Sri interviews susanna
Where are you based? Do you see location as a generator for ideas, source material and medium?
Well I’m currently based in Rotterdam, and previously I was in Vancouver where I’m from. I had never really considered location as a factor in my work. But when I came to the Netherlands I noticed there were certain cultural signs that differed from my home in Vancouver and I think that I have started to work sort of depending on that. For instance I’ve started to work around flowers and there’s a huge industry for flowers here in the Netherlands, so that's a certain kind of example and in terms of generating ideas a lot of it is being out in the world and weird little triggers around me, wether that's watching tv or listening to a song or reading a sign, something like that.
What was the first artwork that turned you on?
My parents are artists, and I remember being very young, I used to go to openings all the time when I was younger and I remember going to —so we went to this show at the Vancouver Art Gallery which is the big gallery in Vancouver and I saw a chair and I went to sit down on it—5 year old Susanna—and a guard came up to me and said: ‘Get off that, that’s art’ and I thought woah that's really cool, its possible for an artist to declare something as such and I kind of liked that power, I couldn’t tell you what the work was at this point but I think that was my first kind of slap in the face of what one could do as an artist. It was a sort of ready made and maybe that's driven my desire to work with everyday materials in this grey space often. Is this a bouquet or is it more loaded than that?
There’s a conception that most artists spend time in a studio, is this true for you?
I don’t think so. I think I would go crazy if I came to the studio everyday. Now that I have one here, doing my masters being in the Netherlands, I definitely feel a pressure to come to the studio, but I think that if I sit too long just at my computer I get kind of lodged into this suckhole of the internet or obsessive about a certain idea and I’m not a sort of gathering and collecting stuff artist that then can sort of percolate. For me I need to be inspired by being out in the world.
When do you work best?
I think in the morning. As soon as it starts to get get dark I’m kind of done. It’s like lights out for my thinking brain. So definitely the morning for me.
How do you know when a work is finished?
Sometimes when I have a project I’ll set a very clear set of parameters for myself, like ok, I’m going to do... For instance one of the pieces of work that I’m going to show You Are All I’ve Loved are these monochromatic portraits which are of my past lovers. I mean, that's very clear about when the work is finished because I make a new painting/sculpture with every new person that I sleep with, and now I’m in a monogamous relationship so the project is over, but if that ended or if I was unfaithful or something whatever, that thread would be picked up again. So it’s either—that would be the first possibility and the second possibility would be when I’m tired of an idea and I don't want to work around it anymore—but then that's not really when the work is finished.
Do you think of work as a body of work rather than individual autonomous things, like if I think of your nail work then that could almost be an ongoing process as well, or the bunches of flowers. So this idea of a work being a community or a body of work, that could actually just go on and on and on?
I think you're right, they can be picked up in different ways and many possible incarnations of that seed of an idea.
Time is an important element of your practice—how do you see time as activating your work?
I think that often the process of the work is, or the subject is not visible to the viewer in a way and it's the documentation of that act or feeling that remains, so in a way, time is very present. The question of documentation comes up and how do you secure the life of an idea or an act in a way that does justice to that idea or act after its done? So its very important for me and something that I’m still trying to figure out, is something that depends on the project or the idea. For instance if I’m making bouquets I would prefer to just have the memory of that bouquet, I don’t want to have a still life photo or maybe some remnants of the dried flowers themselves or a text that describes as opposed to more of a traditional photo documentation of the work. With the nail piece that's something that I’m still thinking about. Because when the nails were done, to make a new set they had to be completely obliterated and sanded off, so it's a question of how you want the remembrance to —because for me what happened in the salon and the conversations that happened around that process are equally as important as the photographs of both of my hands so its just how much I want to give away.
How is time present or revealed through what you’ve chosen to show?
I’ve chosen to show a very clean memorabilia-less picture of this work by doing a projection of the images of both my hands on a large wall sized projection. So I haven’t decided to include the action shots in the show.
Do you view the series You Are All I’ve Loved as documentation or works?
They are documentation in a way, but I think of them as a physical interpretation of my trying to sort through a memory, so there are these kind of —the carbon pressed, pressed, pressed through my brain… They’re sort of the afterglow of these love affairs.
You are installing previous works for this exhibition, how does your consideration of one of your own works change over time? Coming back to these works have these works changed for you since they were first shown?
With the nail project it came out of a real frustration with my painting and wondering about how as a painter I could fit into the cannon of painting essentially. I’ve moved away entirely from painting in my practice now, so its kind of been interesting to look back and to realise that that sorting through that I was doing was, in the end, the most not actually the paintings I was making so I think that's an interesting thing to consider and I did return to painting with You’re All That I’ve Loved with the painting the sculptures the 'manels' as I call them. And that's also with everyone of them I’m able to visit the moment of that heartbreak, the ecstasy of the joy, or the pain, and I really relish in leaning into those sort of emotions. I think that’s very important in my work. In a way both of these projects started when I was in a time of turmoil in either my romantic life or my working life. So I think its interesting to put those two together as the a and b of an artist. For artists the personal is so present even if it’s not in your work, you go to an opening and there’s a social aspect to your work life that's very necessary.
The works shown here speak to personal history and intimacy, how do you view the roles of the personal and private in your practice?
I think that it's a very crucial role but I don't aim for it to be very in your face. I’m not so interested in people like Tracey Emin where you are really forefronting the body and the sex life of a woman. The personal is there for me, but it’s often more quiet or dried up in a way, cause I’m not so interested in shock value. Its in a way about cataloguing personal experiences and intimate experiences and I am interested in how that can start a dialogue with other people on the same subject, but not in a global sense or anything. I’m more interested in the one on one and that certainly happened with the nails. People touching my hands and maybe feeling like they had an excuse to have a conversation.
There’s an element of humour in your work. How do view humour in relation to your practice?
I don't like to be so serious, I like to make art about things that I like. Things that peak my interest and often that is coming in from this outside world that includes pop culture and a cute puppy on the street, or I was recently talking to an artist and he said that if you feel like you're embarrassed, or you feel like you're laughing nervously, you're feeling a little bit unsure of an idea that you're having that's a very good place to start. I think that humour and embarrassment are sort of linked and that's something that I think about and value. I came from this city where the work that was being made was very cool and devoid of feeling and emotion, very academic and I think that I’ve been reacting to that in sort of a slow way, but its definitely there.
How do these works relate to the history of painting?
I think the colourfield paintings that were happening that I’ve depicted in the nails, that's when the idea of emotion was really starting to come through in abstract painting and I really loved that possibility, but I couldn't quite figure out a way to make it new or relevant within the context of me being in my final year of my bachelors and I just couldn’t figure out how I could fit in and I also was reading Clement Greenberg and thinking like, what the fuck? some big boys club thinking that he has the power of god to dictate what’s going on and also trying to figure out how I could sort my way through that and then realising that maybe I loved painting but it wasn't really how I wanted to make work, or talk about the things that I wanted to talk about, so it was kind of a fraught relationship, but I’ve made peace. Maybe I should make a manel for painting.