Interview with Mia Vallance

JO-HS Residency April 2023

JO-HS: How has your time in Mexico and your residency at JO-HS impacted your work?

Mia: There has been a lot more experimentation and variety in my work, due to the amount of tim and commitment to my art practice here. At the same time, being on a residency gives you a lot of focus - that restricted time frame, a new environment. I think it has made me work in a more project-based way, this being responding to the city. In a practical sense too - the studio is very spacious, so I was able to work on a larger scale. Also, the restrictions in oil painting materials here in Mexico forced me to explore cheaper and more widely available options like spray and charcoal.

JO-HS: Please describe the body of work made here during the residency, what have been your main influences?

Mia: “The city is a delirium of construction.”
Juan Villoro, Horizontal Vertigo

I am inspired by Mexico City itself, a sprawling metropolis on a dried-up lake; a city that shake with earthquakes; its sky a network of electricity cables; taco stands infinite. I think I am stil processing this place. I have tried to incorporate some sense of it into this body of work – fragments of Spanish, graffiti, cables, rosa mexicano, dust and pollution, an archaeology of

In a way, this body of work has been about trying to orientate myself in Mexico City – from using google maps and learning Spanish to trying to wrap my head around its extraordinary physical geography. I am very interested in the idea of vertigo or spatial disorientation and how to translate this compositionally into painting.

JO-HS: Tell us more about your experience of living and studying in Paris

Mia: Beaux Arts de Paris was an incredibly liberal place to study compared to Central Saint Martins, the ateliers are made up of students from all year groups and each is run by a different artist/professor who is not often there. It has a kind of wild feeling induced by this independence and total freedom. The building itself is adorned with sculpture and graffiti. It was here that I began painting.

JO-HS: I have seen that in your past work your pieces have frenetic brushstrokes with exposures of uncertainty and bewilderment, however, in the work you are doing now, I see individual narrative, nostalgia and more controlled space. What do these works teach you?

Mia: I think this is due to being more conscious of my environment here than I would be in London which has allowed for a kind of specificity. The work I was previously making was inspired by general and engulfing ideas of collective anxiety and ecological collapse, whereas here I feel I have been observing something from the outside.

JO-HS: Who are the people you draw in charcoal? What was the inspiration behind them?

Mia: I draw quite often from google maps. These were children I saw on street view in Mexico City. Their faces are blurred out on the Internet, so I have imagined their expressions. I am inspired by their posture, clothing, and attitude. Though the figure is not something I often incorporate into my paintings, I find it helpful to draw as a way of unblocking and observing.

JO-HS:  Do you enjoy that slow evolution of every so often adding new elements or exploring new mediums?

Mia: My process is really led by gesture, colour and movement, which unravels through bursts of energy. I balance the painting out with research, drawing, walking around the city.

JO-HS: Has there been something that has surprised you within your practice during your residency? If so, what?

Mia: I was surprised by my interest in text and language, particularly the graffiti in the city, which is something I am surrounded by in Bethnal Green, where I have my studio in London. Though I never drew much inspiration from it there. The observations you make as an outsider can be interestingly acute, when you are inside something you cannot see it holistically – which comes back to that idea of orientation again.