Elmi Mata asks: What’s the closest one can get to nature; be it a plant or an animal without physically sensing it through touching?

My instinct response to this question is that an eye grows an invisible arm every time it observes something or someone. The arm expands and acts as a vessel to allow a spirit to travel from one to the next. Such prose is quite simple. But what Mata is really investigating lends to be more complex: how does one get close and comprehend something we know exists but we cannot see with the naked eye or study empirically. More unsettling yet; what if that something is trying to communicate with us or reveal a certain truth?

Mata summons the energy of the spirits of the metaphysical when he brings something into this world. Through the process of painting, sculpting, molding, carving, drawing and etching and planting trees and plants; Mata observes, ponders and investigates through his thought processes and actions the manifestation of the ethereal. In this process, his arms and hands grasp beyond their form and literal function. His fingers transform into tentacular plugs; leaving behind both meticulous and impulsive annotations that evidence a temperament akin to the exchange that happens between spirits; our spirits. Inhaling and exhaling are anecdotal to the exchange of energies that occur between two spirits, between one and nature; a primordial act necessary for survival and meditation. Such is a way that our energies synthesize and permeate through one another; oftentimes subconsciously. After this synapsis, the work exists as its own entity.

These entities serve the viewer as blueprints and ideas; malleable and existing with an animalistic aura that carries its own urge and voice. The work is also a receptive platform that allows contact from both internal and external forces. The artist places devices alongside his work; such as rocks and abstract symbols that function as antennas that activate a space for the conjuring spirits, foreign entities and angels.

Like the rocks, Mata leaves accessible motifs to the everyday viewer. Blue and yellow are consistently present alluding to the cool of sky and the warmth of the sun; two elements of nature that are always with him, whose beauty he does not take for granted. The figures in his work are heavily outlined; giving the last layer of both the painted surface and the described bodily form a sensation of a caged image forced against a fence.

This fence contains and to some extent imprisons, but most importantly, provides space for breathing between the gaps of the overall structure for both the viewer and painted subject. The fence is heavy and rigid like steel, yet flexible and at times delicate like lace: both sensations simultaneously populate Mata’s painted images. The shimmer between textures, colors and lines and the weight enveloped therein; give each narrative a holographic experience. A line quality that seeks to break the frame and allows the viewer to survey the overall composition of the canvas; eyesight dancing from one corner to the over in a looped sequence.

Aware of the travels of his own spirit; Elmi’s work seeks to manifest spirits whose bodies are born and shaped intermittently by their flight from person to person (and the interplay of things, nature and screens that carve plural configurations for spirits to travel from and to).

- Nicole Chaput 



Photos by Rubén Garay Araujo.