Meet the young, queer, woman of colour creating art from her experiences

Central Saint Martins fine art student Rene Matić’s work is challenging, provocative, and beautiful

To celebrate its AW18 collection, Dazed has teamed up with Gucci to spotlight three young British artists using their art to spark conversations around identity, freedom, and self-expression.

Using art as a form of self-expression from an early age, 20-year-old Rene Matić’s creative juices spark the conversations surrounding her lived experiences, as she describes it, a “queer, working-class womxn (a term allowing for the inclusion of genderfluid, gender queer, gender non-conforming, non-binary, and trans identities) of colour.”

Working across a range of mediums, some of Matić’s work include a framed Supreme shopping bag with ‘Supremacy’ written across the distinguished red box logo, politically-charged films, as well as thickly layered acrylic self-portraits which all draw back to her personal experiences of racism and homophobia. With influences such as Nina Simone and James Baldwin, Matić constantly draws back to the importance of political awareness in a time where we need it now more than ever.

Currently studying BA Fine Art at Central Saint Martins, the artist’s work taps into her lived experiences as a queer womxn of colour. Challenging, provoking, and exposing the power structure within society is Matić’s way of combating the oppression she has faced and hopefully resonating for those with similar experiences. Don’t be fooled into thinking Matić is forcing any message down your throat though – she’s here to tell her story and whether you get it or not, is up to you. “One of the things I’ve learnt recently is that whatever my work is about, it really doesn’t have anything to do with how the viewer sees it at all,” she explains.

Here, we speak to Matić about her identity, how it informs her art, and whether freedom really exists.

What inspires your work?

Rene Matić: It’s my identity and whatever comes with that. In terms of people that I’m inspired by, it would be Nina Simone or James Baldwin – people who have really found a way to get their point across through platforms like art.

How does being a queer womxn of colour inform your art?

Rene Matić: The whole of my practice is based around being a queer womxn of colour because it is my literal experience. It informs it in all directions because my work is always about living my experiences and all of the different things that go with that, whether it be positive or negative. Whatever happens it will definitely be in my artwork somewhere. It’s all that I can really report on because it’s my story, but I also think it counts for a lot of other people’s stories as well.

How effective do you think art is in getting political messages across?

Rene Matić: I think (using art) is actually the easiest way to get messages across because visuals and imagery are extremely accessible, especially in the digital, image-based culture that we live in. We just need to do more of what we’re doing and really push for it. Schools need to spark kids creativity as opposed to forcing academia down their throats. I think giving people the freedom and agency to do what they want would lead to more people expressing themselves through art, actually.

“One of the things I’ve learnt recently is that whatever my work is about, it really doesn’t have anything to do with how the viewer sees it at all” – Rene Matić

What is your favourite medium to work with?

Rene Matić: I think film. The films I have made have got a wider response – my mum and people from the older generations are quite shocked by how they feel about the messages, whereas a painting is quite two-dimensional. It can be seen as just a pretty picture, or if people want to go further with it then that’s always an option. But, with video, the politics is very much at the forefront without people having to dive into it – you don’t have to try and force yourself to understand it because hopefully it already speaks for itself in some ways!

Do you feel emotion is an important factor to making good art?

Rene Matić: Yeah, but I don’t think you can demand emotion from people, it’s just something that comes naturally. One of the things I’ve learnt recently is that whatever my work is about, it really doesn’t have anything to do with how the viewer sees it at all. My work could be about being black and being queer but if someone thinks it’s about dogs, then it’s about dogs – it really doesn’t matter.

How would you describe freedom in this day and age and do you think it can exist?

Rene Matić: Honestly, I don’t think it can exist. I always go back to what Nina Simone said – “freedom means to have no fear” and, to be honest, I really can’t imagine a time of not being scared about something. I can’t imagine what freedom is actually like because we live under capitalism. But so long as you’re aware of that and you’re not looking past it.

What do you think fashion brands can do to further improve on the issues you raise in your work?

Rene Matić: Don’t just wheel artists or creatives or people of marginalised identities as just a face. Hire more people of colour, hire more queer people, more trans people and let them speak for themselves as opposed to big corporations speaking for them and telling their stories – they should be telling their own stories. And they should put their money into charities and artist-lead spaces because that is important.

Gucci's AW18 collection is available now, you can shop Rene's look and bag.

Director: Joe Ridout
Camera Assistant: Rory Mclean
Stylist: Ben Schofield
Grooming: Roku Roppongi
Producer: Lauren Ford