lolita theme has felt old for some time now. I don’t connect with the role of Lolita anymore, I’ve come too far on my journey of self-empowerment. It has been four years since I first got the idea of killing my inner Lolita – and I think I killed her on the way without even noticing. All the artworks for the Lolita show will be included in other collections.

The new theme for a future collection of paintings is “black on black” – whatever that might be. I have worked a lot with demon portraits against a black background and I would say it is my signature style. I love playing around with different nuances of black, adding more life to the dark and, often flat, color. I will also go back to making mixed media pieces instead of just acrylic on canvas – I have some new ideas I want to explore when it comes to my technique. This is exciting! I have already prepared some canvases. All covered with black paint, of course.

Nightcap demon

One of the biggest sources of inspiration for my art has been Ingmar Bergman, especially his 1972 film Cries and Whispers – especially with the “nightcap demon”.

My natural state

I am finally back to making art again. It’s been 5 months since I finished the last piece in PhotoShop (The Blue Connection). Being creative is my natural state, so I am starting to feel like myself again. I can see that my style has changed a bit since the last 2 pieces. It has shifted from a darker expression to a more delicate and dreamy style. My collage technique has always been driven by a freudian selection of images – but I work on a much deeper level now. My new collection of works will be my most personal one yet. Like visual diary notes. Who needs therapy when you have a talent to dig into yourself and bring it out as an emotional confession through a clear visual expression?

About my new collection “No Place Like Home”

art by Mia Makila

“The Blue Connection” by Mia Makila, 2017 [digital]

It is early morning and I am thinking about my new collection No Place Like Home and how it was supposed to be a love story. I have been working on the collection for almost 4 years now. From the time I met Johnny until now when we are broken up – you can follow our love and connection by studying my work. A house adrift. Two houses making a connection. Creating a root system. Sparks. Fire. Then – a separation. A disconnection within the root system. And now what? Am I supposed to end the collection about “finding a home” – on a bad note (with The Blue Connection)? Perhaps I have to continue working on it until something comes along that will create a ‘happy ending’? What if I have to wait for years to find my happy ending?

I will continue working on this collection to see where it’ll take me.

Interview in ETC

Mini interview in Swedish magazine ETC – about the position of horror art within the Swedish art scene. “It’s a mirror reflecting the cruelty and angst of our times and the many horror elements of being a human being ” I say.

Julee

My friend and legendary Twin Peaks singer Julee Cruise just posted my old portrait of her on her Instagram! Rumor has it that she will be performing in one of the last two episodes of the new season of Twin Peaks that airs tonight in the US. Even if my name is misspelled, I feel so grateful and happy. Can’t wait to see her on Twin Peaks. I just know it will be magical.

“Julee’s Wor´ld” by Mia Makila, 2012, digital collage

Portraits of Magic Frigren at Stenkullen Hotel

Here are two of my portraits of my friend and writer/illustrator Magic Frigren in the childhood room of the owner of Stenkullen Hotel, cluttered and crammed with toys and things. When I first met Magic, I fell in love with her warm aura and the pinkish glow she brings into the world, so I tried to capture it in these portraits.

This talented, strong and intelligent woman has the future in her hands and I can’t wait to see what she will do it it.

© 2017 MIA MAKILA

Creating my own network of like minded artists

Painting by Mikael Dalnäs

It is a sleepy Sunday. I haven’t done much this weekend, I am just trying to relax and recharge as much as I can. The plan is to go back to working with my art after I come home from my daytime job at the furniture store. And for that I need a lot of new energy.

My artist date for today got cancelled but yesterday I contacted another Swedish artist I’ve recently discovered and admire – Mikael Dalnäs and he fell in my love with my art as well. He suggested we should collaborate in the future and I would love to, once I am more into the flow of painting. I am still trying to find my groove in front of the easel.

Slowly, I am building my own network of like minded and amazing artists and creative people here in Sweden. I have big plans for us. Big and wonderful plans.

Red

Red has always been my favorite color – and red was a theme in many of Ingmar Bergman’s movies. Perhaps the color red is what connects me to his inner world. The color of the inside. The color of our hearts, the world underneath our skin and the color of our wildest desire – the desire to connect, to bleed into each other’s existence.

New interview – at French Konbini

Today my interview in the French online magazine Konbini was published – beautifully written and with brilliant questions by Alice Gautreau. You can read it in French here and the English translation below:

First, can you tell me your age and location:I am 38 years old and I live and work in Norrköping – a middle sized city on the east coast of Sweden. I am not that social and I feel like an outsider here, so I could basically be located anywhere in the world or in outer space for that matter – because I am mostly isolated and working in my studio, so I am not that integrated in society. The art genres I belong to are not very common in Sweden so I am definitely a ‘strange bird’ in the art world here.

