Briefly describe the work you do
I am very much interested in the limits between the photographic image and the moving image. How can you make a photograph cinematographic and the other way around? So, my practice is somewhere in the intersection of photography, video art and also installation. I think images may be something more, other than just a way to show what the world is like… It can also be about creating an unexpected vibe and atmosphere. The subjects I work around have always been of much importance to me, either they directly relate to what I experience or it can be a feeling that I want to make clear to an audience. In general my art is very personal and usually about myself and the way I’m experiencing the world. If it is something that I cannot make too clear and transparent to the audience, I’d try to put the right emotion in it. That means, I try to expand the notion of affection and individuality, so that other people might experience it in the same way.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I grew up in Boutersem, a small town in Belgium. From early age my parents would take me and my siblings to museums, which is why I always have been interested in art and history. Somehow, this contact with visual culture inspired me to do a lot of things… I had a lot of hobbies while growing up, the most important one was music. I became more interested in photography when I was about 14, going to music concerts and taking pictures. But it was after seeing Erwin Olaf’s work that I became more aware of the artistic qualities in photography. I finished my Master degree in Photography in 2014 (Khlim: MAD-faculty, Genk). During that time I went on exchange to Tampere in Finland, and it turned out to be a very transformative experience both to me, as a being trying to find my place in the world, and also my work as a photographer. Travelling can make you more aware of cultural differences, possible identities we can create, values we get from birth… In that sense it affected all that I had learned about the world and life.
Currently I’m studying a master degree in Visual Culture and Contemporary Art at Aalto University in Finland. My classmates all come from very different backgrounds and cultures which has resulted in a constant learning process. This also has had an influence on my work and how I approach things nowadays.
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”.
I never really had a studio until I started my studies in Finland. But now that I have one I quite like it. As a photographer, I think everything is possible when I have my camera with me and my laptop to process the pictures. But still, I think it is very important for me to separate my work from where I live. So, I tend to spend most of the day in the studio. I’m currently sharing it with a close friend of mine and in the beginning of the year we built a tent there. For me this tent is really important, as I have spend much time there thinking about my projects. It feels like a safe place inside of a safe place. Everything is possible there. My studio is a site of research and inspiration, with the benefit of allowing me to meditate, feel safe and go through my work.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I actually never envisioned myself as an “artist” in the past. The goal I had set for myself when I first started photography was more commercial oriented. But I soon found out that I want to do something more than that. Creating something that can lure out reactions from different audiences is quite appealing for me.
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?
In my opinion there is no best time to make art, of course it is better when you feel inspired. And once you are, it is very easy. For instance, when I’m traveling back home from a long day, the routes I trace whether by foot, bus, etc, become a moment of contemplation. As I don’t enjoy small talk with strangers I usually sit by myself and meditate about life. Usually this gives me some sort of epiphany about what I have to do about a certain artwork and how to proceed.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
My recent work is very different from what I used to do. Nowadays I’m trying to address serious matters by using humor in my work. I think it reliefs a bit of the tension between artist, audience and the work itself. I am also attracted by the ways through which we can shake the limits between these different poles. Nevertheless, my work still is very personal. It has always been about my experiences, what I am going through at the moment. I would say that at this moment, this is my way to experiment with art, but this approach might still change very much.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
Music has had the greatest impact on me. When I work on something I usually make a playlist of music that has the same atmosphere I want to show and I try to listen to that on a daily basis, so I get into that atmosphere. My family is a great inspiration for me. My first work of art was about going through the loss of my uncle, who passed away very suddenly. Also, my friends contribute in my creating process. I find it very interesting to ask them for opinions about how I should proceed and I consider every meaningful conversation I have with them as a form of inspiration. Whether we agree on things or not, whether we know ourselves more or less, it can bring new insights and it is always very motivational for me to see that people are interested in what I am doing. As my work is very personal I usually don’t seek inspiration in other artists’ work, but for most of my projects Masao Yamamoto has been an outstanding reference.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I always knew somehow that I was going to be an artist. However while growing up I always thought I was going to be a musician, so not a visual artist. I started studying music theory when I was 6 years old. After that I started to play keyboards and piano when I was about 7 and afterwards I started to play many other instruments (violin, guitar, marimba, flute). I sang in a choir for years and I also played in a band and used to write my own music. Other than that I have been interested in language studies. My high school years were very much language oriented. I can speak Dutch (which is my native language), French, German, English. I can understand most Romanic and Germanic languages (especially written forms). Right now I’m in the process of learning Finnish, which has been quite a challenge so far. In a way everything I do always connects to languages, as for me music and art are also a language to express my core. I’ve also always been interested in science, I used to have a dream to become a doctor, but unfortunately my non-existing mathematical skills prevented me from a career in that.
Laureline Tilkin-Franssens was born in 1991 in Belgium. From birth she has been always very interested in visual arts, which resulted in studying photography. Her photography is mostly about things she experiences and is said to be very cinematographic. After finishing her master degree in Photography, she started a new degree in Visual Culture & Contemporary Art at Aalto University at Finland.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.