Milla Aska's paintings feel like poetry: soft and gentle and comforting. To create the translucent layers of illuminated nuances of velvet soft okras, burgundies, light blues, reds and lilacs, Milla creates from a space where the sensations of the body interplay with the spirit of colour, oil and canvas.
Milla Aska, Wavering, 2018, Oil on canvas, 150x160. Photo Milla Aska
What has been your path to becoming a painter?
I think my primary way of observing and perceiving the world has always been very visual. Drawing and creating with my hands has always been natural to me, however, I did not get excited about painting until after High School in an Adult Education Collage. At that point I also realised that painting is something I could do as a profession — whatever that meant to me at the time. In the Academy of Fine Arts I knew immediately that panting was my medium.
How would you describe yourself as a painter?
Painting is my natural way of communicating and functioning in this world. I want to make soft pictures. In fact, I am kind of a gentle person — although I can be tough if I must, but I would love it if I wouldn’t have to be, if I could just be this way.. When creating, I find it important to create space for slowness, small observations as well as feelings and sensations.
What do you like to portray through your pictures?
The starting point of my paintings are always a sensation or a feeling. Sometimes it can be an experience of a certain colour, the heel’s roughness, the smell of cake in a vitrine, or the sensation of the hipbone against flesh. When I begin to paint, I begin to move forward towards the picture. Sometimes it changes into something completely different along the way: bodily sensations are important, and it can change the direction of the picture. For instance, if my hand is hurting, the picture might not become what I had thought in the different stages of the work. In the end the painting seems to gently allude towards some kind of direction — or sometimes many — and the intention is not to offer a specific interpretation. In that sense the work might seem odd or a bit clumsy to the viewer.
From my point of view, I might say that the pictures take shape around my body: either concretely to represent it, or then to show it's qualities and sensations— for instance how something feels against the skin. Or, what warmth feels like. Cold is something that surrounds the body, whereas warmth has a sense of melting.
You have recently moved into new work space. How does it feel like?
Light and spacious. For my previous exhibition, I worked quite a dark basement, with leaks from the street. Now I have risen to the second floor! I am quite excited about the new space, and I can’t wait to properly settle in. Also, I am surrounded by friends, which is very lovely.
Your work has these sensitive nuances of colour and a beautiful light, where do they come from?
To me, the colors relate directly to observation and feelings. They create different associations related to for instance roughness, translucent skin, or the weight of things. Often the colors of my paintings have these gauze-like layers that are dimly visible through each other. Personally, I also associate the gauze with meanings related to protection and being protected. I also really find pleasure in looking at colors.
Can you talk about your work process: where do you get your ideas, what excites you, how do you work?
My work usually begins from diary-like notes and remarks, from which I begin to imagine paintings or a part of a painting. Recently, reading poetry has influenced my work. Naturally, I also look at the work of other artists.
At my workspace I always work on many paintings at the same time. I move from one work to another, which blurs the boundaries between them. I don’t see the work as a series because each work function as an individual piece. However, they do get support from the mass around them, and therefore I like to see my paintings as a group. I begin with a certain colour, massaging the colour — diluted with oil — to the canvas with my hand so that the surface doesn’t become as absorbing and so the colour can glide on the surface. Then I let the oil absorb and dry, while I work on other pieces. When the first layer has dried, I look at the painting; if I notice that it begins to take me into a certain direction, I follow it. At this point I usually use a brush to add a layer of colour that the first layer seems to need.
The material and the feeling of the material are important: they can be approached through touch and stroking. When you press against the canvas with a rough brush, it has its own resistance. Pen and paper, or charcoal and paper, on the other hand, somehow feel too compliant. Then again, they are more merciless; when working with these materials it feels like I have all the responsibility. Oil and canvas have their own will, they resist. My work and mark on the canvas tends to be drawing-like. But, when I draw on paper, it feels, oddly, like I can’t draw.
I continue by working the different layers in stages. In the finished piece, all the layers are translucently visible through each other; I like the idea that the work process is somehow present and on view in the work. However, the final work is always the sum of the interaction between the set pf paintings, the space and the observing and experiencing body. All the parts are helplessly dependent on one another.
What do you dream of?
That I will be able to and manage to create art in the future. Right now, I have the opportunity to work with the support of a grant, but I am slightly nervous about my situation next year. To live project-by-project in an ongoing competition for grants is quite stressful — it would be nice to find some sort of calm around this. I would like to have time for other things as well. Like just laying around and looking at things. Idleness tempts me.
Milla Aska was part of Marcy's Sensual Closeness exhibition in May 2019.