Day 38: Messua Poulin Wolff

I am instantly enchanted by the deep rooted nature of time, nature, slowness, feminine tradition and witchcraft, which flows through, out and from within today’s creative’s (@messua_pw on Instagram) fascinating work and practice. I give you the spellbinding Messua…

Please may you introduce yourself and your practice.
My name is Messua (@messua_pw), I have been living in London since moving from Paris 8 years ago. I am an artist in the expanded field of painting, and I work with slow, laborious and past processes. Currently, in the PhD I’m undertaking at the Royal College of Art, I explore slowness in painting as a creative methodology and an aesthetic of resistance. I extend the process of making and start by the preparations of dyes and inks from my direct surroundings. It starts with the materials, found, foraged or grown; such as common weeds, vegetables or spices.

Walking, growing, and foraging are activities that are embedded in my painting practice. Dyes and colour articulate the internal logic of the painting and are at the root of the process. I explore these lively colours to imprint the process and absorbed duration through the materials, tell simultaneous stories. I see my practice as a form of dwelling. The paintings are the result of this improvisation in between body, materials and milieu over time. 

How did you develop your practice?
I’ve always scribbled, made all sorts of things with my hands and painted. Before moving to London, I was also involved in theatre: on stage and making props. However, painting occupies a significant place, because it searches for the invisible, communicate the unspeakable and talk simultaneously to mind and body.

After the move to London, I experimented with installations and durational works, always starting by or coming back to paintings and drawings. The process of the work becomes increasingly central to my practice.

At the start of my MFA, I was making paintings again and thinking about the medium and time. Simultaneously I started to work with dyes. It started first with my kitchen waste: avocado peels – and very quickly, I started experimenting with everyday tints such as turmeric, nettles or cabbage. Now, working with plants and colours is the logic motivating my practice.

What inspires you and why do you love your practice?
Nature, its pattern and its systemic structures (from microscopic to the macroscopic) has always been a source of fascination. Everyday plants, while walking and drifting in my surroundings, nourish my practice. Weeds, vegetable waste, flowers or other sources of tints are an infinite source of appealing colour, materials and textures. Working with, and learning from the plants, I’m always inspired by their seemingly unlimited uses.

One of the most appealing aspects of the practice is the slow process. The work is made in an extended time frame, labour intensive and is Slow – in contrast to everyday speed. When highly absorbed and focused on making, something temporally magical seems to happen, in which time is continuous and is experienced as a flow. The intuitive logic of the practice and the almost alchemical nature of colour making are processes never ceasing to fascinate me. Starting from scratch, not knowing where you’re going and following the body, improvising with the materials, is magical.

What does it mean to you to be a creative feminist?
Making large abstract painting formats as a woman and using crafts anchored in a feminine tradition make the work feminist. Yet, I never directly address feminist political issues. My practice is rooted in domestic traditions and knowledge. Needleworks, weaving, dyeing and plant healings are ancestrally and culturally tied to the feminine. Even if I don’t speak directly of these issues, still, the process celebrates and reinvestigates, through painting, lost and often overlooked feminine knowledge.

I also come to realise that I often collaborate in women duos, such as with PAUME and Slow Magic. Being surrounded by strong women in my life inspires me, for which I am infinitely grateful. I am currently deeply inspired by the visionary Hildegard Von Bingen, an abbess of the 12th century that one could call one of the first feminists of the middle ages. I suppose to me to be a creative feminist is to follow your intuition and being a bit of a witch. 

The way that Messua’s work reinvestigates and celebrates traditional feminine practices is inspirational; her work is soaked, dyed and embedded in creative feminism. Please give Messua the warmest welcome to the fem fam by following her page on Instagram – @messua_pw and by commenting your thoughts below. Thank you for sharing your craft with us Messua, we cherish you and your work.

If you would like to work with Messua on a project or commission her work please direct message her via Instagram.

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