Updated: Jan 9
Today we are talking to artist Mia Oz, who works predominantly through painting. Her practice currently explores the very nature of being, both as a human and a non-human animal. Referencing issues of speciesism, social commentary and the relationship between collectives and individuals. In this artist spotlight Mia discusses her digital collage 'Local Butchers' currently on show in the A4 group exhibition where she discusses her inspiration behind the piece.
Image description: a landscape poster showing a detail of a digital collage depicting upside down hanging meaty bodies in a orange/red. Bold white text in the centre reads Mia Oz, underneath in a smaller font reads @longintheface.
Can you introduce yourself and the work you make?
I’m Mia Oz. I am an artist from The Black Country, West Midlands. I currently work predominantly through painting, which can be inspired by drawings created from the world around me, photography, digital collage and reflections on contemporary life.
Your digital collage ‘Local Butchers’ is currently showing as part of our A4 group exhibition. Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind this piece?
In this work, I was interested in the subversion of species roles in the setting of a butchers shop. I am keen to expose the exploitation of other species on Earth by humans through juxtaposition and subtle humour. For me, this work depicts an alternate reality, where humans receive the treatment they give to other animals today. Though comical in its formality and surreal nature, behind the piece lies a very dark theme of the reality of the animal agriculture industries. Power is brought back to the animals, they are no longer oppressed, but in this scene, the oppressors.
Mia Oz, 'Local Butchers', Digital Collage, 2021
Image description: a A4 portrait oriented digital collage ironically depicting two cows in butchers hats and aprons staring outwards whilst above them on a conveyor belt hangs the skinned bodies of humans.
What drew you to using a digital format over traditional painting to create this piece?
I find digital collages to be very fun to create. Working in digital space gives me a sense of freedom and ease that working physically sometimes does not. Whilst I usually really enjoy configuring work through drawing and painting, I think digital collage is a great way of juxtaposing pre-existing photographic imagery. Digital methods allow me a space to pre conceptualise paintings. In this case, the digital outcome felt finished.
Your collage has a very satirical and subtly humorous message. Is humour something that you use a lot in your work?
Humour and exaggeration is something I find I return to often. I love it when artworks make me smile, and then make me reconsider what is behind them. I think a comical work can become a political work - perhaps activism - and this is something I really enjoy.
Mia Oz, 'Kicking Off', Acrylic and Oil Pastel on canvas, 120x100cm, 2021
A chaotic painting on rectangular canvas depicting a mob of football fans staring out at the canvas, mouths wide and faces covered in England flags.
How did you find the experience of having your work displayed in such a public non-traditional gallery setting?
Having my work in an outdoor public setting was really exciting. As this piece is in essence a form of subtle activism, I like the idea that it could catch someone’s eye who is not necessarily looking for or expecting it. Art stumbled upon is easy to approach for everyone, and there are no pre-conceived ideas surrounding what the work should or should not be. The interaction for a viewer of a work feels more intimate and authentic in this sense.
What is your process for approaching a new painting?
A lot of my paintings are conceived through looking at a lot of photographs, and these images are amalgamated through drawing. Sometimes I have a clear idea I want to express, but often I will learn what I’m trying to say through the act of painting itself.
Where do you find your inspiration from to inform your works?
I am inspired by observations of life around me. Beings and bodies always seem to feature in my work. I’m intrigued by mortality, morality and how multiple bodies may function as one.
Mia Oz, 'Inconvenience Store', Acrylic, Toilet Paper and Oil Pastel on canvas, 120x100cm, 2020
A busy and frantic painting showing the interior of a convenience store filled with products and signs while a mob of people rampage for toilet paper.
You describe that your work investigates what it means to be sentient. How do you go about exploring this and what do you believe it means to be sentient?
Being sentient is to be conscious, aware and with the capability of feeling. It is not confined to the human. Anthropocentrism can make us believe it is only confined to the human; this is something I explore in my work. I also explore sentience by observing and recording my responses to the world around me through figurative painting. All artworks for me are a social documents and evidence of a time.
What one thing would you like to change about the art industry today?
I would remove animal ingredients from all art products and the exploitation of animals within the formation of any artworks.
Do you have any upcoming projects you are starting work on or anything you are currently creating?
I’m almost finished with a new work called ‘Termites’. It’s the largest scale piece I’ve ever created, and I have really enjoyed working at a scale much larger than myself, it feels much more of a bodily experience both to view and create.
Mia Oz, Termites, oil paint on canvas, 2021
An image of the artist in studio painting a large scale square canvas painting with various shades of black and white, forming a multitude of faces.
Mia's work alongside others can still be viewed in our A4 group exhibition on our website as well as physical locations around Digbeth.