Rosie Mudge is an artist based in Cape Town. She’s our selected visual artist for January’s Official Warm Up at The Gin Bar. You’ll be able to see some of her work and catch her DJ set from 6pm to 8pm. We asked her a few questions. Read on for what she had to say.
You work as an artist but you also have a ‘day job’. How do you balance everything and manage your art-making practice?
RM: When I left art school I got a job working at my brothers furniture factory. At first I worked part-time and had a lot more time for art. I had a studio and went to it almost every afternoon for a few years. At this stage in my art-making process I was experimenting with new techniques – focusing on my enjoyment of materials like nail-polish, body glitters and make-up – there was no end result in mind. The work I made during that period was truly repulsive to most of the people I showed it to. Even my family couldn’t find anything to like about it. But it satisfied a part of myself, and I kept going. I was also balancing being a curator, with transitory exhibitions put on through Jnr (a project space I co-developed) and curated a number of group shows as well as Mitchell Messina’s first solo exhibition, Mitchy! As my role at the furniture factory grew and developed, I took on more responsibility and physical time for art-making became harder to get. I gave up my studio and started working from the factory after closing hours. As my work has transformed, the techniques I developed lent themselves to an industrial space, and so this ‘balance’ has become less of a dichotomy and more of an absorption – one into the other and visa versa. I am continually ruminating on ideas and have works in progress which I have been thinking about for well on 5 years now. There’s a lot of time and I try not to put too much pressure on myself to finish works in a restricted timeline. They get finished as and when that happens.
Much of your work is produced with automative paint and glitter glue. How did you end up working with these rather unconventional materials?
RM: I felt massively burned out when I graduated from art school. My previous academic inspirations were all bitter, and my previous techniques felt forced, disingenuous and part of a greater machine of art production, rather than anything to do with myself. So I decided to do a 180 turn and start from the beginning. As it happened, I placed my personal beginning around the age of 12, sitting in my bedroom alone, making things up, playing with polly pocket (yes, still at 12), writing diaries, listening to music, experimenting with make-up and nail polish – enjoying my own solitude, imagination and development of self expression. So, after art school, I spent a few years playing around with materials that inspired me back then, trying to get back into the magic of childhood. After a few years things started to clear up in my mind and I was driven to scale up the visuals I was making. I experimented with manufacturing larger quantities of nail-polish, but then I discovered that automotive paint and nail polish share very similar properties. I loved thinking about those two materials side by side – the tiny, precious nail polish bottles in the hands of girls (and other) vs the industrial automotive paint in the hands of men (and other). On top of this, the enormous tubs of glitter-glue are too good to be true! It’s the real “dip your whole arms in it’ experience.
In your recent solo show at SMITH, ‘In my room with Mazzy Star’, you refer to your room as a space of psychological safety and creativity. Obviously there’s a specifically domestic or psychological reference there, but the space in which art is made is an equally interesting factor and often one that is hidden from the public. Where do you produce your work and how does it affect what you make?
RM: I guess that in that name I was referring to the psychological space of the mind (your personal, private ‘room’). Although I don’t produce my works in a bedroom, or even a private space, I felt that this analogy speaks to the personal experience of creating things, a private relationship between artist and artwork. Because my current art-making practices are toxic I have to kit myself out with full protection: eye mask, respiratory mask, gloves, fully clothed, sports shoes. Added to that are my playlist and headphones – and I really am blocked off from everything around me. The production process is very physical and gruelling. I usually work for 8 hours at a time without stopping. The music I listen to draws out emotions which feed directly into the works. This goes on and on – it’s very special personal time for me.
How do you find working as an artist in Cape Town – down here at the bottom of the world?
RM: I have no idea what it’s like to be an artist in any other place, I’m not sure being elsewhere would help but I guess I find it difficult here. To feel on the one hand free and at liberty to make what you chose or whatever comes to you, without needing to define yourself, or your practice or outline your own mind. And to have that contrasted by the desire to belong to something, the desire to be understood or related to, to connect to people in conversation… it’s a constant internal battle. I suppose this does not directly relate to Cape Town, but this is how I feel about being an artist in general. If I were at the top of the world, I imagine that it would either be a lot harder, with the saturated markets and art frenzy, or maybe a lot easier as there is more art writing that happens there and two-sided conversations might occur more fluidly.
Do you have any advice for people trying to start out in the world of art-making?
RM: Firstly, get a job which gives you enough money to act freely financially with your art-making. It doesn’t have to be in the art world and it doesn’t have to be creative. I have found my ties to a world outside my own creation very energising and the income means that I do not pressurise my art into being successful – it can be a wonderful failure. Having a lot of responsibility outside of your own practice does mean a lot of work, but having less time encourages me to make better use of the time I do have. It also helps me to think quickly in the moment, and ruminate outside of the moment.
Secondly, get involved. Put the ideas you have into practice in any way you can, and try not to rely on the positive affirmation of other people for the valuation of yourself and your art.
Top 5 ‘desert island’ albums?
MGMT – Congratulations
Of Montreal – The Sunlandic Twins
Beach House – Depression Cherry
Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill
MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
Where can people find you online and find out more about your work?
Catch Rosie Mudge at the First Thursdays Official Warm Up at The Gin Bar, 64a Wale Street. She’ll be doing a DJ set from 6pm to 8pm, with an exhibition of some of her work up as well. The party goes on until late. The First Thursdays Official Warm Up is produced by Thursdays Projects in partnership with Maker’s Mark Craft Bourbon Whisky.