Linea Matei investigates familial and societal upbringing through spectacular textile sculptures
The biggest, four-metre-tall one aims to raise the question of who provides support when one is too overwhelmed to take a step forward or seek help.
7 Mar 2024

The Swedish textile artist’s primary focus is on creating textile sculptures and embroidery. 

— Each piece begins with a deep personal interest in exploring specific themes, feelings, or curiosities. These can range from experiences close to my heart to those far beyond my current understanding, driving my desire to learn and gain new perspectives, she says.

Matei now presents her first solo exhibition, Do you see me, at CFHILL in central Stockholm.

— In the smallest room, I put a nearly four-metre-tall white sculpture with elongated, heavy arms and intricate black embroidery, titled ’Who takes care of you.’ This piece symbolises the proverbial elephant in the room, challenging the viewer to confront the complexities of sadness, depression, and the struggle of dealing with one’s own and others’ discomfort. It raises the question of who provides support when one is too overwhelmed to take a step forward or seek help.

— In the larger rooms there are sculptures in child and grown up sizes, in beige brown tones, each with their own shape, posture, and characteristics with mirror glass faces allowing viewers to see themselves reflected in each sculpture. These sculptures were born from my urge to investigate familial and societal upbringing which then led me on a journey of investigating different identities. Growing up in a multicultural home, with two sisters, a Tornedalian (descendants of Finns, settled to the areas of today’s Northern Sweden, and a recognised national minority in Sweden, Ed’s note) mother from Kiruna and a father from Romania, I thought a lot about how different one is treated depending on how one looks or talks. How we are seen, see others, ourselves, and how that shapes us growing up.

— Through research of identities, and interviews with people I realised what living so vastly different lives in the same timeline almost becomes different realities. Then I thought about what makes us connect even when we do not understand each other’s realities. The answer: emotions. Emotions are universal and allow us to relate and empathise with each other. We may laugh or cry for different reasons but we can relate to the feeling of joy or tears that are falling, and therefore we can connect. 

— Some of the sculptures are portrayed by me through photography in their fictive everyday life, in their own reality, also presented at the exhibition at CFHILL. I am very inspired by people, powerdiýnamics, and how we interact as humans. Artists, living and dead, I find inspiring include Chiffon Thomas, Frida Kahlo, and Leigh Bowery. 

Can you take us through the creative process? 

— My process begins with reading, listening, researching, and writing to broaden my understanding and viewpoint. This is followed by a fluid phase of writing and sketching, aimed at identifying the core of my project — its purpose, method, and message. I then quickly transition to experimenting with materials, shapes, techniques, and scales to preserve the essence of my concept. When I have found my practical way, I try pieces on an audience to see how they interpret it. My mantra, ’fail fast,’ encourages me to boldly proceed without fear, allowing for spontaneous creation and adjustments that breathe life into each piece.

Linea Matei.

After CFHILL, what’s next?

— I’m continuously exploring the realm of textile characters, embroidery and photography, with many more ideas in the pipeline. I’m also delving into the theme of fatherhood, a subject outside my personal experience, but one that intrigues me greatly as I seek to understand and reflect on the various aspects of being and having a father, Matei concludes.