28 years old, from Murcia (Spain), rigid, sensitive, and not given to improvization, it’s Eme de Mati. We spent an afternoon with her, in front of a cafe, listening to some of her experiences.
How did you begin painting on the street?
I began after spending a lot of time just watching. I’m curious, but also shy. I loved watching how other people painted, and the result which came out of it. It really drew my attention.
What was your city like at that time?
In Murcia at that time, there was quite a lot going on, a lot of murals were being done. I’m half from Murcia and half from Aguilas, a town which also has quite a lot of graffiti. There are two or three groups that paint there.
It was interesting because, despite being small, there’s a lot going on. People organized jams and I’d go there and take photos. Later on, when I was older, I began to travel, and pretty much all I’d so was look at walls, tags, and murals… it became an obsession.
How and when was your mural premiere?
The first time was with a friend, we were really young. We took her scooter down the motorway and painted between intervals on the median strip; there was a lot of traffic. We were so scared. My friend lives in Italy now. She doesn’t paint anymore; she’s a tattoo artist.
Where does your creative inspiration come from?
For me, it begins with feelings. I’m very whiney. It depends on my frame of mind. An idea comes into my head and from there it doesn’t leave until I have it down on paper. The inspiration is my immediate surroundings, my day to day life, or that of the people that surround me. There are no transcendental thoughts like ‘save the world’. I just need to express the things that happen to me, with drawings or letters.
“It depends on my frame of mind. An idea pops into my head, and then it won’t leave until I put it on paper.”
What are your strong and weak points in respect to your creativity?
My weak point is technical detail. I never studied and no one every showed me. I never had the courage to do it and the limitation bothers me. I know my limitations. I know what my mind and hands can do, and the truth is that I’d like to improve what both can do.
My strong point is that I know clearly what I want and how I want it. The process is slow, but I know how I want my style to be, what I want to express, and how I want to do it.
Do you have a plan with what you do?
I don’t have a plan, but I do have a dream. I dream of being able to dedicate myself to illustration, with my own style. I want people to offer me work because they like what I do. I have lived the art life up close, and I am aware of how difficult it is to live off of it. It’s a passionate but difficult world, and I’m very realistic. I know that this type of life can be maintained for one year or two, but I have to work. However, I actually like working. I’m very responsible, very formal, so illustration is an achievable dream.
On the other hand, I’m not ambitious, and I learn new things every day, but without any concrete direction.
What distracts you from your dream?
Personal problems and my family.
And what makes you feel invincible?
Painting is the only thing that fulfills me . The moments spent painting are perfect, and everything else is forgotten.
“Painting is the only thing that fulfills me. The moments spent painting are perfect, and everything else is forgotten”.
What experience do you most remember about painting?
It was a mural in France, in a graffiti/music festival. It was huge, I wasn’t feeling the best, and I took it as a challenge. I thought I wouldn’t be able to do the mural, and when I finished it, it brought tears to my eyes. I got so emotional, like a mad person (laughs), but I finished it. It was a sacrifice.
Who inspires you; which other artists do you keep your eye on?
There’s not really anyone who I keep my eye on. I’ve been asked that lots of times, and the truth is the only thing that inspires me is music. Sometimes I have memories of my childhood; I’m not sure if they’re real or invented; which come to mind when I’m about to paint, but I don’t really draw from other artists.
What is your work method?
Most of the time, I create a bubble for myself; I lock myself away with music and coffee, and I begin to draw. At other times, I’ll be doing something else, or about to go to sleep, and suddenly, an image comes to mind and I have to draw it in case I forget it, which often happens if I don’t put it on paper. I always bring a notepad with me where I sketch that kind of thing.
In reality, my sketches are very basic. I draw because I want to learn to do it better, but it pains me a bit because what I really want to do is paint.
Where you’re from, there’s no problem with painting. Now you live in Barcelona where there’s a maddening law against it. How do you deal with that difference?
Honestly, I haven’t even tried to paint since arriving. Everyone has made me scared of the situation. I don’t deal with that too well; I miss painting when I want to, because I’m accustomed to painting alone wherever I want to, in the middle of the countryside, totally relaxed, whenever I want to.
How would you define your style and what you do?
I do what I can. Within my technical limitations, I give all that I can.
I have a lot of energy, and I’m very constant. I would define my work as very simple but full of meaning. It’s the simplification of an accumulation of feelings, in one drawing or phrase.
Maybe it seems a little infantile or immature, but it’s much more complex than that. I think that it’s simple and profound; I put a lot of myself into what I do.
What has street art or graffiti brought you?
Since I started painting, I’ve experienced a lot. I’ve traveled, gotten to know other artists, and I’ve made friends. I’ve also lost optimism bit by bit, because I’m aware of how difficult it is to create pieces that people are interested in, that they like. In the end, I’m realized that I need to paint for me, even if I feel a little misunderstood.
What brought you to Barcelona?
I’ve always dreamed about living in Barcelona at some stage. I think I arrived a little bit late, for me and the city, or at least it seems that way. Before, when I came here, it was fun, everything was painted, but not now. I love the city and I think I’ll have opportunities here which you don’t get in the south. It’ll be good to stay here for a bit.
Where else do you see yourself living?
I’d love to live in the USA for a while, in Los Angeles, but I can’t see it happening anytime soon. I lived in Italy for two years, one year in Rome in 2005, and last year in Turin, but I have a love-hate relationship with Italy. On one hand, the history and art are incredible, but the day to day life isn’t so great.
What are you doing in Barcelona?
I’m studying illustration. I finished my university studies a few years ago, but I didn’t study anything that I enjoyed, nor anything creative, so I decided to register for a one year postgraduate in illustration.
Apart from your studies, what are you up to?
I do illustrations to order. I also design t-shirts, participate in small exhibitions, and I’m very interested in the world of children; illustration, decoration, kid’s clothes. I’ve given a lot of graffiti workshops for kids, it’s a fun environment.
Are you preparing any expositions of your work?
No, honestly, I don’t really like painting on canvas. It doesn’t really draw me. Also, art isn’t easy to sell and you just end up with a ton of paintings. I prefer to paint on the street.
Do you prepare your murals in any particular way?
I’m very methodical, a bit rigid. Normally, I first look for a place to paint, I take photos of the area, and then back at home I do a sketch for the walls in the area. I pay great attention to the surrounding environment, the light. It’s hard for me to improvise, but I don’t really like exhibitions. They give you a space and you have to do what you can with it. I mean, I have a few sketches for ‘improvised’ murals, but it doesn’t excite me, I don’t really enjoy it.
I hope to spend this Christmas at home, where I’ll paint every day. I’ve already got a few walls awaiting their sketch.
From here, the conversation wound down until she left. We hope that she’ll find her place in the city, and keep the vision in her work.