New works and art galleries: Ma Jia
curated by Daniela Veneri
“Artists work like analyzers, to analyze parts of the world that are not normally analyzed by science, or by philosophy or something like that. There is a part of the world that can only be communicated by artworks to people in life."
MaJia, what projects are you currently working on?
I just participated in one public art competition in Vienna. It is about a public art project that should be prepared next spring and it will consist in a public sculpture. At the same time, I am working on two or three other projects, and most of them are sculptures.
What excites you most of what you are doing in this period of time?
Art pieces basically first appear in the artist's mind and then they are represented in the real world, and this moment is always very exciting.
What did your exhibition at Gallery Gundula Gruber represent for you?
The exhibition was about creating time and space energy through the used rusty industrial elements. It was about relationships, politics and emotions.
What drives you in your work?
Generally speaking, the spiritual component. I think artwork is most of the time connected with spiritual life, and this is very interesting for me, that what you see with your eyes and what you feel are in connection, and this is what makes possible for an artwork to transform the world.
When you see a pedestal, like a show box, you may be interested in knowing more about what is this thing on it. If, as an artist, I remove the artwork from the top of the pedestal, the object becomes something else, and there is a transformation of what the artwork is and of the show platform itself, and then it's already transforming from an object into another object, and this transformation is very spiritual.
Artists work like analyzers, to analyze parts of the world that are not normally analyzed by science, or by philosophy or something like that. There is a part of the world that can only be communicated by artworks to people in life.
What are you most important objectives as an artist?
In the end, there is not really any goal in life, I think. We are alive now and then we will die, and I do not think there is any specific goal for me to hit.
What do you appreciate most of the interaction that emerges between your artworks and the viewers?
This has never been my concern, especially over the last years. My concern is about the work, which is always constructed between my identity as a person and my cultural background. I live in Vienna since 10 years now, and I have spent my first 30 years in China, and my work is based on the foundation of culture. There is a lot of influence from Austria and from the European culture, and I feel also strongly supported by the major foundations of Chinese culture. My interest is about what I really want to express, and I'm always focusing on this and also on the way I let my work flow out of my thoughts.
I think every individual has his or her own background. If we look at something from our own positions, me from where I am and you from where you stand, for sure we see really different things. The audience is like a large sea. In a way, I only work with my life experience, knowledge and feelings.
What role has the sensorial experience in your creative process?
When I was in my twenties, I was working a lot with the sensorial experience in my life. By gaining age and experience, I think I'm growing and I can feel my way of working is growing too; it is slowly getting more logical than sensorial.
I think art in the end for sure goes back to the sensorial experience, but I feel like my creative process is getting more logical.
When I work with the sensorial experience in my working process, maybe in the very beginning I feel that there is a short moment when a sensorial experience from my past brings me to one point and then, after this point is fixed, I am aware of myself getting more logical to elaborate the topic and a more practical solution for the work.
This is a very interesting question for artists; it is like a lifestyle question for creativity.
How the growing part of the logical approach is connected with the spiritual flow that animates your creativity?
I think it is about knowledge. I feel like, as much as a human being is collecting knowledge, as much as you are getting more logical, your are elaborating things in the mind, but kids are much more doing things or judging things based on the sensorial experience, and I really appreciate the kids spirit and I hope that, as an old person, I will still keep this feeling, as this is a gift from birth that we should cherish, although I find it is moving away from me. I think that it is a normal process not only for artists but also for anyone else. It's a normal process, and it's really good to have it and people would be very lucky to keep it for their whole life. Being an artist, I think I would like to try to touch it up.
Who are the most important partners or interlocutors in the unfolding of your own creative process?
I am influenced by the experience, by watching art pieces, and there are so many artists I'm really influenced by that I cannot say who mostly influences me. I have always liked to go to museums, to look at art history, to look at books, and they are all amazing. I am absolutely influenced by so many of them.
Until now I have always worked alone and I do not have any partner influencing me, but of course I have some good friends, and in the end you always get influenced by your friends and by your working colleagues as well.
Which of the feedbacks that you have received over the years have been particularly meaningful for you, or have surprised you the most?
I do not have anything like that. I think that every moment in life is really important. There are easy times, there are happy times, and there are difficult times, and the time, which is past, it's past. I think the present moment is important, as long as I breathe in my life and I can continue breathing. At least, at the moment, when I talk to you, this is the most important time for me.
What is the relationship between past, present and future in your artistic practice?
I never thought in my artistic practice about the time. I think that, as a human being, every second you are different, and artworks represent the thoughts of artists, and that also every piece of the work is different. Even in the commercial world, you see that there are reproductions of artists' artworks, and if you really analyze the different periods of artists, you see that they normally have a strain but they are still clearly different, and most of the times it is quite honest to show it.
This is very interesting for me, to look at other artists' work, because sometimes these people died a long time ago and then, through their work, you still see how their thoughts and feelings appear in your space. Sometimes I watch the work I did some time before, and it feels like I'm watching another person's figure. It's really very interesting.
Where do you sense the presence of seeds future?
It is a very interesting question as a human being. I think you are always curious about the future because future is a myth, since you cannot change the past but you can change the future, and there is often a fear about the future.