How would you define or describe your art?

I usually try not to describe it but if I have to, I would call it “primitive-expressive surrealism”. Some people label my style as ‘lowbrow’, others call it ‘horror art’ but I think my art has more dimensions to it than that. I would describe it as very personal, intimate and raw. I am always looking for balance between dark and light, horror and humor, beauty and disgust, dream and nightmare, shame and lust, reality and fantasy. What defines my art is how I capture raw emotions without holding anything back – but never without elements that gives it a tension, otherwise it would look quite one dimensional.

What is or what are the medium(s) you use?

I am working with many different creative expressions (visual art, writing, photography) – but mostly with digital art and painting. My recent work is mostly digital. I have been developing my own technique in PhotoShop for more than 10 years and it allows me to “paint with images” instead of traditional paint. However, I have not abandoned painting, it is still a passion, but I find complete artistic freedom in the digital expression since it is a such a flexible and direct media.

What are your influences?

I am inspired by many things, many artistic expressions and styles – outsider art, primitive art, the surrealists such as Frida Kahlo and Henri Magritte, by Disney and pop culture, by movie directors such as David Lynch, Ingmar Bergman, Tim Burton and Alfred Hitchcock and photographers like Roger Ballen and Cindy Sherman. I love folk art – especially Mexican folk art and their votive paintings (prayer paintings) and American Colonial Folk art portraits and I think my style is influenced by the simple and direct expressions of amateur painters. I love everything that feels genuine and honest and I hope that my art reflects that as well.

Which subjects inspire you the most? Why?

I am working with subjects that are found in the human soul, psyche and heart – like pain (emotional and physical), lust, shame, fear, rage, self-protection, longing and disgust. I think I love the intimacy between people, intimacy in the sense that there are no barriers or walls to hide the real emotions, the naked truth about our inner core. Our private and secret hearts within our beating hearts. I am inspired by the way we suppress important emotions and replace them with masks and attitudes that are far from who we really are. We are all honest with ourselves as children but somewhere along the way, we start to mask and hide ourselves and many people lose connection to their ‘inner child’. I have lost the connection to myself many times, but I am always struggling to make my inner child stay alive. That child is the real me and will always be so even if my skin is old and wrinkled. This is also visible in my art. I call them “core dolls” – children of our souls.

Who are the actual artists that seem close to your work?

I try not to compare my style with other artists, I am self-taught and I have my own personal mythology so it feels strange for me to look for artists who are like me because it is such a personal thing.

Who are the actual artists that impress you?

When it comes to painters, I look up to American art brut artist Gregory Jacobsen. I love the way he uses bright or pastel colors even if the subjects in his paintings are grotesque or gross. I am impressed by that juxtaposition between beauty and the repulsive. I am also impressed by the early renaissance painters, Like Pieter Brueghel and Hieronymus Bosch and the way they illustrate human madness and a multi layered psychological chaos – which is both enchanting and creepy. Frida Kahlo impresses me in the way she used her pain and vulnerability in her art and made into her strength and beauty. I am impressed by Lars Von Trier and the way he uses his movies to illustrate his own periods of depression. I guess what impresses me most about other artists is an honest approach to expose other dimensions of life than the flattering and perfect illusion that most people prefer to consume. I love artists who deal with vulnerability in their work and being absolutely unapologetic about it – there is no shame in the way vulnerability is exposed as both fragile and raw.

Can you tell us about your main series?

I started making dark artistic expressions during a time of deep depression after a trauma in 2006 and if you follow the development since then, in a chronological order, you can see the healing process and how I am slowly leaving the darkness behind. I am currently working on two new collections of works – one about finding a sense of home (in myself, in the world, in life in general – and in love), hence all the houses in my latest works, and another about destroying distorted self-images. I use my Lolita demons as a symbol for those destructive self-images and in this body of work, I am killing her to make room for a new self-image. That is why the collection is called “Post Mortem Lolita”. My Lolita demons demonstrate dark sexual themes like humiliation, shame and pain, but also rage and self-protection. They have been forced into a submissive position but are now being loud and dominant about their feelings and wounds. They are now demanding space and attention instead of accepting rejection and humiliation. I guess it is also a way to find a sense of ‘home’ – to be home in a loud voice that speaks up instead of being neglected and gagged.

Did you study art or something else? Where?

No, I am self taught in every creative area (painting, digital art, writing, photography). I learn by studying the works of other artists and by learning by making mistakes and finding new approaches to the media I am working with, be it painting, making collages or working in PhotoShop. My method is basically learning by trial and errors.

Does drawing/painting have therapeutic or cathartic virtues on you?

Oh yes, absolutely. My art and my creativity has saved my life many times. It is the way my soul is breathing.

