Creativity from overseas.
By Juliana Dalla | Translated by Loretta Murphy
Designer, photographer, fashion designer. There are no limits to the creative force of Mafalda Silva. Originally from Portugal, she is known in Toronto’s cultural scene as one of the most talented artists in our community.
How did art come into your life? Could you talk a little about your career as an artist, from your early works to the decision to make art your profession?
Mafalda Silva – I think it’s genetic. I had an uncle who was a painter and two cousins who were architects. Since I was very little, when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I replied that I wanted to be a designer. When I was 14, one of my teachers found me in the cafeteria and convinced me that I should study in a school specializing in the arts. So I went to secondary school at the Antonio Arroio School of Arts, which has produced great Portuguese artists. After this course, I took a degree in Fashion Design at the Technical University of Lisbon. It was always very clear to me that I needed to be linked to a creative profession.
Your artwork ranges from creations for the fashion market to works of art that mix various media elements. What led you to become interested in the arts that blend elements and distinct concepts?
Mafalda Silva – My passions have always been drawing, photography and fashion. After several experiments with these media, I thought, why not join them all in one piece? And that’s where I got the idea to draw pictures that did not exist originally in my photographs, and the way to join them into the photos is through hand sewn stitching.
You moved from Portugal to Canada in 2006. I believe that your Lusitanian roots and your artistic experience in Portugal have some influence over your creations here in Canada. Could you explain how the two cultures, Canadian and Lusitanian, have transformed and differentiated your work?
Mafalda Silva – My work has been based a bit on my personal experience. My themes revolve around immigration and how I, as an immigrant, interpret Canada with my eyes and my feelings. The first collection of art that I did was with black and white photos of maple leaves, representing the dark and difficult side of Canada for me, in my early years of living in the country. Over the photos, I stitched fall colours, vibrant colours that represented the joys of experiencing new things. Another theme that I have also developed is migratory birds, with which I identify. The movement of the birds, so as not be stuck in one place, for me, is like the people who immigrate.
What led you to choose Canada in which to produce and distribute your art? How was the process of adaptation, as an immigrant and artist, to the Canadian culture and the country’s art circuit?
Mafalda Silva – I came to Canada due to personal reasons. I think Canada chose me to spread my art. My experience of moving here was so striking that it made me express myself more through art. Being a visual and creative person, I found it was a means to define myself. The art circuit in Toronto is stronger than in Lisbon. There are several art fairs in the summer, many festivals and galleries. That really helped my integration.
What are the next professional flights you plan to take in the art world?
Mafalda Silva – I’ve been able to show some of my art in New York, in a collective exhibition. I would love to show more in the United States. I would also like to go back to my roots and show my art in Portugal and perhaps also throughout Europe.