I am really not concerned about future, about how things will develop, or what things could happen, because anything could happen. I'm always interested in looking back at history; it gives you knowledge to prepare yourself, to look at your present life and understand it, but I think I'm more into the present moment.
Sometimes it is difficult to make decisions in life, you may really struggle with making decisions, and I am deeply rooted in Chinese culture and have my own ways to help me decide and find solutions; I see it like a philosophy, a way to help human beings with their lives, which is shaped by many generations and delivered by the ancient culture, by old languages, and it's interesting to pick it up today, as we are living in this multicultural world.
What kind of contribution would like your work to have?
It is a really difficult question. I feel like I'm doing the work for some spiritual need, as the spirit is actually the element at the foundation of the human world, the human environment. I think it's a kind of energy, and when there is energy built in my work, I am feeling very glad. I'm not sure if I could really contribute to anybody.
What kind of impact do you see emerging from the recent pandemic? How do you feel that this experience is affecting our ways of producing, sharing and experiencing art?
I think there is an opportunity for artists, and it is a really good reminder for human beings about the unlimited development that we have followed until now. There is something like a sign, signalizing that all things have to slow down, and this is giving artists the opportunity to consider the philosophy that in the modern world we are consuming, which is mainly based on Western culture. The world has been following a leading approach for shaping the society, the economy, marketing, like capitalism, and we should ask ourselves if this is the right direction or if there is a push to slow down the use of resources and the experience of life. There are for sure a lot of troubles and contradictions in real life, but maybe in some time from now, when looking back, we will recognize that this pandemic also had a positive effect for society as a whole, not just for one country or one culture. And it is an opportunity for artists to work with these themes.
What do you feel needs attention now?
I think focusing on the inner life. If we look at how education works, since we are at the kindergarten, most of the time the society teaches you to learn from the outside pinching, but what happens with the needs of the inner side of a human being? I think that the inner life of human beings should receive more attention.
If you observe how the arts and culture field relates to the social field, what is that you notice? What is that captures your attention or that you would like to change?
I am thinking of education, as I have very different experiences. I had my Chinese education in China, and then I started again at the art academy in Vienna, and they offer two absolutely different education systems. In general, it has been very interesting for me being exposed to both these education methods.
I never thought about what to change. Art education is something to think about for sure, as you offer basic knowledge to deliver to younger generations, but the part that is strictly related to creativity and to the art making process is very hard to teach. Some people know it as a gift from birth; you can feed a baby, but you cannot feed the baby's mind. I think there are levels of knowledge hard to measure, and hard to let professors or teachers to pass to students, because as you try to form some ideas, you might be even blocking some parts of the process.
Maybe the individual experience of artists themselves is the best education for art creativity. Art schools, I think, can really give something that is limited.
Is there anything that you would like to do differently in your own artistic practice?
I always do as much as possible. My artwork is materially based so, as much as I have the budget for the project, I do as much as I can. If you ask me, I could give you one, two, three or thirty crazy ideas that I would love to develop, which of course may or may not have a physical capability to be realized in the real life, but they always need to be based on the actual possibilities of the real world.
Is there anything important for you to mention that I didn't ask you?
What I am interested in and my artwork is about, is strongly supported by a philosophical sense of life. There is a very important book for me, one of the oldest books in Chinese culture, and it's called The Book of Changes, and it is related to art and culture but also to a traditional Chinese medicine; it is absolutely a philosophical book and it is also a future telling book. I feel like this book is tickling my genetic-based being; sometimes it brings me back to explore some sensorial way of being out there. Some aspects of me are in the subconscious level, and I get supported by having this book with me.
What are three keywords that resonate with you right now, at the end of this conversation?
Black, white and yellow. It's something that just came to my mind, as I am a color sensitive person.
Ma Jia was born in 1981 in China. From 1998 to 2001 she studied at the Art School Of China Art Academy, Hangzhou, China, and from 2001 to 2005 she attended the Central Academy Of Fine Art in Beijing, where she lived and worked until 2011. She moved to Austria in 2011, studying at Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.
Her most recent shows include:
Uomo Universal LA FEMME, Semperdepot, Vienna, Austria, 2021;
Little Donau, Central Garden, Vienna, Austria, 2021;
Parallel 21 Auction, Art Care, Vienna, Austria, 2021;
Parallel Vienna, Intervention, Austria, 2021;
Female Art Auction, Artcare, Vienna, Austria, 2021;
FAN, Vienna, Austria, 2021;
Schloss Eybesfeld, Styria, Austria, 2021;
Parallel Edition, Vienna, 2021;
Gallery Gudula Gruber, Vienna, Austria, 2020;
Parallel 2020, artist statement, Vienna, Austria, 2020;
Untitled, Bildraum 1, Vienna, Austria, 2020;
Speed #2, Büro Weltausstellung, Vienna, Austria, 2020.
Awards: 2019 Parallel Vienna / Bildrecht Young Artists Award.
Competition: 2021 Paternoster, geladener Wettbewerb, Kunst im öffentlichen Raum, BIG Art.
Note: This interview was published on Rondò Pilot, issue no. 2.0, 2021.