"Emotional pull and internet culture is something people feel really connected to at the moment." Natasha Matila-Smith on Feelings based processes, obsession, and Cody Fern.
Natasha Matila-Smith (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Hine, Sale'aumua, Pākehā ) is an artist and writer based in Tāmaki Makaurau. She graduated from the University of Auckland with a Master of Fine Arts in 2014. Her practice often deals with social exchanges and anxieties, across installation and digital contexts. She has exhibited and has been published widely throughout Aotearoa and abroad. Recent exhibitions include Hard Feelings, The Honeymoon Suite (Melbourne, Australia), 2018; Between me and you, ST PAUL St Gallery (Auckland, New Zealand), 2018 and Sleight of Hand, RAMP Gallery (Hamilton, New Zealand), 2018. She has contributed to online and print publications such as Runway Australian Experimental Art (Australia), Matters Aotearoa and Art New Zealand.
Natasha Matila-Smith grew up in Waterview/Avondale. She started studying art at age 24. She had always drawn, but she says she was working “a shitty retail job” and was “kind of aimless.”
“I decided I wanted to just 'make' and that's what I did. My friend at the time and I both did the foundation certificate at Whitecliffe and for various reasons, I went on to Elam.” She says she didn't expect to “learn a whole lot there” but through study she wanted to buy herself “some time to figure out my shit.”
“At uni, I was making a lot of minimalist art, as you do, and while I still like that work, it was only after I started really just following my gut without thinking too much about the consequences or basing the work on a bunch of dense research, that people started to respond to the work. I mean, it's not as though they didn't before, but I guess emotional pull and internet culture is something people feel really connected to at the moment. I just make what I make and it's a really feelings-based process.”
Natasha says her writing started from a place of decolonising art spaces and making room for Indigenous voices that weren't critiquing museum practices or centred around heritage or diaspora.
“To me,” she explains, “ my culture is innate, it comes with the package. So I don't feel like I have to explain the disconnect with my Māori heritage through my artwork, or neatly package for pakeha how colonisation has hurt me and my whanau. I'd rather talk about it through a 'romantic' lens to illustrate how fucked up those systems are / how fucked up my worldview is because of those systems..... Despite being a strong wahine, I'm not immune to the powers of the patriarchy, white supremacy and capitalism.”
About The Work: Bringing together online imagery and confessional text, Natasha’s practice is an ongoing exploration of the language and social complexities of romance. While the artwork Matila-Smith produces is not what we might associate with performance art, Matila-Smith works from a perspective that is embodied and relational, recognising that “the field covered by performance has… been expanded and blurred by growing discussions on performativity and its implications for language and power within broader areas of artistic and social practice.” Filtering through social media and exhibition spaces, Matila-Smith’s honest admissions address longing, desire and social anxieties from a perspective that is at times as universal as it is deeply personal. (1)
In her work, there is an intimate and obsessive quality exploring amongst other things, understanding and expectations of intimacy, lust and romance, and societies assertion of these expectations onto the self. Her recent artworks on fabric conjure a sense of fragility yet are bold gestures, presenting intimate moments in such a public and easily consumed space.
(1) Excerpt from Louise Rutledge’s Editorial for Enjoy Occasional Journal (2018).
Natasha is currently guest editing the next issue of Runway Australian Experimental Art Issue #38 on Spectacle launching 21 November in Sydney.
For more information and links to Natasha's work see her website: natashamatilasmith.com
You can also keep up to date with Natasha on Instagram and Twitter
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Toi Māori Aotearoa's blog is purposed to keep you up to date with the latest happenings going on both here at Toi, and across the Māori arts scene in Aotearoa, and abroad.