Under The Cover:
MF Tomlinson & Chiara Baima Poma on creating the artwork for 'Strange Time'
Strange Time is the debut album from the London based Australian musician MF Tomlinson. For Hook's Under The Cover series, MF spoke to his friend, the artist Chiara Baima Poma, about the process of collaborating on the album's artwork, and how their creative practices have changed over the years.
Chiara and I have been firm friends for many years now. We met working together at the Pacific Social Club in Hackney, which is now Atlantis Records. It's hallowed ground for all of the community surrounding the cafe and the friendships and music there shaped me as a person. Chiara gave me a new perspective on what it meant to be an artist and I'm so proud she made this work for the cover of Strange Time. We talked about interviewing each other since we began this collaboration and we're excited that it's here in Hook. Let's get started... MF
MF Tomlinson’s questions for Chiara Baima Poma…
Could you tell us a little bit about you and talk us through your practice and significant influences?
My art is basically me trying to create a fantastic and utopian world where I feel more comfortable and where I would like to belong. I therefore try to incorporate lots of culture and traditions with the contemporary days weaving everything with the thread of the tales and mythology. It is also me idealising the past and lost culture and rituals, that’s why my big influences are tales, ways of saying and proverbs, especially from Italy cause that's where I'm from and my art is also a longing to reconnect with my roots. I'd say what attracts me the most in terms of art is the italian gothic, it is a really big influence on my works.
What was your inspiration for the piece you created for Strange Time?
My influence for Strange Time was this myth of Prometheus, where Prometheus steals the fire from the Gods to donate it to humans. I thought it was a good parallel with Strange Time, an album that comes to work us up during this difficult time.
3.You moved to the Canary Islands from London. Since then you’ve made huge leaps in your practice and style. What are your reflections on moving away from this big cosmopolitan hub so many artists flock to?
I guess since I moved to the Canary Islands I've had my own studio and really given myself the time I needed to paint. It became the thing I do everyday, and since I'm here painting is a very "private" thing I do. That's the biggest change, when in London my inspiration came from the outside world, here it comes from my inside, intimate self... and of course I paint so much more here, I feel my style is now really based on me, and not on how I'd like to be.
Strange Time reflects upon the uncertain, liminal experience of life in the pandemic - is there a certain song that you relate to especially and if so why?
My favourite song of the album is Them Apples, I can't say why exactly but it's the one that attracts me the most!
Finally, what’s on your playlist at the moment?
I'm on my Murolo phase - this legend of Naples music!!!
Chiara Baima Poma’s questions for MF Tomlinson…
Which comes first when you're producing, the sound or the idea?
The idea, the idea links the sounds together. Usually everything is lying around like a jigsaw puzzle in my head but a song won’t emerge until I have enough pieces to start.
What are you listening to the most at the moment, what's on your playlist?
I'm obsessed with Chris Cohen's self titled record, I laugh and cry with Swamp Dogg's discography and I love my friends Voka Gentle, The Death of Pop & Clementine March, and most importantly Mind Enterprises.
here do you get inspired usually?
Everyday things are the most inspiring to me - then I need art to remind me that life is more than those disparate things. Art is so important to have in your everyday because the combination of the two cast some dramatic shadows over reality. These new perceptions inspire not just an interesting expression, but some kind of truth - a further insight into our existence.
I read a book called Art as Therapy by Alain de Botton and John Armstrong. In the book there is a black scratchy painting with the caption ‘This painting is what an internal feeling might look like’. This was a eureka moment for me, I realised that’s what I’m driven to do - to crystallise something that’s happening inside of me so that I and potentially someone else has a chance to experience it like that painting.
I adore music and art that encapsulates the whole of life and profound the everyday can be but also doesn’t omit anything - most importantly, humour. So much of our lives are spent using humour to get through the challenging or the boring. Humour is as serious and as profound as anything and my favourite artists understand that.
Tell me about this difficult and STRANGE time and the need of translating it into music
So carrying on from the above, I felt the pressure to crystallise the moment. It was the overwhelming feeling of powerlessness in the face of the pandemic kicking my ass into gear. It sparked a positive change for me, in the previous months I was realising the power of pursuing and finishing work in a short timeframe and accepting a cohesive whole over a protracted process that was led by the wrong kind of perfectionism.
The complete shut down of everything gave a sense of immense freedom that allowed me to create in a way I hadn’t let myself for a very long time - since I first picked up a guitar really. I’ve carried that forward and am now working on a second record, which has been a balm for how low I felt in the winter months. I’m very excited by how it’s shaping up.
How have you refined your style since you entered the music world?
I’m glad you asked this - you might not know you gave me a really significant piece of advice going into this album when you said to me ‘sometimes you go over the top’. I knew it to be true and I took it onboard. As a very extra, obsessive person I’m proud to say I’ve learned to check myself, slow down and pay attention to detail - in recording, technique, theory and when referencing the work I’m making. This helps me realise what the song needs to be.
At the heart of it all my approach is the same as when I was 16 years old - 100% obsessive self destructive passion and no waiting around - I got my ass kicked for that and learned a lot. Now, that's still my engine but I’ve learned to temper it. These days I’ve got a bit perspective, much more self care, much more listening, the ability to accept help (this is why collaborating is so central to what I do) and maybe just a little bit of wisdom. In no small part thanks to you CBP.