I’ve never seen a ghost but after talking to artist Mario Lautier Vella about his debut exhibition Like Home , which details everyday occurrences in his haunted house, I’m beginning to wonder. Mario’s exhibition seeks to explore the idea of sensing and communicating with the invisible. His display includes film, drawing, painting and sculpture, all of which are inspired by daily life in a haunted home.
Mario moved to his Watford home in 2004 but says it wasn’t until 2009 that he had his first supernatural experience.
“It started with little things,“ says Mario. “My bedroom was always icy cold and there was always an edge to that room. The summer I first saw the ghost was in my lounge while I was painting. I was working on a project about my family’s ghost stories and maybe somehow, something had been attracted by this.
“Looking behind my right shoulder I saw him standing in the corner by the door, and as quickly as I saw him, he disappeared, but I didn’t mention it to anyone.
“Then the noises began. The hall floorboards would creak, footsteps would go up and down the stairs and I would hear a lot of strange knocking. It used to keep me up at night as it sounded like I was being burgled. After about four months it got very active and my fear turned to irritation. It was only after my neighbours downstairs told me that they were also hearing noises in my flat that I said something. We invited a medium around to cleanse the house but the activity continues to this day, albeit not so frequently.“
This year, Mario will graduate from the University of Westminster with a Masters in Art and Media Practice.
The project involved researching early methods of communicating with spirits such as Victorian planchetts (a wooden board with a pencil on it), ouija boards and automatic writing. Mario then held séances in a bid to discover who or what was responsible for all the paranormal activity. Mario also researched county archives in Hertford and Watford Central Library to draw up a list of all former residents.
“We discovered there were five presences and I know about four of them, but I’ve only seen one. One spirit we call the lady of the house and even now when a friend comes round the lights flicker as she’s formed an attachment to him. I have this very strange relationship with them all.
“One of the spirit hates my art as they are scared of the masks but I use them for protection and evasion. After all, it’s my house and they’ve had their time in it. This is my way of claiming the space as my own and marking my territory using art.“
Visitors to the exhibition can find out more about Mario’s unwanted house guests and share their own experiences in Oral History Ghost Stories which run on Thursdays, August, 2, 9 and 23 from 2pm-4pm where Mario will record the stories for a future film. On August 30, from 2pm-4pm museum manager, Sarah Priestley, will share spooky tales associated with the museum building and local characters.
Like Home runs until Saturday, August 25 at Space² Gallery, Watford Museum, High Street, Watford. Open: Thursdays-Saturdays, 10am-5pm. Details: 01923 232297, firstname.lastname@example.org