Briefly describe the work you do.
My work responds to specific objects, particular sites or situations, and specific contexts. Due to this my artistic practice has naturally developed as multidisciplinary and the work may take form of an action, installation, assemblage etc, the space of representation controlling the final visual outcome. I often use mundane materials from everyday live, as I am eager to see beyond the surface of structured reality – thus deconstruction in one way or another usually takes place in my work.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I have graduated from the Master of Arts programme of Environmental Art from Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland. Prior to this, I did my BA in Fine Arts in an interdisciplinary programme. Though I have studied traditional techniques of art making such as drawing, painting and sculpture, I have never mastered any of these. Instead I have always been encouraged by teachers and professors not to be limited to one technique but let the concept control the material and technique of each work. I hardly use any materials or techniques associated as traditional art materials or techniques nor is the gallery space the only space of representation of my work but the space also varies depending on the concept of each work.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
In fact, I do not have a studio. My works are always conceived on site, so the environment, public space etc. is my studio. Creating ideas is more of a conceptual process for me, so I just do my research at home. Once I have the conceptual framework for my work for an upcoming exhibition, I go on site and much of the material experiments happens only there. This can be quite stressful, since usually something unexpected comes along and my original idea does not work with the features of the space. Yet this is a situation I perpetually put myself into, as it seems to be what I enjoy most: it allows the space to surprise me and lose control of the final visual outcome. If everything goes as I have planned, I am quite unsatisfied in the end. On the other hand, to be able to make quick and drastic decisions in situ, the conceptual basis must be well constituted in order to make a solid piece of work.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I now find the artist role not solely as an author of her own works, but as the author of the system of practises of the art world as a whole.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
Due to the nature of my site-specific artistic practice I have very intense periods of working followed by periods best described as hibernation. Though my work has the conceptual side to it, the visual outcomes demand long and physically labour-tense working hours. After every project comes exhaustion that requires some time to recover. All in all, I do not have a distinctive line between work and leisure, nor do I follow any regular working hours. Most of my works have come to my mind as an image when I have been in an in-between state of asleep and awake when going to bed at night. So perhaps the best time for me to make art is the short moment before totally falling to sleep.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
I think there are similar kind of themes reoccurring throughout my work. However, theoretical studies in recent years have clarified my thoughts about art and my own practice and to my surprise, this has clarified also the form of my artworks and occurs as improved technical skills. I never thought that the stimulation of the mind with theory would conduct so straightforward to the hand and practise.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
Family and friends have a positive impact on my work with their enduring support. Discussions with people, on various subject matters and not merely on art, inspire me and give me a lot of ideas. Many of my close friends are artists, so it is interesting to see their development and talk about their views on art, as well as follow wider discourses that circuit in contemporary art. Surely there is an attempt to response to these discourses and other artists work with my own, though not necessarily directly to one particular artist’s or philosopher’s work.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I recently picked up dancing again, which I used to do a lot when I was younger. I enjoy reading and literature is sort of a hobby for me, so being a dancer was a childhood dream and I hope to write a book some day. But for the time being, I cannot really vision myself doing anything else than art. I think that the field of visual arts so broad that basically anything can be explored within its framework.
Liisa Ahlfors (b. 1985) is a visual artist based in Tampere, Finland. She has graduated from MA programme of Environmental Art from Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland in 2015. Her work is site-specific and thus responds to each space, site or situation, and specific contexts individually without following a method of systematic production. Her work has been exhibited in her native country Finland, as well as in Europe and Northern America, most recently in group shows in Augusta Savage Gallery in Amherst, Massachusetts, United States of America, 6th Triennale of Pirkanmaa in Tampere, Finland, and Kilometre of Sculpture 2015 in Võru, Estonia. She has an upcoming solo show in January 2016 at Third Space, Helsinki, Finland.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.