Ophelia Finke: fearless innovator and adventurer.
NOMINATED BY MARIKA HACKMAN
INTERVIEW BY KATE LAWSON
With a focus on 3D installations, Central Saint Martins graduate and German-born artist Ophelia Finke, combines the everyday with the unconventional, exploring simple coherences through the art of mixing random objects in specially constructed environments. Her pieces tell no real narrative other than her curiosity for using contemporary materials to manipulate objects and concepts in unexpected ways, while still employing traditional art practices. The result is a world in which her experimental vision is open to individual interpretation. Finke’s compelling work also references heroic characters from surgeons to racing drivers, connecting familiar objects associated with those professions, but reimagining them from a new perspective. Naturally the artist caught the eye of fashion brand McQ, whose aesthetic is rooted in non-conformity and rebellion, inviting Finke to collaborate on their Spring Summer 2015 campaign - resulting in an installation piece entitled Carrara, which evokes a quarry-like space (referencing the marble quarries found in the Italian town), starring models Michael Sharp and Sunniva Wahl as statue-like figures, while Finke and her assistants appear among the objects surrounding the models. Dressed in a scientist’s coat and cowboy hat, Finke’s presence brings a fresh perspective and an unusual accessibility to the viewer.
As she continues to push the creative boundaries of research and discovery with a nod to how art can also be fun, we caught up with the artist to talk childhood memories, sanctuary vs. chaos and a creative crush known only as ‘George’.
You were born in Germany but now based in London - what do you love most about the city?
Great Britain makes me appreciate every single sunbeam that catches my skin.
And have you adopted any British phrases or slang into your vocabulary?
Absolutely and Bloody! Those are the words I use all the time.
Were you into art growing up?
I grew up with the old masters, with Dürer’s Great Piece of Turf and Da Vinci’s fantastic inventions, later in life I was confronted with people exhibiting urinals and vacuum cleaners.
“I grew up with the old masters, with Dürer’s Great Piece of Turf and Da Vinci’s fantastic inventions, later in life I was confronted with people exhibiting urinals and vacuum cleaners.”
Interesting! Is that why your work is quite discovery-driven with a real element of fun to it - where does your vision and thought process come from?
I often work with what I haven’t done or seen, urging to feel how it could feel like doing or seeing it.
And you’re blonde, so creatively it’s true, they really do have more fun?!
Absolutely, we can agree on that!
You craft and create these worlds or environments filled with referential objects which you often appear in - how do you find the audience connects and responds?
I think that the presence of the artist makes the work accessible.
“I think that the presence of the artist makes the work accessible.”
Are you aiming to break down the boundaries between your private and public self in your work, with the intention to be as raw and present as possible?
I am a pick and mix of ‘selves’.
And you also reference heroic characters in your installations - who are your personal heroes or heroines?
Everyone with a good heart.
Your Dad must be one of your heroes too, I read that he’s a Doctor - does that explain the significance of you wearing a Doctor’s coat in one of your installations?
Indeed! He has a good heart and still searches for one of his doctor’s coats!
And talking of coats, the puffa jacket has been a continual visual reference in your work, why?
The coat symbolises protection to me. It’s like a modern Joseph Beuys’Felt Suit.
That leads me nicely into my next question about fashion and your collaboration with McQ in particular - how did that come about?
It had to happen. My friend Laurence Ellis (photographer) introduced us. At first I took over their Instagram and then we had the brilliant idea of working together on their Spring Summer 2015 Campaign. I have always appreciated Alexander McQueen’s work and it was a very good experience to work with McQ. I had the freedom that I needed to create a new piece of work, they are great supporters of the arts.
The McQ campaign definitely helped to give your work more prominence, but you’ve already presented solo shows - when you go home after a preview, do you feel elated or exhausted?
Both. I am not good with groups of people. In the evening after an exhibition opening I feel exhausted, because I don’t enjoy too much attention, but rather observe. However the next day I am back at work, putting my hands on new work or improving the works from the show. It’s always a good push to put work out there, to see reactions, to talk about it, to get feedback and to gain a more neutral look at it, I guess.
Where do you tend to find sanctuary - do you ever have really lazy days when you just sit on the sofa at home and eat chocolate?
That’s for when I am ill.
“The coat symbolises protection to me. It’s like a modern Joseph Beuys’Felt Suit.”
Where do you find the chaos then?
I find it everywhere; it seems to always surround me.
I imagine that chaos extends to the mind, as you’re so experimental in your thinking - did you have an adventurous childhood?
And what’s your favourite childhood memory, one you’ll always carry with you?
Beating my dad at chess.
Do you have any siblings - what’s your relationship with them like?
Older brother, younger sister, the loves of my life.
Growing up my brother and I were always trying to out-do one another - has having siblings made you a competitive person?
Actually rather patient.
And does that patience extend to your working practices - what’s a typical day in the studio like?
Everyday starts with organisation, phone calls and emails. Then, depending on the project, we make more plans or start working. It’s a growing team and the new projects are very promising.
And what would you say is an essential ingredient in an artists’ psyche - fear or intuition?
How does it guide you - are you concerned with money and success?
I adore ideas and fulfilling only ideas.
What about the ideas or visions of other creatives, who are your personal crushes?
“Intuition is the essential ingredient in an artists’ psyche.”
And who is George?
But that’s a secret! He is very talented, clever, funny and a brilliant cook.
Ok, I can tell you’re not going to give away anymore! Let’s talk about other people or things which colour your life and inspire you, for example a book, film, song or quote?
Shakespeare’s Hamlet never lets me go.
And Shakespeare as we know had a very powerful imagination - what have you learned so far on your own creative journey, and where do you think your exploratory mind will take you in the next 5 years?
I am learning new things everyday and I want to learn more. First the human body and mind, then the world. There are exciting things planned, stay tuned!
Can you tell us more about Ophelia's top 10 inspirations...?
This is an accumulation of my inspiration sources, it’s 24 hours of the aspiration of inspiration.
sitting opposite to you
the living room
talking about things
my favorite book