In Conversation with Mekia Machine

In Conversation with Mekia Machine

16th Aug 2022

Meet Mekia. A true ‘machine’ and multi-disciplinary creative who expresses herself through painting, composing, singing, and performing. During her Acrylic Gouache Residency, she created an incredible amount of work exploring themes of isolation, memory, and the essence of self, taking the familiar and formulaic and reimagining it into introspective psychologically-charged images. Working with vibrant palettes of pigment rich Acrylic Gouache, Mekia perfectly blended real and fictional positive narratives for people she loves and people she has never met.

Hi Mekia, thanks so much for taking the time to speak to us. Firstly for anyone who isn’t familiar with your work could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey to becoming an artist?

Hi! I am a multidisciplinary artist and music composer. I was born in Jamaica and grew up in Queens, New York. I create artworks that I wish I had seen as a young girl – I am interested in people and blackness and stories, and trying to tell those stories by reducing as much as possible down to colour and form, trying to capture the essence of a person as much as possible.

One thing that definitely sticks out about your work is it is immediately identifiable as a ‘Mekia Machine’. Could you tell us a little bit about how you developed this aesthetic?

In terms of my work now ... and it will change but hopefully still be recognisable ... I am using a lot of vibrant colours and bold shapes. My portraits are usually reduced to the colour being the most important facet of the work. My work being very colourful and graphic came about due to an inability to see from my left eye for a very long time, which changed my vision in general. The fear of permanent vision loss led to my obsession with colours, to render a form or tell a story using larger shapes and colour, things that I could see without having all my vision. I know I will continue with these colours and forms, but I’m sure they will become refined and change somehow. Let’s see where it will go...

Can you share with us how you found the Liquitex residency?

I came across the residency on Instagram, and I really loved what they did with one of my favourite artists, Tschabalala Self, so I said to myself ‘why not!?’. I had been working all throughout the pandemic, so it just felt like the right time and opportunity and I was prepared for it. I knew I was in a place where I really knew I would benefit from the residency, from having the access to materials, a space outside my own living room, and the time to focus. It was also perfect because the medium I am interested in is painting, and colour, so it worked out perfectly. I manifested it too actually, I wrote that I had won the residency on my little “wall of spells,” and I won! It works!

If we were to take a wander into your studio what Liquitex art materials we would find there?

I love Clear Gesso! I like the look of exposed canvas, I like that the transparency of clear gesso allows me to retain the visual materiality of the surface I'm working on. I’m working on these new little tincy wincy paintings, some of the textures of these paintings come from the marble dust in the gesso. It glows a little bit too, it’s so beautiful! I also am lucky to still have some of the Liquitex paints from the residency last year as well as some mediums and a bunch of brushes. But I can always use more gesso!

Speaking of your studio, we’re always interested to hear about artist’s studio habits and how they find their own creative flow. Can you tell us about your studio set and if you have any habits/routines to find that flux state?

Whenever I am starting a new project I have to have a clean slate, so I have to clean completely. Everything has to be orderly and in its place, and then I go! Once I am going I don’t care about the mess, nothing else matters but the work. A few years ago I reflected on why I was so messy, and I realised that it’s literally just part of the process. I find it easier on the mind to start from a clean slate, like blank canvas allows ample space for the work to take place. Also, I've been trying to get into the studio and complete one thing everyday, one drawing or one painting. I start the day by completing something. I always need as much wall space as possible, so anything finished or work I’m taking a break from I roll up and put away, this way anything I’m currently working on is on the wall exposed and ready, if an idea comes to me I'm able to address it immediately. I love a large table to work on and have all my crap. I listen to a lot of music, podcasts, and audiobooks while working. I’ve been listening to one of the great rivalries between artists in contemporary art history which has made me think about how important it is to be around great work and artists that inspire you. It was a nice reminder that we don’t create in a bubble, you need to be around other people, look at other people’s work. And that is sometimes hard because all you want is to be alone in your studio to work, but it’s so important to get out and see other work, other artists. Our peers are our support system, they are the people who are going to understand what you’re going through, they get it too.

Although you’re US based, you recently exhibited with Smithson Gallery in London, we’d love to hear more about how this relationship came about, can you tell us anything more about this and whether you have any more plans for collaborations?

Our story is super romantic because about a week ago we actually got to meet in person for the first time. So, Anna reached out to me about two days before I began the residency at Liquitex, she found my work through the Liquitex website. It was a relationship that just grew from mutual trust, into becoming my first gallery representation. It’s been a full year already and Anna has given me so much amazing guidance. It’s so exciting to see where we will go together ... I won’t say too much, but we have lots of cool places to go, and amazing collaborations to be revealed, including some exhibitions over here in the US in 2023!

Thanks again for your time Mekia, and finally, what do you have coming up next?

I have the Art Car Boot Fair coming up in May with Smithson Gallery, which I’m super excited for, and am planning for a summer launch of a brand new collection as well. I am also collaborating with other artists in the US. I currently have a group exhibition here in New York called Now You See curated by Josh Gosselin and artist John Wright, with all these really dope street artists including Bill Blast, and Al Diaz who was best friends with Basquiat! And NFTs are on the radar...

Feeling Inspired?

You can check out more of Mekia's work on her website.