I first encountered Sofia Mattioli - perhaps observed would be a better term - at the NOWNESS online video platform. Recently, a good friend and brilliant videomaker from Buenos Aires, Belen Pogliaga https://vimeo.com/belengp, told me to watch out for Sofia. In her own words, she said ´there’s a lot of poetry and humanity in her work. I love it, so sensitive´.
I began my research. It wasn´t a first time I visited NOWNESS of course but I must admit the general state of artistic expression of the platform induced my euphoria. Sofia who spent her first part of the childhood in a dreamy countryside of Tuscany is probably best known for her collaborations with CHLOE and Jamie XX but to be honest I was more interested in what she filmed on her travels with NGO to Malawi.
The short films, she did at first seem to differ so much in the choice of topic. The film called Eeg Waveforms, is a peak to her travels from Sirilinaka where she ends up dancing with Aragum, a 26-year-old deaf boy, who she filmed dancing with by the sea. I was mesmerised. Whereas the film called Esteban Cortazar Earth piece is, of course, promoting the brand but there is just so much more into it then just fashion movie.
She is possibly one of the most sensitive, honest and poetic videomakers, I´ve come across for a long time. A somewhat impressive portfolio consisting of work with Juergen Teller, Mario Sorrenti, Seand and Seng and magazine such as Vogue Italia, Uk, America, Vanity Fair, and brands Emilio Pucci, Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Giorgio Armani, Marc Jacob, definitely shaped her unique way of seeing things.
Sofi has conducted all this activity and moved to London from 2010 to work full time for Mario Testino as well as freelance working on creative projects for clients such as Paolo Roversi, Yasmin Sewell, Harpers Bazaar, M.A.D agency of Jefferson Hack. I was happy to get her YES to the interview when I just approached her on Instagram. Finally here, we discussed her creative life in London city and before.
What was it like growing up in France, Vichy ?
I GREW UP IN TUSCANY, IN THE COUNTRYSIDE, UNTIL I WAS 12 YEARS OLD. THEN WE MOVED TO VIENNA THEN TO ROME. I WAS ONLY BORN IN VICHY. GROWING UP IN THE COUNTRYSIDE IS BEAUTIFUL, SURELY WILL DO THE SAME IF I EVER HAVE KIDS ONE DAY.
Reading your bio you have parents from South Africa and Italy. I wonder what was it like growing up in the multilingual family?
IT WAS GREAT, SOMETIMES CONFUSING AS I THINK BOTH IN ENGLISH AND ITALIAN BUT IT WAS EXTREMELY USEFUL AS GROWING UP AND TRAVELLING
Do you remember the moment when you made a decision to leave? Here I´m referring to leaving your family home. Maybe you could tell us the places you lived and what brought you to London in the end.
I LEFT HOME BECAUSE OF FAMILY ISSUES, WE LOST OUR HOME IN THE CITY AND I HAD TO GET A JOB AND WANTED TO BE AWAY FROM IT ALL... LOOKING BACK IT WAS VERY HARD BUT LOOKING AT IT NOW IT WAS I NEEDED TO BECOME AN ARTIST. THE STRUGGLE, THE SUFFERING, MISSING MY PARENTS, BEING ALONE AND GROWING UP.
When did you first discover photography and video making? Was it one that led to the other?
I THINK POETRY IS THE FIRST THING THAT COMES FOR ME, WRITING IN GENERAL.
PHOTOS IT DEPENDS ON MY MOOD, SOMETIMES I TAKE PICTURES TO CAPTURE A MOMENT AND MY FEELINGS SOMETIMES I TAKE PICTURES BECAUSE I WANT TO EVADE MY FEELINGS. IT S ALL ABOUT ELABORATING IDEAS FOR ME, FINDING CONCEPTS THAT CAN HAVE A LANGUAGE THAT EVERYONE CAN UNDERSTAND. I LOVE BRAINSTORMING.
You have a background as an art historian. I consider art history as a study that deals with the legacy of an epoque. It´s as if art is trying to understand its surrounding world. Is that the reason why you started to work as a visual artist?
I STUDIED HISTORY OF ART AT UNIVERSITY AND ONE OF MY SIDE JOBS IS TO DO VISUAL RESEARCH FOR BRANDS AND I THINK HAVING THIS BACKGROUND STUDY HAS HELPED ME A LOT. I WAS A MESS AT UNIVERSITY THOUGH, I LEARNED TO HAVE DISCIPLINE MUCH LATER IN THE YEARS.
I WOULD LOVE TO GET A MASTERS I´M THINKING ABOUT GOING BACK TO STUDYING AT SOME POINT
Have you ever worked as an art historian?
NO, BUT I WOULD LOVE TO WORK AS A PSYCHOLOGIST in the future.
Your videos are so varied, from NGO (by the way the one from Malawi, where you dance with kids from an orphanage, playing the music, made me cry ), Jamie XX SleepSound video to of course Chloe. What is the meaning of approaching each through the camera you are holding? Each genre is so different yet they share grant sensibility. It´s also interesting to see you as a part of the videos.
When do you think of creating a piece? What is the starting point?
THE STARTING POINT OF CREATING A VIDEO FOR ME IS ALWAYS TO FIND A WAY TO EXPRESS MY SUBCONSCIOUS, AND THAT TRANSLATES IN DIFFERENT WAYS. I´M A VERY EMOTIONAL AND SENSITIVE AND CREATING A PIECE HELPS ME LIGHTEN THE LOAD. AND I HOPE IT HELPS OTHER PEOPLE TOO WHEN THEY SEE IT, I THINK ART SHOULD ALWAYS BE A CHANNEL FOR PEOPLE TO FIND SOME HEALING AND INSPIRATION.
THERE IS NO REALLY STARTING POINT, SOME VIDEOS ARE COMMISSIONED AND SOME VIDEOS ARE BORN FROM MY OWN PERSONAL VISION...
A text can have many interpretations and provoke many different reactions. What does your work add to the interpretation of the text you work with. In particular the quote, visible at the beginning of the video you did in Aragum Bay, I am certain of nothing but of the holiness of the heart's affections and the truth of the imagination. By John Keats, I´m curious what is your opinion about the visualization of poetry. Are you interested in concrete poetry?
YES, I WRITE ALOT OF POETRY, IT S NOT ON MY WEBSITE BECAUSE I AM SHY ABOUT IT BUT I M TRYING TO FEEL MORE CONFIDENT ABOUT IT AND PUBLISH IT SOON…. MAYBE TRANSFORM POETRY INTO SOME FILMS TOO... I HAVE SO MUCH WRITING I NEED TO DO SOMETHING WITH.
What´s next for you?
SO MANY THINGS...YOU WILL SEE SOON. BUT ALSO I M TAKING A FEW MONTHS TO DIGEST ALL THAT S HAPPENED IN 2020, GLOBALLY AND PERSONALLY. IT S A YEAR OF REFLECTION, OF UNIVERSAL GRIEF AND OF DEEP CHANGE. I HOPE, OF COURSE, WE WILL ALL CHANGE FOR THE BETTER.
Text by Marta Marszalek