Thinkspace is pleased to present ROJA ‘Asco‘ where time is organized around damage. Moves across, an undaunted predator. An animal eating from our heart, and against which we react with nostalgia or with the burning gesture of revenge. But here there is no yearning. There is fury, there is rage, there is nastiness. And the alternative -both its poignancy and its affliction- that the work seems to suggest, is: facing the annihilation of time, self-destruction; facing its nightmare, hallucination.
Our interview with ROJA shares how she fell in love with embroidery as her medium, the biggest challenge for her with this exhibition, and what her favorite apocalyptic landscape would be.
Can you share a little about your background and how you first heard of Thinkspace?
I got to know the gallery through Imon boy, an incredible artist whom I admire very much. He helped me to get to know you and you to get to know me.
I feel that this expansion that you offer me in terms of my work is very important to me, and you have a very nice working dynamic. For that I’m very grateful and flattered; I’m excited about everything that can come with Thinkspace.
Do you have any rituals that help you tap into a creative flow?
What does a day in the studio look like for you? How do you structure your days?
Every time it’s different, I don’t know if I would call it a ritual, but I produce in the morning: I prepare a mate, turn on the radio, listen to music or a podcast. It also helps me a lot if there is order, cleanliness in the environment; that clarifies my ideas.
And if there is creative flow: I don’t stop.
I have my studio at home, in the city of La Plata, but I am also quite nomadic, and I live the same amount of time in the city of Buenos Aires, so I always take my embroidery from one place to another and I set up my “studio” in different places (friends’ houses and houses of kittens I take care of). I usually spend a week in one city and a week in another. At the moment this is the way it is.
When the work is just underway and I know what I’m going to do, I move the frame and threads to wherever I’m going to finish it. The task and the work can be carried without much hassle, depending on the piece, but I can almost always carry everything in a backpack.
My days are generally unstructured. It depends on the amount of work I have, embroidery times are very slow, and I can spend more than a week on a small piece, so I try to work as many hours per day as possible. My favorite time to produce is in the mornings, and I usually stay up until the evening advancing on a work, although this is not always the case, because I also have to divide myself between other jobs that require time (and don’t give me as much satisfaction as embroidery or drawing).
What inspired you to explore embroidery as your artistic medium?
I have always drawn, made ceramics, engraving, and sometime I have painted (something I am taking up again these days). But when I started embroidering, that’s all I did.
I think I really started to feel that something was finished when I put the thread on it. I think with embroidery I was able to finish finding my style. Or rather, it gave me confidence in it and allowed me to be freer in my drawings.
I am very attracted to details and meticulous work, the task of embroidering for so many hours can be therapeutic and sometimes I feel abstracted from everything and I love that. I enjoy it very much.
What was the most challenging piece in this exhibition? How did it help you grow as an artist?
I think all the pieces were a challenge, each piece has its moments, its emotion, I live with them a lot, I love them a lot and I also get angry with them. What made me grow the most in this case, I think, was learning to manage my time, my chaos, my organization and my anxiety. I found a healthier way to produce, knowing that it was hard work and I think it finally made me trust myself more.
Who are your creative influences? What about their vision inspires your artistic voice?
Well, my creative influences change a lot. They can be ephemeral, of the moment, I see a lot of things on the internet. I always find some artist that I really like and I can take something from them, but I don’t feel like I have a mentor, or a beacon that stays there.
I’ve always been very inspired by the cartoons I watched as a kid, like The Simpsons, Dragon ball, Rocco, Hey Arnold, and the ones I still watch, like South Park, Family Guy, Rick and Morty….
There are things I read that I know get ideas and motivation going, for example certain horror stories. Or movies, situations with friends… But mostly I’m influenced by my nightmares.
If you could collaborate with any artists in any sort of medium (i.e. movies, music, painting) who would you collaborate with, and what would be making?
I would like to illustrate a book or do embroidery for the horror stories of Mariana Enriquez, the Argentine writer. Or take those stories to videos, short films… and do the art direction. I feel that there may be an aesthetic affinity, a certain shared universe with her writing… or at least that’s what I like to think. Short stories, taking a story to a video instant.
I would also like to illustrate Aurora Venturini’s Las primas. They are books that leave images stuck in my mind and I think my drawings would go very well with her descriptions. The descriptions of deformity in Venturini are great.
Your work explores self-destruction, annihilation, and an imaginative interpretation of an apocalyptic landscape. What is your favorite dystopian downfall of humanity? And would you want to live through it or be taken out early?
There is a contradiction in survive or be taken out, I am fascinated by the fact that I can see the end and at the same time I am terrified of dying, but I guess if all of humanity is going to be annihilated it wouldn’t bother me so much. I definitely want to see it and for all possible catastrophes to happen at the same time. That contradiction between the beauty of mass extinction and the terror it brings, all in one, is hard to describe.
Many times I have dreamed of giant, glowing metal structures falling from the sky. That might be a favorite apocalyptic landscape; I don’t know if it’s possible, though.
If you could have any skill or topic downloaded into your brain, what would you want to be able to do/ be an expert at?
I would like to be an ice skater.
What is one of your most memorable meals? It could be because of the food you ate or the company you dined with, but it is a meal that has stood the test of time
I remember some noodles I ate in Greece with my cousin Sara, after getting lost for hours in some wastelands full of kittens, we sat down in the first place we saw. I don’t know if there was anything special about them, I think they were just regular noodles. But I was very hungry and enjoyed them too much.
Photos courtesy of @BirdManPhotos.