This week we will be talking to artist and painter Mia Osborne who creates surreal paintings exploring dystopian issues, where she imagines future worlds where the human as we know it has warped or changed in some form.
Image description: a landscape image depicting a desolate beige landscape with a deep red sun. In the foreground lies a distorted blue figure in the shape of a finger. On the left is an overlaid image of groups of figures being connected to pumps, sending milk to a conveyor. On the left lies the text Mia Osborne repeated 5 times. Below reads at long in the face.
Can you briefly describe yourself and the art you make?
Recently I’ve been particularly intrigued by ideas surrounding post-humanism and the non-human. I work predominantly through painting, sometimes informed by photographic and digital experimentation. I’ve always been intrigued by abstraction of the human form, and a flux between figuration and abstraction is something my work often seems to hold.
You have described that your work interrogates dystopian themes. How does dystopia interest and inspires you?
The idea of depicting dystopias inspires me as a method to question the way we live in the present world, and how things could look in the future if we carry on in this unsustainable way. I think by speculating things that could go wrong, it may propose how we can change now. For example, in my recent painting ‘Milk’, I speculate a world where humans are in the position of animals in the dairy industry on Earth. Through this dystopian lens, I hope to perhaps evoke a sense of empathy for what happens to other species today: how would we like it if we were put into this position by a more ‘dominant’ alien species in a dystopian future?
Sometimes I speculate a world after human extinction, perhaps we have driven ourselves to extinction through a climate crisis. In this world I imagine plants growing from the remnants of human-kind, manifested as hybridised plant-human bodies. In a way, it’s a warning of a potential future, whilst also celebrating nature reclaiming itself from the dominance of humans.
What themes and concepts do you hope to portray in your work?
I’m intrigued by nature, our relationship with other species, as well as the digital world and surrealism. I hope to allow a viewer to question their own place in the world around them, whether this is through direct representations of the human body in a space or a society in a dystopian future. My work is often speculative and intuitively composed; I’m intrigued by how the imagery I create can act as a product of my own psyche.
Mia Osborne, 'Descent' Acrylic, 80x60cm canvas, 2020
Image description: a portrait painting in a muted palette of blue, grey and red, depicting warped humanoid figures, heaped on top of each other chaotically.
Much of your work includes elements of the human form. Why do you choose to distort the human body?
I enjoy warping and changing the human form as I’m interested in pushing the limits of figuration. The boundary between figurative and abstract is one I have always been intrigued by: at what point exactly does an artwork become one or the other? This is a theme I think is prominent in my more gestural paintings. I aim to paint how it feels to inhabit a body, rather than a direct representation of physicality.
Your work often incorporates concepts of the uncanny. What interests you about this concept?
For me, it ties back to an interest in the boundary between figuration and abstraction. How far can something be pushed until it is something no longer human? When we are existing in an ever-increasingly digital world, I visually imagine bodies as uncanny: still vaguely human but somehow not quite. I’m also intrigued by the uncanny in nature, when the human form may be mimicked in biomorphic forms. Simultaneously, in many ways, our bodies can mimic the natural world.
What is your process for creating your artwork?
Recently I’ve been really interested in using digital methods to inspire paintings, sometimes directly translating marks or collages from photoshop on to canvas. Other times I work in purely automatic methods, from intuition and imagination. I think I find this the most exciting way of working.
Mia Osborne, ''In Flux' Oil and Acrylic on 80x60cm canvas, 2020
Image description: a portrait painting in a muted palette of blue and grey palette, depicting warped globular shape with numerous warped arms sprouting out from the centre.
Are there any artists or research that underpins your practice?
A lot of artists inspire me, I’d say most recently artists who have explored biomorphism in some way. I am obsessed with Magdalena Abakanowicz’s and Lynda Benglis’ work: I find they both have elements of the human form and natural world in their sculptures. I am also very much inspired by artists tackling speciesism and the oppression of non-human animals, such as Sue Coe and Dana Ellyn.
What one thing would you like to change about the art industry today?
I think I would change the way animals are viewed and used in the art world. A lot of art materials still contain animal products, or artists directly use the bodies of animals in their practice: they are not materials to be bought or exploited. Another thing I would change is the sense of competition in the art world. I love when art becomes something collaborative, to open a dialogue between people and a chance to work together. Practices can feed into one another, they don’t have to be something completely separated. The idea that art needs to have a reason is something I would also challenge: art is simply evidence of your existence and a creative outlet should be encouraged in any form.
With the sudden impact of COVID-19 has your practice had to adapt or change to the new circumstances?
Luckily the pandemic hasn’t impacted my practice much; the only thing I would say is I’ve missed speaking with others about their practice and seeing their work in the flesh. Otherwise, I feel isolation has given me a chance to daydream and imagine a lot, which I think has fed into my work.
Mia Osborne, 'Milk', Mixed Media on 120x100cm canvas, 2021
Image description: a portrait painting in a muted palette of blue, brown and grey palette, depicting warped human figured connecting to tubes that pump milk into a large canister. The tube leads to the top of the frame where bottled milk moves along a conveyor. TO the left a large blue hand holds small child-like figures in its palm.
What projects have you recently been working on?
Most recently I’ve been working on a series of work that flips animal and human societal positions. I aim to prompt a questioning of our current world and the way we treat other species. I’m intrigued by how I can translate some of the imagery from my paintings into three-dimensional space.
You have discussed themes of the surreal within your works. Can you explain more about this
and how you present it within your art?
I’m interested in automatism and psychological morphologies, this manifests in my paintings as imagined alternate worlds. World-building is something I’m really interested in and I plan to expand on my imagined worlds further through painting and potentially some more sculptural works.
If you would like to see more of Mia's artwork you can view her work on Instagram @longintheface.
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