Oliver White, our graphic designer turned interviewer, sat down with third-year contemporary art student Christina Massolino for this edition’s Imagine. Alongside curating for the City of Adelaide council, she creates emotive mixed-method portraits in her disorderly home studio. Her final year has seen her explore sexual assault and its resulting impact on female and female-identifying victims.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’re studying?
I’m currently in my third year of a Bachelor of Contemporary Art. I’m also a part of the Emerging Curators Program, which is a City of Adelaide initiative supported by Carclew*. That’s for this whole year and I‘m doing it with two other people as well, Chiranjika Grasby and Jack McBride. So at the moment I’m practicing in art and also doing a bit of curating.
What inspires the subject matter behind your paintings?
Mostly women, and the personal struggle with identity as a woman – as well as people, faces and feelings.
Is there a particular direction you’re focused in for your third year?
Yes, the final year of a Bachelor of Contemporary Art is essentially a year-long project. This year I’ve been exploring ideals of purity and impurity within women and people who identify as women. It started that way, but as the year went on I’ve focused more towards sexual assault and how those who have experienced sexual assault can feel purity and impurity. It’s a very strongly held belief in Western societies and other societies that women have to be pure, such as the concept of virginity, and I find it really interesting (especially in my own experience) when that choice is taken away from you. Say if you were abused as a child or as a teenager, how then growing up as an adult you might feel impure because you weren’t given that choice, and because people have wronged you. But, you’re also supposed to feel pure because you didn’t make that decision yourself.
I’ve also been talking to some other people who have experienced sexual assault; getting their stories and seeing what this grey area is that we don’t really talk about much. They often reflect on how horrible they feel after being assaulted, but we don’t talk about how a lot of that has to do with feeling dirty or unclean.
My third year started very broad, but it’s now heading in the direction of exploring those themes in my painting. I do portrait painting, however, I also combine traditional painting methods with textile work and thread. Having previously undertaken an exploration of different methods in past years, I have all that experience behind me too.
What are your initial thought processes when you’re starting a new work?
Usually when I start a new work it’s come after a lot of thought and consideration. I will have an idea in my head – a feeling, an emotion, that I’ve been feeling for a couple of weeks, such as guilt or disgust – and then I will start creating that. It happens very rapidly after a long time of consideration.
What age did you begin drawing? Did you begin with drawing?
Yes, I’d say so, more so in high school. In Years 7 and 8 I began drawing more. I definitely feel as though my creative process really stems from my childhood. We had a ‘useful cupboard’ where Mum would place recycled objects and items we weren’t going to throw away, and she would say ‘If you’re bored, do something in the useful cupboard, make something!’ I feel as if that was more important to me than techniques I learnt from drawing and lessons in high school.
Do you think your decision to study an art degree was inevitable?
No, I had originally chosen to do journalism, thinking that was what I wanted to do, but I started and didn’t like it. So, art wasn’t always what I wanted to study.
How has your experience with Carclew been this year?
Working with Carlew this year doing curating has been really good, as it’s something I’ve never done before. I had a curating subject last year as part of my degree, which inspired me to pursue this route. They’ve enabled me to do so many things – curating two exhibitions, working with two other people, and finding a clearer career direction – that I wouldn’t have done otherwise.
How would you describe the perfect working studio space?
I’m a very messy person, so it’s hard when I work in my studio on Level 7 because I have to keep it clean due to it being a shared space. But my studio at home is very messy and I kind of like to work that way. A bit disorganised, but a bit of order to it. I’d love a big warehouse where I could just make massive works. I also definitely prefer to work alone. I wouldn’t be opposed to sharing but prefer to be alone.
What future endeavours are you hoping for in the coming years?
Next year, I’m hoping to get into some more curating work, and I want to work on my own artwork and see where that takes me. After that, I would like to pursue an Honours in Art and Design through UniSA.
*Carclew is South Australia’s only multi-art form and cultural organisation dedicated to people under the age of 27. It supports emerging artists with workshops, events, arts projects, funding programs, and skill development opportunities.
Interview by Oliver White
Artwork by Christina Massolino
This piece was originally published in Edition 31.