Architerior talked to German artist Simone Florell who shared her thoughts on what triggers her impulse to sit down and start scribbling aswell as the experience of growing up in a Berlin filled with inspiring art but also reminders of past hardship.
What‘s your name and where do you live?
My name is Simone Florell and after an eight year spell in Hamburg I now live in my hometown Berlin. The compactness of Hamburg to me felt like a beauty and a beast simultaneously. It serves to social life structures and there’s a great connectedness. I think Berlin on the other hand emanates a certain tentativeness – a feature though that lays the foundation for exploration and (re-)invention. The previous abundance of space here seems to result in more compartmentalized communities but it does also slow down the pace to a healthier and more convenient measure. Things are in transition here, for instance in terms of urban development but it suits me well at the moment because so am I.
Are you educated in art?
As a trained communication designer working in the advertisement industry for most of my professional life I’m educated in the art of addressing the human reward system by inducing purchase impulses through triggering designs. After years of working with strategic design I eventually went to the other side – building up the image free of any restrictions, determinations and KPIs.
Can you tell us about how you found your way into art?
In my formative teenage years parts of the former East Berlin were still quite grey and abandoned at the time. The imprints of World War II with its bullet holes and fragmented structures as well as of the former division of Germany still being very much apparent. At some point though – like ruderal botany – off-galleries and art spaces started sprouting from these ruins, flourishing into the established art scene that it is today. Back then no five metres without some more or less official kind of art venue. There was no getting past the art scene that was forming here. I learned at the time that art could be a tool for study, investigation and improvement. Which laid the foundation for my interest in art and then later on for producing my own art.
In short, what defines your art style?
As with human relations my paintings are built upon natural shapes and structures such as layering, opposing forces, proximity, distance, synergies and complexity. In short: I think, it’s a rather organic style.
Has your style or technique changed over time?
I’m constantly working on new styles, formats, narratives, shapes or effects. Just now as we’re doing this interview things are shifting. Every revelation or epiphany ends up getting woven into my works by influencing the technique and style. Probably the only thing constant in the work is the ever unfolding.
Which artists or art styles have inspired you?
Suprematism by large, as might be expected: Alexandra Exter, Anna Kagan, Lyubov Popova, Lissitzky, Malevich, Moholy-Nagy. Bauhaus’ efficiency and smooth austerity also appeal very much to me. Other than that definitely the likes of Sophie Calle with her relentless studies, Louise Bourgeois’ determination and eeriness in her works or for instance Jessica Walsh’s fearless side-projects and experiments. I try to remind myself from time to time to implement some of these approaches into my own life more often.
When other people view your work, what are their reactions and thoughts?
When my first series came out, the many positive reactions were a total surprise for me. I was still a little bit in doubt at that time, because these works are so personal. I had spent so much time with them and of course had a completely different connection to them than a viewer. But conversations with the viewers always opened up new perspectives and interpretations of my own works to me. I found that significant and only then did the sentence „Art is in the eye of the beholder“ became evident to me.
Is there something in particular that you wish to convey to the viewer through your work?
If my works speak to or touch someone in any way I feel like my job’s done.
What’s your process when creating a painting?
For me each painting is like a little research trip. A kind of expedition that starts in my mind and continues on paper in its different stages. It’s no linear process: some forms gradually disappear under new ones, yet they are there, giving the works their characteristical layers. Works may also pause until the right time has come to continue painting them. And sometimes there’s no other way than an extreme course correction.
What are you working on right now?
I’m very excited at the moment. I’ve started my fifth series consisting of bigger formats and I’m very curious about the effect. Through this generous format colors obtain even more presence and depth. I’m working on a three meter triptych at the moment which feels like a liberation and is a new way in terms of helping a paintings’ aura unfurl. This new multiple-piece format also really allows for telling a broader range of narratives.
Inspiration is important when creating, where do you find inspiration?
All things sociology, anthropology, psychology and personal development are at the absolute forefront for setting my creative process in motion. And news, images, trends, dynamics and currents are what trigger my impulse to sit down and start scribbling. This subsequently leads to studies about social dynamics, about human relationships. Having my first child radically expanded my view on ever existent societal contexts like nature and nurture, culture, human fears, needs and our underlying ancient psychological hard-wiring. The subjacent roots for all my actions and responses are under my constant examination these days. Baring them then does provide me with more compassion which can be quite helpful for navigating everyday life with a tiny bit more of an ease. So these themes also serve as an endless source of inspiration for my work.
Is there any painting that you‘ve created that is extra significant to you?
I don‘t have one significant painting but the current series is what reflects my present stage. The state you’re in today overwrites what you believed in and acted upon five years ago. Yet, of course, these stages are a part of you. They existed and without them your progress wouldn’t have ever been possible.
Can you share one of your most memorable moments in your art career?
Having sold my very first artwork was quite weighty, for what it was. Memorably my partner – after the artwork had been living with us for a short while – wouldn’t want to let go of it and ended up eagerly trying to buy it for himself. But of course, a promise is a promise. Now, this actually happens on a regular basis when selling new works that have briefly stayed with us. So I guess, I’m just going to have to keep up with producing new work…
How do you define good art?
I don’t know about ‚good art‘. Personally I’ve always found art the most compelling when it hits between the eyes by breaking viewing habits – by putting the ordinary in unusual context, flipping conditions or simply through creating escalation. I always enjoy some good manipulation, challenge and exposition of my personal as well as societal flaws, blind spots or biases. For me this ensuing learning about life is the ultimate benefit of art.
Photography: ©Wanja Scholz