What drives you to create?

To express myself in a way that feels absolutely true to my inner voice – to me that is a spiritual freedom. Many times in my life, I have been forced to be something I am not in order to fit into this society, into social contexts or to fit other people’s expectations of who I should or could be for their benefit – especially as a woman. I am constantly struggling to keep the connection to myself intact, because it is so easy to lose it to the mainstream, pre-made ideas of how life should be lived, how a woman should behave or should not behave etc. That is why I am trying not to watch TV, read magazines or learn about trends. I want to create my own world where I feel free to be myself without being ‘contaminated’ by trends or preconceived ideas of how I ought to act or feel about myself or my life (and Death).

Do you feel like your art is a fruit of our time and society? Why?

Yes, because I am dealing with reactions to what is expected of me and I think those expectations are products of these times and the way society is centered around the wrong things (money, power and conformity). Although, I am happy I didn’t live in past times or in societies which are even more strict and heartless. I am grateful for living in a time and place where I am free to explore alternative ways of looking at life, myself and the world without the possibility of being censored – or killed, for having an open and private perspective on things. I could not imagine living in such a society, I would probably not survive in such a place.

What is the message about your art, if any?

The message in my art is to be true to our inner voice. To ‘face our demons’ and try to make friends with them instead of hiding them or to let them rule our lives. If we try to hide our demons, they will haunt us in the most excruciating way and if we let them control our lives, we will never be free. Our demons can’t leave our spirit, they are part of us, they are indestructible. But they can destroy us. That is why it’s better to make peace with them, to get to know them and give them room to exist. I try to have fun with them. To give them a party hat and make them look cute so I can bare sharing my life with them!

Could you tell us about your relationship with skin? I mean, skin seems to be an important subject in your work: you mistreat it, often paint it damaged, bloated, with sores and scars.

Ever since childhood I’ve had a serious case of eczema and in periods of stress or anxiety, I tend to break out with horrible rashes and hives. My childhood was filled with periods of physical pain and shame – and I think that has shaped my personal mythology a lot. I use a lot of polka dots, melting or rotting flesh, exposed nerves and scars in my art – all which are linked to my childhood trauma of being ill with eczema. But there is also another dimension to the naked and raw skin in my work – I am looking for the world underneath our skin, our inner world. The metaphysical world. Then, the skin is a barrier that I have to break through in order to go deeper.

How did your career take off?

When I was invited to be part of the European Lowbrow art movement 10 years ago, I finally found an artistic context that felt like home to me. Being part of an underground art genre gave my art a playground where it suddenly made more sense. I felt appreciated and loved by an audience that could connect and identity with my inner Universe. It meant so much to me, it still does. That was when my career took off and I got a lot of attention, but here in Sweden and abroad. I feel very grateful for the way I got more successful – it was through the love and acceptance of the audience.

Do you have upcoming shows or publications?

The two collections of works I am currently working on will be my comeback as an artist, after the years of not being creative or active as an artist. It will be very powerful. I can’t wait to get the new stuff out there in new art show for the world to see – where it belongs.

Portraits of my parents

photography by mia makila

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“My Father”, photography by Mia Makila, 2017

“My Father II”, photography by Mia Makila, 2017

“My Mother”, photography by Mia Makila, 2017

“My Mother II”, photography by Mia Makila, 2017

Tre hjärtan

En konstnär har tre hjärtan som klämtar i samma takt; det som sitter i kroppen, det som sitter längst inne i själen och så ögats hjärta. Dessa hjärtan älskar både ömsint och vilt. Inget är så älskvärt som skönheten i alla sår och sprickor som verkligheten förtvivlat försöker dölja bakom sina tunga ridåer.

An interview about the far right and making political art in Sweden

Yesterday I was approached by a French student who wanted to interview me about the Swedish far right and the rise of our racist party (SD) and how it affects me as an artist. Here is the interview (slightly edited to fit this blog).


I have seen the interview about you in Fier Panda, and I have seen (or I suppose) that you are against the far right, is that true?

To me it’s not even a question whether I am for or against the far right movement; if you have a sense of common decency, if you are empathetic and have a conscience, it is not an issue of “for or against”, you are automatically on the side against oppression and inhumane values. I never took a stand, it just comes natural for me to feel empathy for people in need. However I belong to no political party and I wish to be free to think outside the political palette.

We do have problems in Sweden which are sadly abandoned by our leading politicians and instead hijacked by our far right party (SD). The silence of the ruling (humane) political parties is unfortunately a highway for the far right movement and their extreme opinions. They are being loud about all the issues which are neglected by the sitting politicians and manipulate the people to think that they have all the answers. Of course they don’t.

