We are very glad to host and introduce Anne Ferguson who is a young artist from Germany. Her stay at Copper Leg Residency is her first ever art-residency and we had a little chat to get to know Anne and her creation. The conversation was led by Sandra Nikitin, the community-work specialist of Rae Culture Centre.
Hi, Anne. So, how do you find this place so far? In terms of the residency and also the neighborhood? Have you had a chance to check around the surroundings yet?
Yeah, it feels like there is a lot of history and a lot of tradition around here, especially in the schoolhouse. But I really like that it is frequently used, that it is not still like a museum or something, people really come here and use it. And it is an interesting experience to see that. It is sad that I do not speak any Estonian. They have all these meetings and activities and I am so sorry I cannot understand what they are about.
What kind of a person are you in terms of preparing for traveling? Did you do a lot of research about Estonia when you got the answer that you are welcome to come and stay here as a resident?
I did some research about Tallinn and I checked out that the residency is not exactly in Tallinn, but close to it. I searched for some museums because I really like going to museums and I searched for some other things I am interested in, but I do not know that much about Estonia, actually. I went to the history museum because I felt that it would be a good idea to find out a bit more.
How would you describe your line of art? What is it that you do as an artist?
I mainly work with photography and printmaking, that is also one of the reasons I applied, because you have the equipment for that here. I also work with drawings and fragments of photographs. And for this residency, I am also trying to do some wood-cuts.
Do you only do digital photography?
No, actually it is mostly analog. So my first days in Estonia I spent in the dark room. It was not what I had been planning to do, actually. I had thought of mostly print-making, but the darkroom was there and it seemed a very good idea to work there for a while – it really helped me to get focused and collect myself.
How did you become an artist? Did you feel that this could be your path already as a child or…?
As a child, I always liked crafting and drawing and painting. I did not really think about becoming an artist then, but at school I realized that this is something I really enjoyed doing and I loved art-classes, so I just really wanted to study art. That was my main goal at first – not necessarily to become an artist but to study art, be in this environment and find out whether I fit in there with the stuff that I do or not. And now I feel that it is something important for me to do, it is how I relate to the world and it is something that I need to do.
Have you tried any classic 9 to 5 daily jobs also?
Well, I just finished art school, but I worked in a museum as a guide while I was in school. And it was interesting, because as I said, I really like museums as environments, with their specific setting and everything, but I felt that it was very difficult to combine working and creating. I mean to do your daily job and go home after a workday and start doing creational work – it is not easy at all. I guess that is something that I am going to have to learn and try to find the balance between these two.
You are from Germany. How would you describe the situation in Germany’s art education? Is there a big competition to get into art universities?
I think it depends on where You are applying. I do not know how it is in Estonia, but in Germany You need to make a portfolio and in some schools, they just look at the portfolio and decide based on what they see there. Other art schools, and also the one I went in to, do an additional interview with the applicant. I think some schools also have these real exams or tests where You need to show your drawing skills. You get a topic and have for example two days to hand your work into the commission. I knew that this was definitely not an option for me so at first I thought that I would apply to these schools that only ask for your portfolio, but at the same time I felt that it would be kind of hard to convince them only with the images and without them really meeting me. So, in the end I decided to apply to these schools where there also was an interview and I could talk about my work and my ideas.
You said that you work with analog photography and there is a very specific knowledge that you need to have to work with analog. Did you learn to do that in the university or was that something that interested you already before going to study art?
Before I went to university I worked with analog photographs, but I did not make them myself. Instead, I collected different old photos and used fragments of them. In the university I wanted to try analog-photography, I wanted to understand photo in general and to do that I had to begin from analog techniques.
Now I am doing a lot of analog photograms which do not use a camera, but just the paper and objects, so I still need to know the specifics of developing an image, but I actually do not use a camera. I like not using a camera and creating the image in the darkroom.
OK, I did not even know about this kind of technique, to be honest! It is really fascinating! I do not know anything about analog photography, but I am so happy that there are artist and enthusiasts who use and preserve these techniques, because analog photos are so great to look at. There is this certain warmness in them that is incomparable with digital pictures, it seems to me.
I think it is also nice how you really use light in these analog techniques. Of course You also use it in making digital photos, but in analog you feel the importance of light in another way. It has a very specific role, you need it not only while you are taking the photo, but also in the process of developing.
What would you say are the topics or themes that inspire you?
I think for me I would say that my approach is maybe more formal. What I mean is, I am interested in images, in how the image is created and that is probably why I am so interested in the darkroom…
So we could say that you are mostly interested in the process?
Yes, how an image comes into being…Especially with the photograms – you take the paper and you put an object on it and you put on the light and then an image is created through that light. And the result depends on the amount of light – there can be too much of it or too little and that is very interesting to me.
It is really a matter of physics and chemistry, also, right? So, you are kind of looking at it from a scientific point of view?
Yes, I do a lot of experiments to figure it all out. I have an idea my mind that I am planning to try out, but I love when something happens that I did not planned for. I like the tension that comes from the plan not working like I planned.
So, you do not actually have a vision in your head in terms of the result you want to see or how you want it to look like, but you have the means you want to use and the way you plan to use them and you let the process surprise you.
In a way, yes. Of course I also have some control over it all and in every process I have to decide how much do I want to control it and how much will I leave for chance, but yes, I never have a very specific vision of the outcome, really.
When exhibiting your work, how much do you think or care about what the viewer sees there? I mean when I look at your work, I do not see the fascinating process that intrigues you, I see the result…
Of course I cannot say that I do not really care what you or anyone else who sees my work, thinks of it. It would be a horrible thing to say (laughs) and make it very difficult to sell my work for example. But I do not think that it is a problem that the viewer does not see the process of creating. The process is something that is important to me, it does not have to be important for the viewer. For example, I never put titles to my work, because I feel that by doing that I would direct them into thinking in a certain way or seeing certain things in my work and I want them to see my work totally from their perspective. It is very interesting to hear what they see or what ideas do they get.
Anne Ferguson interviewed by Sandra Nikitin.
Link to Estonian version: