Standing at Heaven's Gate with Anna Di Mezza July 08 2019

Anna Di Mezza is a painter who currently resides in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. Her works are surrealistic in nature, playing with perspective and combining subject matter with unexpected backgrounds resulting in bizarre visual narratives. Inspired by vintage photos, Anna likes to depict what appear to be stills from a surrealist film – challenging viewers to make up their own interpretation of the plot. Her paintings seem to straddle a fine line between humour and horror.

We had a chat with Anna about working as an animator at Disney, the inspiration behind her pieces, and her penchant for the surreal and bizarre.

Interview by Louise McIntosh. Photos supplied by Anna Di Mezza.

Have you always painted or did something lead you to start?

I have always been interested in the arts, especially painting and music. My Year 5 teacher was also a painter. He saw potential in me and would tutor me in how to paint. This started my lifelong love of art. I always wanted to be an artist or piano teacher. I am lucky to be doing both these days, although I have only had my first solo exhibition locally in 2017 in the Blue Mountains.

What is your professional background as an artist?

I did a graphic design course after high school, as I thought it would be hard and unlikely to make a living as an artist. I felt that graphic design would have been the closest thing to making art. After a year of working at an engineering company doing design work for their reports and getting really bored, I started work at Disney Animation Australia in the 90s as an inbetweener. This role involved drawing frames between the key poses (or keyframes) drawn by the main artists of a production. I worked there for nine years. It was a lot of fun being part of such a creative environment. It was also an intense workload. I would sometimes draw 200 inbetweens a week. During this time I would do life drawing classes to help loosen up my style and continue improving, as well as painting mostly still life, as well as portraits.  

What is the inspiration behind your style? 

My inspiration comes from different sources, both visual and auditory. I am mesmerised by the beauty of Western popular culture and design of the 20th century, particularly the 1940s through to the 60s. The Surrealists Magritte and De Chirico are main influences of my work. Also Hopper and the Pop Art movement. I am also influenced by the film directors Kubrick, Hitchcock and David Lynch with their often bizarre and otherwordly themes which is something I aspire to in my own work.

Can you describe your perfect painting scenario: mood, music, lighting and action?

My ideal work environment is in my tiny granny flat kitchenette which is purely used as my art studio. It has good natural lighting and has everything I need within reach just by swiveling around in my chair. Every time I enter that room, it is just the way I left it the day before, so I can get on with working. I just spray the palette I'm working on with water so it is still wet for the next day.

I love listening to anything that interests me depending on my mood, art or biography podcasts, and of course music.

What are you preferred painting tools?

Acrylic paints, a variety of brushes, smooth wooden panel boards, disposable wax paper palletes, hairdryer to dry paint quickly, pencils for planning.

You often depict images of a time gone by. Are there any particular yearnings for past era or is this more of a social commentary of those times?

I have always been drawn to the music, art, architecture and fashion of the Mid-Century. To me, it has always been the most aesthetically pleasing era, even though I have not lived through it myself. Though the images I use in my art may be from that time, I am not necessarily making a social comment about that era.

There are often unsettling elements interspersed amongst the manicured scenes: a nuclear cloud at a bonfire, thwarted loves, tidal waves. Can you explain a little more about these?

I love the element of surprise and incorporating unsettling themes, much like what Surrealism was about. It invites the viewer to take a second look. What seems like a normal everyday scene in fact turns out to be disturbing and – sometimes in a bizarre way – humorous.

Is there a concurrent theme in this body of work in Heaven's Gate with Outré Gallery?

Looking at this body of work conjures up feelings of morbidity, the feeling that the images are a snapshot of a scene before a major disaster is about to happen. I also touch upon the subject of climate change and the human impact on the environment. The subjects in some of the paintings are carrying on in their daily lives without even being aware of the potential disaster that is about to unfold. It reminds me of the saying 'First World problems'. We have bigger things to deal with much more so than our petty daily inconveniences.

Heaven's Gate by Anna Di Mezza
Opening night Friday, 19 July 2019
19 – 28 July 2019
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