MADE BY is the Institute’s series of interviews that allows artists, designers, thinkers and doers to unfold their creative process in their own words.
Artist Martina Lindqvist talks about her collection of photographs, Neighbours, which was a part of her first UK solo exhibition.
Neighbours is a collection of photographs inspired by the sparsely populated area in Finland where I have my family roots. The area is flat and rural, and has seen many previous inhabitants be drawn elsewhere, leaving their old homes to stand empty. I have always been struck by the omnipresence of nature and the vastness of uninhabited space in this area, and by looking at failed attempts to settle, these images aim to explore the tension between nature and inhabitation.
These images are also symbolic of my own relationship with my Finnish roots. I grew up as a Finnish person in Sweden and have consequently never felt fully at home on either side of the Baltic Sea. I aim to explore what it means to be on the edges of your own culture, often through the use of landscapes as metaphor. This work is not intended as a factual recording of a place, but are rather a reflection of my own personal perceptions of a place and sit somewhere between reality and fiction.
I use photography because I find it to paradoxically be a very effective tool with which to portray an idiosyncratic view of physical reality. People have an innate trust in photographs, and we treat photographs as unmanipulated snapshots of reality. I often aim to exploit this trust when I fabricate spaces that could be real, but that perhaps are not quite of this world.
Abandoned houses have interested me ever since I as a child felt that they lent a peculiar atmosphere to the area surrounding my grandparents’ home in Ostrobothnia. The abandoned houses stood out to me during my stay, as it struck me as ironic that I should try to anchor myself to a place that seemed to have such a strong flavour of the past.
When working on these images I tended to drive around a lot, looking for suitable houses to photograph. After photographing the house I would generally decide whether the landscape it happens to be in is suitable for my purpose, and if this is not the case I would photograph the landscape separately in order to combine the two digitally. All these pictures have had their horizon line cut and sky replaced by a monochrome grey background.
I only had a limited time photographing the houses because I was due to return to the UK less than a week after figuring out what I wanted to do with them. This meant that I had to get as much work as possible done while the weather and lighting was right. I remember the conditions being quite fickle, so it could get a bit stressful! Another difficult aspect was sometimes to explain to the owners of the houses what my intentions were and to get them on board.
My inspiration comes from my relationship with my Finnish roots, which means that my work often has a sense of melancholy. Up until this point my work has not been seen in Finland at all, and this feels like a paradox. More recently I have stopped working exclusively with landscapes and I am exploring other subject matters as well, but the general theme remains the same. My pictures are quite quiet and contemplative, so they are perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea, but every so often I’ll speak to somebody who’s taken in by the spaces in my pictures, and that is very rewarding.