Words: Emma Finneran
Dreams can take you away from what you know, while life can condemn you to it. What of the space in between these two worlds: the murky, nebulous subconscious and the meaty, glossed consciousness we all reside in, simultaneously, day-to-day, night-by-night? To engage with a Mia Middleton painting is to entrain on a journey within, where the somatic and psychological and the border between self and world, are rendered with both fragility and strength in equal measure. Middleton reminds us of the turbulent threshold of what’s real and what’s not. Since the completion of her double degree (with Honours) in Photomedia and Philosophy at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Middleton’s ascent as a busied, internationally exhibiting artist could nauseate the faint of heart. But as Middleton, who seems special of spirit and in energy to me, says, “like my paintings, I’m activated by the viewer and by viewing.”
If windows function as things to look out of in order to see, then Middleton’s paintings function as portals, as thresholds, in order to feel or examine the stuffs of life on the inside that are sometimes hard to see. “Like pin pricks of information,” Middleton’s humbly sized portal-paintings allow multiple histories and narratives to occur in unison. A doorknob, a suited hand, a harlequin all lurking in each other’s orbit. Painting almost always in a series, Middleton ensures each image feels like an unhurried, very stayed, yet ephemeral moment – neither lost or without purpose yet wandering and wondering.
Middleton acts as a gatherer, not owner, of images that she mines from her own psyche in order to activate and piece together her own story. “I’ll have my answer, and you’ll have yours,” Middleton muses, inviting the viewer to build their own narratives. Living in that kind of detail evokes so many questions around her works, but questions, unlike answers, are so much funner: answers and absolutes can kill imagination.
Middleton’s paintings, disarming and charming, remind me that the elusive language of our bodies, our psyches, needs to be heeded.
While having completed several residencies abroad – notably in Barcelona and Seoul – and being represented by COMA, Sydney, Middleton is showing no signs of slowing down. We speak while she is in London, in residence at PM/AM Gallery, and she tells me about her plans to relocate to Portugal in 2023. Dizzied, but not surprised, Middleton’s dexterity at existing in multiple worlds at once is not only spell-binding but intoxicating, much like her paintings.
Featured image: Installation view of Mia Middleton’s Three Secrets, COMA, Sydney 2022.
This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 103, January-March 2023.