ARTIST IN RESIDENCE: MIA CHAPLIN

ARTIST IN RESIDENCE: 

MIA CHAPLIN

The KRONE X WHATIFTHEWORLD Artist Residency Program is hosted in the heart of our working wine farm, Twee Jonge Gezellen offering both a space for quiet moments of contemplation as well as moments of wild intensity. 

Working in a natural environment just gave me more freedom to have space, to play, and experiment. 

Mia Chaplin is a painter who lives and works in Cape Town. Working in oil on canvas and paper, her highly expressive works are characterised by their rich impasto surfaces and visible brushstrokes. Chaplin’s most recent works emphasize a muted colour palette of pink fleshy tones and golden highlights. Consisting of still lifes, figure studies and landscapes, her work seems to meditate on the familiar. Her loose, erratic style of painting – synonymous with that of the impressionists – is intuitive, heightening the emotionality of her pieces. They communicate a sense of estrangement; reflecting a detachment between the self and her surroundings. Her works sway between voyeurism and intimate interaction, while remaining consistently self-referential.

How was your artist residency experience at Twee Jonge Gezellen and more specifically, getting out of Cape Town during the lockdown period?

Because of lockdown I was stuck in my house, in my studio. I was like painting the walls of my lounge; and being here just gave me a lot of space and silence to work. 

And being in a more natural environment?

It brought a lot more peace, and the ability to just focus on work and not be distracted by all the little things around me. But I don’t know if it like really affected the work. Maybe a bit, the colours became a bit brighter... I think that working in a natural environment just gave me more freedom to have space, to play, and experiment. 

Did you paint any of the flowers here?

The flowers were more just like after a few glasses of wine, just a loose break between painting from specific images that I had planned to paint for the residency. So they’re more just like inbetweeners. 

Were you painting from specific photographs? 

I was painting from specific photographs that are collaged.

Could you explain you affinity to flowers and particularly flower bouquets?

I obviously paint because they’re just pretty, and they kind of give you the ability to work with like a lot of different colours and different compositions. But also because flowers as bouquets are always given for occasions like a funeral, or a wedding, or a birthday or something. I feel like a bouquet of flowers can kind of be used as like a hanger on which to like put any kind of feeling, like about grief or joy or whatever. So I think I just use them as place to put a feeling I’m having.

Did you start painting in an impasto way and why are you drawn to this texture in particular?

I started painting impasto when I was in art school I was working from this really bad image of a mountain, like a snowy mountain scape, and it was all pixelated and you couldn’t really see what it was, so I just started using the paint to try actually create what the image was of, instead of trying to make a picture of a mountain scape. I tried to actually make the mountain scape out of paint. And I found it much more interesting and I think it’s a lot more sensual and the texture is very inviting.

How did you move from the thick paints to the sculptural objects? How did that shift happen?

The paint was kind of getting thicker and thicker and then I was painting a lot of fabric, like draped fabric, at the time. And I just couldn’t get it thick enough that it would do what I wanted it to do. So I started experimenting with small little swatches of canvas that I put in wood glue and I tried to research what they do on film sets when they want to recreate draped fabric that stays still. 


I tried a few different things and then got this solid object and painted that. And then I really liked how that, kind of, became alive and made you feel like you’re inside the painting, instead of just standing back and looking at a rectangle on the wall. And then I just started playing with wire, and paper maché, and plaster of Paris, and they just grew from a sort of experimental, playful place, which I think I’m trying to go back to. Because I think that’s when exciting things happen. 

And do you think that this is a more playful series?

I think with the works that I’ve been doing lately that are more broken, plain, more fragmented. It’s definitely more playful, which kind of keeps me aware the whole time I’m working. Like every step of the way I’m trying to figure out how to do it and how it works and it kind of keeps the energy moving and keep things fresh. I think there is play in that way. I don’t know how it’s going to happen and it doesn’t always work out and that’s okay.

What are some of the other interests that you’re kind of focusing on in your practice? The fragmented picture frames?

Definitely. I think, so the main thing has actually been ‘play’. Like during lockdown I was trying to have fun at home and just used the time to get back to all the that were half started projects. I brought some clay and I was like “ I’m gonna make clay” things. Or wire and lino and crayons. So I started playing and then looking at how play enters other spaces, and then I started looking at foreplay because I often paint nudes. I just started looking at the body and ways in which we play as adults, and how we find that freedom and curiosity. So I think it kind of guided me towards looking at the human body and how it interacts with the other human bodies.

And do you think that these works are erotic or sensual in any way? 

I think the works are definitely sensual, not only because of the subject matter, but because of the paints being oils and it’s impasto. It’s already quite textural and you can see every brushstroke and you can see what my hand has done while I’ve been making it. So it’s really very sensual, it’s very human, and then on top of that its obviously images of sexy things. 

And where do you pull the subject matter from in your paintings?

Found images, and the vases. I’ve used a lot of images from Italian renaissance. And then, more recently I’ve been using some stills from Pornhub, which is always interesting and shocking, but fun. And then also just friends and family, and myself and my boyfriend.

Could you take us through some of the other kind of symbols that are on the vases?

The vases are probably the most symbolic works that I have, because everything from the shape of them, to the images on them, have meaning behind them. The vases are quite symbolic because they’ve got a lot of illustrative images and shapes and symbols on them. The shapes of the vases are very curvaceous and I see them quite heavy, almost animals that are carrying water, which feels quite feminine to me. And then, obviously, the texture is the oil paint which, again is very bubbly. And I’ve painted a lot of figures, nude figures, and there’s quite a lot of symbols of violence on them. I use a lot of images of knives and there’s a bear trap on this one. And I think it came from wanting to feel strong and protective. But there are also images of self-directed violence, such as harmful substances that are used to soothe the self, like cigarettes and wine and antidepressants. So it’s very much about a personal soothing and wanting to be protected. I think a lot of it came from, thinking about violence in our country and in the world. And specifically gender-based violence. 

Photography and Videography: 

Jonathan Kope