Interview with Kajaani-based artist Hamilton Membir by Artfacts.Net

Hamilton Membir in his studio. Photo by Renae Shadler

ArtFacts.Net had the pleasure to met with the Mozambican painter, Hamilton Membir at his home-studio in Kajaani – a regional town in central Finland. There was a tall colourful wooden sculpture at the entrance, and loud jazz music coming from the open studio door. Membir was working on multiple canvases at the same time, mixing bright acrylic and oil paints while moving to the music. Like any good jazz improviser he had no plan, but knew exactly what he was doing.

Artfacts.Net: Can you tell me about your artistic practice? 

Membir: I have been working as a painter since 2007. I work mostly with acrylics. With painting I am always trying something, looking for something that I still don’t know what it is. I think that is what keeps me going, this search. There is always something that catches my attention. When I start an artwork I don’t have a plan, I just go. Most of the time I don’t have a sketch or know what will come. Whatever I see I just give it a try.

The things I use in my canvas, the different materials, are things I find in the street. My work sometimes becomes a collage of unnecessary things, for example garbage. I don’t know what will come out of these materials, but I trust that something will come. I always just give it a chance.

ArtFacts.Net: How has your journey been from Maputo to Kajaani? 

Membir: I moved to Finland 4-years ago. I was living in Helsinki for 2-years and now I have moved to Kajaani and continued my painting work. I am just giving some chance to myself and now trying sculpture. I have also been invited to work as a scenographer for the new theater performance, ‘Vieraat’ which will premiere in January 2019 at the ‘Kajaani Kaupungin Teratteri’ so am preparing for that at the moment.

ArtFacts.Net: How did the move to Kajaani influence the art you make?

Membir: It is a difficult question when I work so much with abstract things… I often paint very bright things but there was a period when I was living in Kajaani that I started to work only with black and white. Just those two colours. I find these works very colourful even thou there are only two colours, but still you can see a lot in them. This is an example of how my work has changed, and is always changing. We are not static so our work must change.

It is sometimes difficult for me to explain why something is this way and not the other way. I know what I am doing. There is space for mistakes. I deserve that, everybody deserves that. I don’t know anything at all, but I am looking for things. That is life.

ArtFacts.Net: Who have your main art influences been?

Membir: I am influenced by everything. I started seeing a lot of exhibitions very early in life. Ilido Candja is a Mozambique painter from my home town and I grew up seeing him painting and Butcheca, he is another one. They were very important for me.

ArtFacts.Net: Can you tell me more about your upcoming project, ‘Vieraat’?

Membir: I will do the scenography for the project and also have an exhibition in the theater foyer. I am preparing the exhibition canvases in my way but my working method for the performance project has to change, so that I come to the meetings prepared and work within in the theme. The theme for the show is ‘vieraat’ which is a Finnish word that can be translated into English to mean stranger and guest. We are dealing with racism and how we meet people who are different from ourselves. The performance will premiere in Kajaani and then tour in the region but my exhibition will stay in the Kajaani Theater only. It is a challenge, it is something completely new. But I love challenges.

Hamilton Membir was born in Maputo, Mozambique in 1983 and since 2014 has been based in Finland.  He has work in private and public collections in Maputo (including Núcleo De Arte), Portugal, Finland, Brazil and USA, as well as taken part in some collective exhibitions.

‘Vieraat’ will premiere on the 19th of January 2019 at Kajaani Kaupungin Teatteri, along with Hamilton Membir’s exhibition. More information can be found at