IELLA – the artist expresses her honest contemplations about the present and future scenarios of our urban and natural landscape.
OWS’ first guest interview is artist and illustrator, IELLA, who recently exhibited her 2nd solo show ‘Dying Planet’ in Spazju Kreattiv last October in Valletta, Malta. The exhibition poignantly emits a perspective on thoughts on the topic of climate anxiety, the environment, and existential dread. However, it also sheds light on the significance of hope, and the power of art as a form of protest, that can fuel a conscious collective effort in having the chance to be an active participant in our ever-changing era.
The interest is to invite contemporary practitioners from any field for open-ended discussions who are presently commenting and exploring themes on the built and non-built environment, sustainability, culture, and beyond.
Having encountered the show, we couldn’t help but inquire with the artist through a closer lens in sharing with us her passion for her artistic practice, how the show came to be, and honest thoughts on the urgent current affairs and culturally significant themes we’re experiencing as individuals as well as collectively.
Watch the interview with IELLA for a lengthier discussion, or have a read through the short excerpts of our conversation below.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your practice?
My name is IELLA, I draw and paint illustrative work about our dying planet and existentialism, using imaginative worlds and creatures. Influenced by 90s animation, video games, and nature, I also explore themes of fantasy, climate change, immigration, and personal experiences.
I completed my MA in Communication Design (Illustration) and currently balance a full-time job with my home/studio practice. I also love life drawing and sketching people while commuting or out and about in London.What motivated you to exhibit your work?
COVID was a wake-up call; between being locked down and having a long-term relationship end, I immersed myself into a studio-like practice in my 30-square-meter studio home and have since worked on four solo exhibitions.
The topic of Climate Anxiety has taken lead in your solo show; ‘Dying Planet’. Can you tell us your first associations or memories that could have propelled you into creating this show?
I’m from Birżebbuġa, Malta. Growing up as a kid in the late 90s and early 2000s, I’d often ride my BMX and explore the shorelines looking for adventure and inspiration.We had oil spills affecting my hometown’s shorelines frequently, coupled with towering gas tanks, the overwhelming presence of the freeport, and the nearby Delimara power station, one thing that always struck me was how polluted the town was.
I was also affected by constant hunting over Borg in the Nadur valley area, and I often came across dead or dying birds. However, during that time, the construction boom hadn’t quite caught up to 2022 levels.
In your work, ‘Il-Kelb tal-Fenek’, becomes an allegory of the undergoing process of Urban Decay, all while you seem to hint at the feeling of helplessness but also hope. Is that a feeling you were challenged with when creating these works?
I feel helpless about being able to change anything, but I’m also tired of not trying. Art can impact a more significant population beyond regular gallery goers, especially when using illustration and figurative art. Whether it inspires people to protest, generates debate, or gives hope – art made for the public tends to be a powerful form of communication and expression.
Tell us more about the part of your exhibition titled ‘The extinction wall’ – where exhibition goers had the opportunity to write down anonymous thoughts on the current situation. Did you find the show to be an acknowledging space with people sharing their thoughts on collective worries? Which was the most prevalent anxiety?I wanted to remind people that we can collect our anxieties and come together to bring change and reference the concept of Rewilding* in this case.
The most common messages blamed various politicians for inaction and corruption. This was followed by people expressing how they cannot bring children into this challenging world, even if they wish to.
Your work delivers an important message and contribution to all of us. Is there anything you’d like to highlight, comment on, or wish for people to remember?
Maltese people are hard-headed. We can use this to our advantage to succeed and change things for the better. We’re a formidable nation with an incredible history and deserve much better. Saving our environment and heritage will bring stability and a better world for all of us.What’s next for IELLA?
Currently, I am developing a body of work about Climate Migration over the next year and am looking forward to a one-month residency at BigCi in June 2023.Follow IELLA on her Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ielladoodle/
*Rewilding is a progressive approach to conservation. It’s about letting nature take care of itself, enabling natural processes to shape land and sea, repair damaged ecosystems, and restore degraded landscapes. Through rewilding, wildlife’s natural rhythms create wilder, more biodiverse habitats.