Craft Cubed Interview: Valentina Palonen
Valentina Palonen is the guest artist in residence at Northcote Pottery Supplies, whose work will be available to view at the Northcote Pottery Supplies Open Day on August 29. A visual artist represented by Gould Galleries, Valentina creates sculpture and painting using a variety of media, including ceramics. We are delighted to have her as part of the Craft Cubed Festival this year!
Tell us about your residency with Northcote Pottery
It has been amazing. A gorgeous light-filled studio, friendly work environment, and a shop downstairs brimming with all the pottery-related paraphernalia you could ever need or wish for! Working in a ceramic studio has been such an inspiring experience and has prompted significant new developments in my practice. Clay is an incredibly tactile medium; responsive to the slightest gesture, and the transformation it undergoes in the kiln, it’s like real magic.
Everyone has been so lovely and helpful ̶ I feel really grateful to have been adopted into this wonderful little community during my time here. I’ve undertaken other artist residencies, but this is the first time I’m not going to want to leave at the end!
You are a multidisciplinary maker – talk to us about all the aspects of your practice.
I like to work with a range of different mediums and processes including mixed media sculpture, casting, painting and installation. Broadly speaking I’m interested in exploring relationships between humans and the natural world, as well as using intuitive making processes to respond to our mediated relationship with nature in contemporary urban life. A recurring motif is the figure, something which I’ve been exploring further during the residency. I use figurative elements to explore ideas of both alienation from, as well as longing for, the natural world through my work. However, it’s the making process itself which remains central to my practice rather than engaging with a particular theory.
I feel it’s having some much deserved time in the spotlight just now! It’s a really exciting time for crafters, artists, and makers of all kinds. Those old boundaries really no longer hold as firm as they once did, something which I think has resulted in some wonderful experimentation across the board. As an artist I’m excited to see the handmade being recognized for its contribution to creative practice, especially within visual art, and being given the respect it deserves. The hand knows.
Describe an average working day
I tend to wake up pretty early. The first thing I do is make a big cup of coffee (or two!), do some work/check emails on my laptop before taking Molly, my miniature dashie, for a walk. I then try to grab something quick like fruit for breakfast on the go before riding down the Upfield bike path, and across Brunswick, to my studio. I really love the ride and like to stop along the way to collect flowers, branches, and other things that catch my eye to bring back to the studio with me. Wattle is a current favourite. Something about that yellow is so optimistic, I feel like it physically pierces through all other feelings. When I arrive I typically like to start by making a new work, I feel at my most creative early in the day and filled with caffeine! I’ve also found during the residency that riding in, in the fresh air, really seems to help with capturing that first surge of creative energy which I can usually keep going till lunchtime. I’ve then got into bit of a habit of breaking for lunch and grabbing a mushroom and Swiss cheese toasty at the Bike Shop Café down the road, often with Dawn, another resident artist, or otherwise my friend Anna who likes to visit on Fridays. In the afternoon I often feel a bit zoned out or move into a lower gear, so it’s a great time to finish detailing work that I’ve already started, or glazing. It’s a good time to listen to some music and really sink into that meditative ‘making’ state.
Any significant childhood memories related to your current practice?
I feel a lot of my early experiences in Finland feeding into my work lately. From cross-country skiing through pine forests and collecting mushrooms and berries, to rowing across lakes, exploring rocky islands and midsummer bonfires; these memories seem to have left a mark in terms of my general aesthetic choices as well as the kinds of subjects I’m drawn to, primarily experiential engagement with natural environments. Some of these influences seem to come through more specifically in my paintings in terms of studio choices, from being drawn to more Nordic varieties of trees to particular shades of green.
Outline your dream collaboration
This is hard, so many to choose from! I really enjoy it when artists push the usual expectations associated with a certain medium by placing it in a new context. So for that reason I would have to say a multidisciplinary collaboration of any kind would pique my interest. Off the top of my head I’d love to work with a glass-worker, a fabric designer, an artist working in public art (in order to produce something on a large scale) or a sound artist, to create something really evocative and untelling. Fantasy collaborators would also include artists with a really fecund creative sensibility and unguarded relationship with colour; Del Kathryn Barton, Daniel Richter, Pipilotti Rist and David Altmejd come to mind.
What’s your proudest professional achievement so far?
A highlight would have to be winning a 3 month artist residency in Paris funded by the Power Institute, at the Cité Internationale des Arts in 2012. More recently my exhibition at Gould Galleries this past March; it really was the culmination of months and months of working and visualising. As an artist, considering all the challenges we face, I always think that the greatest achievement is just being able to manifest what has been slowly forming and growing and have it actualised in the real world.
What other events are you looking forward to as part of Craft Cubed 2015?
I’m looking forward to seeing some of the many exhibitions and also the Window Walk.