Artist Interview | Liisa Ahlfors

Become acquainted with perhaps a few unknown dimensions – thoughts, ambitions, wisdoms, life changing moments – of this inspiring artist.

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When it comes to your art, explain what you do.

I am a visual artist based in Tampere, Finland. My work is mainly inspired by the challenge of new environments. I am inspired by encounters with sites, situations, or objects, and I view each in its socio-political context; then I bind these stories together with simple shapes. I seek to separate the obvious things that attract my attention, disrupt the distinction between public and private space, and propose a temporal place where factual and sensitive realities coexist. Usually my works take a form of a durational installation made only for the space of its representation.

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What project are you working on now?

Currently I am an Artist-in-Residence at SÍM, Reykjavík, Iceland. I am also working on a project with my friend and colleague, Anastasia Artemeva. We are collaborating on the shared cultural history of the Finnish and the Russians, and summer cottages and dachas. The project will be a participatory installation at Gallery Huuto in Helsinki, Finland, in the summer 2017.

Why do you do what you do?

I am challenged by each new environment. Rather than following a line of systematic production, I cultivate my ability to respond specifically to each new situation, space, or context. I see each new environment as a unique challenge, and I approach it accordingly because what may have worked in one environment does not always work in another.  The on-going challenge of new environments keeps me going and doing what I do.

How has your practice changed over time?

I have studied at the Tampere University of Applied Sciences in Tampere, Finland, and graduated from the programme of Fine Arts in 2011. I also studied various practices from painting and drawing to photography. When I was in the Fine Arts programme, installation and environmental art were most appealing to me. I worked as an artist for a few years before entering my master studies at the Aalto University, School of Art, Design, and Architecture in Helsinki, Finland, in the programme of Environmental Art from which I graduated in 2015. There I reconsidered my relationship with the gallery space, and came to conclusion I am still “inside the white cube,” even if my work is not. This conclusion took my work in a slightly different direction as I am now also working with the gallery spaces. Recently I made a large-scale, text-based installation, so using text is now what interests me, aside from a more material-based working method.

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Describe a real-life experience that inspired you:

I used to dance a lot when I was younger. I even wanted to be a professional dancer one day. I have been thinking that this time-and-space-related practice I used to do for years, and from such a young age, is one of the reasons I turned to becoming an installation/environmental artist, why it is so important for me to do work that is related to one particular time and space/place, and why I value more of that particular experience rather than the object.

What superpower would you like to have and why?

Invisibility. I sometimes withdraw in social situations to observe. Observing would be much easier if I had the ability to become invisible!

What is your strongest childhood memory?

Long summer holidays of solitude and dwelling into literary worlds with my books.

Which place in the world do you find to be the most inspiring?

Any place can be inspiring. The time that I spend in a place develops my relationship with that place; through that relationship I become inspired and create my art works.

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