Henni Alftan is a Finnish artist from Helsinki who has been living and working in France since 1998. AMA got the chance to speak to the artist about her solo exhibition at the Galerie Claire Gastaud, Stand B3, live from Art Paris 2015.
How did you get into art?
I have been painting since I was six and I always knew that I wanted to be an artist. It was evident that art was something that I was destined to study.
How does Art Paris compare to other art fairs that you have exhibited at before?
Grand Palais makes a big difference; it’s a really nice venue and it has a lot of exposure. I haven’t exhibited at many art fairs but I’ve done Art Paris a couple of times. This year, I think that there are a lot more high-quality stands, perhaps because of the number of solo shows, I’m not sure, but there’s definitely a lot more high-quality artworks.
Can you speak to us about the works you have on display today? What is the standout piece from the booth in your opinion?
I was shortlisted for the Emerige prize with the painting that we have hung on the outside of the booth, Vandalism (2014). I exhibited it there and I wanted to show it again because it’s a painting that talks about painting. We had about 30 works to choose from so we made a selection based on what could possibly work together. The idea is to give a general view of the works, without showing absolutely everything in one show. There is no connecting theme or concept. I normally work in series; they don’t necessarily look a like but they have an overarching title. These works are from different series. I suppose all of my paintings talk about paintings and what I’m interested in is the relationship between the medium and the image that materialises. What interests me is the moment that the image manifests, in other words, when the paint begins to resemble something other than itself. This is also why I love to create abstract pieces with lots of detail.
Can you tell us about your relationship with Galerie Claire Gastaud?
Obviously she’s taking quite a big chance on me. I’m a young artist so my prices are nothing compared to what you usually find on solo stands. We have a very trusting relationship and we worked together a lot on this particular show. When it came to choosing the pieces, it was very much a joint effort. Claire has a lot of faith in me; I did a solo show in her gallery in October so we already had experience working together. I generally make a plan of the hanging of works a long time in advance, but of course everything changes once you’re in the space as it can be very different to what you had imagined. She has faith in my choices, so if I say that I want to hang a particular work, she trusts me. But I’m not a diva! We talk about these things.
You say that you are a young artist, do you feel that people treat you differently because of this?
No, I don’t think it’s a problem. Luckily, I’m now 35 so people stop asking me my age. I’m very glad that the craze surrounding young artists is passing, because I see a lot of 40-something artists who are amazing but who nobody is showing because they’re over 35 years old. It’s great to see such a range of different artists at different stages in Art Paris.
Do you find that your artwork is more popular internationally than in Finland?
I exhibit my art both nationally and internationally. Finland is where I first exhibited my works and I was brought into the world of museum collections in Brest so it was a lot easier to exhibit in France as I could say that I was validated in my home country. Finland is a small country so you get a lot of visibility more quickly; I exhibited at Gallerie Anhava, for example, which is a well-established gallery with a solid tradition. After that, everybody knows your name. France is a bigger country so it’s harder to become known. In Finland, once you’ve got your foot in the door, it’s easier to excel more quickly.
Could you tell us about the art market in Finland?
The collectors are different. There are several collectors in Finland that have already given their collections directly to a museum, straight after buying them. Generally, instead of giving the collections to a large museum, they give it to they museum in their hometown with their name attached to it. I haven’t seen a lot of that in France. Here, collectors seem to obtain works for their own collection and then they might eventually give it to a museum. Perhaps they have more of a budget here.
And finally, what are your plans for the future?
In three months, I’m going on residence to New York for six months at ISCP, and I’m very much looking forward to it. I’ve had a busy year so I’m also looking forward to just being in the studio. I’ve been in New York twice before but it’s going to be very different when I’m actually living and working there. I have a few contacts there so we’ve been discussing a couple of projects but it’s not something that I can tell you about just yet.