Maria Tolia

Re: @mpilampa October 2019 Wooosh!
Maria’s Wooosh was a joyful occasion, one of the last of the year to enjoy sunlight before the carpark gatherings became an atmospheric streetlamp affair. I don’t remember very well now, but I think we all smiled a lot, and talked about her drawing, “Facts on Apes”. This drawing joins the very very very old tradition of translating and illustrating the Physiologus – a collection of ‘moralized beast tales’ that emerged from probably Alexandria in probably the 3rd or 4th century. This accumulated bestiary of Very Christian hot-takes expounds life lessons from the behaviours of animals and rocks. Things to the ilk of: ostriches are tall and abandon their eggs, ergo, we should stretch our heads up to heaven and ignore the earth, or, foxy foxes play dead before eating birds, ergo, the devilish devil is gonna get ya when you least expect it.

The devil definitely didn’t show face during Maria’s artist’s talk, where she told us some of her personal highlights from the text. There was an endearing description of an animal (an elephant maybe?) having to lick its young to make them into the right shape – due to their being born as squashy little balls of clay – and an oddly sensitive observation that apes are “very happy with the full moon… but they grow sad when it wanes.” These quirks within the manuscript resonate with the images Maria makes – odd, sad, dreamy figures, with traits both animal and human, dwelling curiously in a world of fat suns and glowing, sinking moons. The creatures in ‘Facts on Apes’ seem to have quite little factual commonality with apes, much like the medieval bestiary illustrations that don’t hold well to reality, but excel as strange imagination carrying vessels from a time when most had no means to explore other worlds.

Maria told us she is planning to make a whole book of entries like this, which I hope will contain many more wonderful noses, non-facts, and not much advice on how to live.