Recently I caught up with Silvia Follmann from Adidas Originals, here is the original English version of our conversation.
For me your work is bright, colorful and some kind of entertaining. How would you describe your art by yourself?
Well i would like to think of it as all of those things! My work is based on my love for colour and the way in which i apply the paint is reflective of my enjoyment in the process of making and the themes and topics are usually light hearted gestures of my thoughts.
Did you ever had some kind of a turning point in your work or was it a straight process since you started doing art?
Yes, I moved to Berlin five years ago. My first year in Berlin was very much about developing and exploring my creative practice. It was the first time i had ever had my own studio to work in and the time to focus on ideas which had been pushed to the back of my mind when living in London. One of the most significant discoveries of that year came from a random job i had sanding down a fibre glass boat. It was a really hideous task sanding down layers of toxic paint, but i was really interested in the way that different layers were being weathered and exposed, which led to my current technique of building up layers of paint and then sanding them back down. I bought an electric sander immediately after.
You do paintings, drawings and squinzitsels – what about the squinzitsels? Can you explain to me what that means?
The word Squinzitsel originates from a term my Dad made up - Squinzitseled. To be Squinztiseled is to be in a state of hysterical laughter or deranged euphoria. I titled a series of dolls i made Squinzitsels and have since then produced other projects of this nature, such as the 'Edible Material' series - wood sculpture which are a playful tribute to food. Thats why if you visit my website you'll find more than just the squinzitsel dolls in the Squinzitsel category.
You paint on wood. What does that have for an effect (for you)? What do you like about that?
Yes, i paint mostly on found wood, Im attracted to found objects because they have a story. I enjoy the process of finding the wood, I look for descriptive features and characteristics such as the color, form or the situation i 'rescued' it from. This is also usually my starting point and often the found pieces act as catalyst for inspiration. I find wood to be beautiful material to work with, I like the effect of building up layers of paint on the woods surface and then sanding them back again exposing some the original features and grain of the wood.
I read that you like to put things into new contexts. Whats your intention with that? What effect do you want to provoke or which feeling should the viewer have when he’s looking at your work?
When i say i like putting things into a new context, Im talking about the enjoyment of taking something out of the rubbish pile, cleaning it up or making it over if you like and then hanging it on the wall. I see a potential in the abandoned wood, which others may regard as beaten up old rubbish. I've always sort of seen life or a soul in inanimate objects, it probably stems from my upbringing. My whole family is creative and we would take walks on the beach or in the forest, picking up stones that resembled something or had interesting form and in the forest we would entertain ourselves observing the varying expressions and of the tree's. I remember a phase at art college of being obsessed with drawing chairs because of their human quality, you know how some seem very soft, mellow and friendly and others rigid and up tight.
I loved the „selfportrait“ from 2007 on your website! It made me laugh, because it looks like a kind of sophisticated bunny. Do you want to tell me something about that?
Im glad you like that piece! its an older one, Its of the first squinzitsel dolls i made. I produced it in response to a brief set at art college, the brief was what do you want if you don't want money? I created this squinzitsel to act as alter ego i guess, it possessed what i wanted. The floppy structure of the squinzitsel represents a relaxed state of mind that i wanted to reach, for example, i wanted to be relaxed enough to feel comfortable being myself in social situations, you know, when meeting people for the first time etc. The doll also had a zip on the front of it which you could open and find an enzyme that breaks down alcohol. I go red when i drink alcohol, this is because of a lack of this enzyme. The medical term for this is alcohol flush reaction. So anyway I called the painting of the squinzitsel a self portrait is its an idealized representation of me and Im pleased you see a grade of sophistication in it by the way!
Where are you going or what are you doing if you need some new ideas?
I've been fortunate to travel more these days which is really inspiring and as i mentioned before, finding wood is a great starting point and inspiration. If im not traveling i'll usually go through the material i have collected from my travels or general observations and use photographs (which i archive on my tumblr) i take and paint from them.
What influences your work? Do you have an artist or something else that you incorporate into your art?
I am influenced by a number of things and artists, its hard to pin point one or just a few. I have always loved Jean Michel Basquiat for example, i love the colours and energy of his paintings, but i don't think i incorporate any other artists work directly. Other people that i'm inspired by are often peer artists, designers or my friends. I try and be open to anyone or anything, because you know what might spark a new idea or perspective.
The women you draw or paint seam to be really self confident and strong. Are that friends and family that you paint or do you have somebody in mind while painting this women? Is that also some kind of political (in an feministic way?)
I used to illustrate a lot more women than i do now, i've recently been more concerned with developing my painting style and prioritizing the illustrative stuff less, not to say im over it just on an intermission. The women i have and like to portray are a mixture of friends and women i don't know but as you say seem self-confidence or enthrall a certain attitude i can relate to. I like to promote both strength and beauty as complimentary components, it doesn't have to be one or the other,I think its a struggle for many women, finding that balance, if you don't feel like a girly girl and want to be respected by blokes women often fall into think they have to dress like men to be accepted by men. But I think thats the beauty of being a women, is you can actually do all the things that guys or the world presumes you cant do, or do as well as a man (which is a joke) on your own and you get to dress up at the the end of the day!
Does your art has something in common with how you see or want to see the world? And if so, what?
It does, but on a more unconscious level i think. My artwork is a definite representation of how i see the world - but i focus on the details, they are an insight into the things that have caught my attention. The colours i use are like my ideal universe but they are in fact all taken from nature and real life,Im amazed at the colours nature provides - so its not that different to this world!
Why do you live in Berlin? Is it about the „special vibe“ everybody is talking about?
Haha! Berlin does have a special vibe and strange vibe, but i love it. Its accommodates my need for time and space to create my work i feel reasonably free in Berlin which i love.
If you would have the choice of living in another decade in this city, which one would that be and why?
Wow, tricky question. How long would you stay for, forever of just a while? I think i'd choose a recent one, It would be really cool to drive a car from the 50's and the fashion and colours are appealing…. anything too far back might be a bit difficult in terms of being a woman rights - what you could achieve independently might be difficult, i dunno.
At the moment you are in norway. What are you doing there?
Thats right, Im on an artist residency in Stavanger. Im working on a new series of works for a pop up solo show at Reed Projects Gallery (www.reedprojects.no) The exhibition is titled Serendipity, opening on the 29th March.