The present situation of refugees and immigrants, the shortage of available apartments in our the bigger cities, the decline of our health care system, crime and violence in areas where there are a lot of immigrants are all very complex and difficult to solve. But I am sure the solution is not found in the narrow minds of the far right. It is not “we against them”, it is about adjustment, knowledge and finding a balance where we can help people in need, without feeling overwhelmed. To save people in a lifeboat you can’t help more than the boat allows.

I don’t have any answers, because I am not a politician, but I have an idea of how to start solving our issues. Simply by acknowledging them without being scared of sounding like we share the values of the far right. Life is not colored in black or white – but found in the complexities of the grey-scale. To walk on any extreme political path will get you nowhere, unless you want history to repeat itself.

“The Racist” by Mia Makila, 2007

Has Sweden had a climb of racism these last years like in other countries of Europe – for example France or in Germany?

People feel intimidated and threatened by whatever they feel is invading their sense of identity and security. I think it’s a natural instinct from a very primitive part of our brain. Fear will always make you defensive and reactive instead of being open minded and focused on making smart solutions. SD and the far right are using this fear to attract people’s attention to their (shady) agendas. They reinforce fear in people to get their selfish values normalized.

It is very difficult to talk about the real problems Sweden are facing right now, without sounding like a racist. It is, once again, the dangerous nature of thinking in terms of black and white, or in extremes. Then there are no middle ground where people can meet and unite.

We DO have big problems with unfamiliar and hard-to-handle elements of immigrated cultures (child brides, genital mutilation of young girls, gang violence etc), we DO have issues with a declining health care system, we DO have problems with a higher rate of rapes (especially gang rapes). The question is how to approach these issues.

We have to stop censoring ourselves and each other. We need to be open and honest about difficult matters, without being labeled as “racist” or blaming an entire religion or race, as soon as we are trying to approach uncomfortable topics. Sharing knowledge and being open-minded to new approaches should be considered as healthy and productive, but it is only possible without censorship. Political correctness is a nice concept but works like a straightjacket in a fruitful discussion.

“Chain of Fools” by Mia Makila, 2010

Being racist won’t ever lead to any good results, this goes without saying in my opinion. Being racist might feel good because it justifies your fear, rage and frustration – but it is a mental cul-de-sac. It will get you nowhere if you want to come up with a lasting solution. Short term solutions, sure – just look at Hitler’s Germany. But for solutions of quality, you have to add more dimensions to your motivation than only fear and frustration.

Swedish racists are talking about the problem of segregation between immigrants and Swedes, but the real problem is in the segregation between the values of Swedes themselves., just like the Americans. A divided people.

“The Little Man” by Mia Makila, 2016

Have you made artworks to attest of your political position?

Yes, last summer there was a wave of gang rapes in Sweden, especially at music festivals around the country. Being a victim of domestic abuse and sexual trauma, I made a few pieces about rape. I feel like the politicians are betraying women when they keep silent about these issues. I don’t care if the sexual predators are Swedes or immigrants, it is a big problem and the politicians are being too quiet about it. I feel like our politicians have let us down. And I feel powerless when I think about these matters.

I do have a problem with the “self-proclaimed victim and enraged, emotionless and indifferent male” whether he’s white, brown, yellow, black, purple, a Christian, Muslim, Jew or if he’s a freaking trekkie. That is a problem we REALLY should discuss. Why are these men so angry? Why do they feel like victims? How can we prevent this phenomena to go on? If we find a good solution to this issue, I think we wouldn’t have many problems in the world. But I think it is a very difficult question to answer. I would want to deal with it more in my art though. To dig deeper.

“The Bones of Rape” by Mia Makila, 2016

Has many Sweden artists reacted to the growth of SD? And the rest of the population?

I think the political cartoonists have had a distinct upswing these last few years, but I don’t know about the artists in general. I am sure it has colored the art world in some way. People are scared of the development in the world. What is going to happen? Is this only the beginning of something much worse? What will happen in the upcoming election (next year) and how would Sweden become if SD turns out to be the predominant party? We are making fun of Trump’s administration, but I am not sure it is as funny as we think it is. I am deeply concerned. I think many people are. The SD followers and the racists are having their moment in the sun, with all the far right politicians coming out in the arena in both Europe and in the US.

And the last question, do you think the ideas of the far right and the ideas of artists can be compatible?

No. Never. And they shouldn’t be. Art is for unifying people. Far right ideas are about distancing, isolation and separation. Art and far right ideas are like oil and water. I see it as a positive thing. We need artists now more than ever. Art can present solutions and ideas not found in words or thoughts. Art can work as ice breakers and get people together to start talking in a constructive way. And I think we are all dying to do that.

Art is the language of tolerance. Far right people use the language of intolerance.