An Interview with the Contemporary Visual Artist Olivia Steele in Berlin, Germany
To coincide with the American artist Olivia Steele's Faux Real exhibition at the Circle Culture Gallery on Potsdamer Straße, Berlin our contributor Lara Monro interviews the contemporary visual artist. Working between Berlin and Mexico, Olivia's artistic style is distinctive as she employs the commercial medium of neon glass with the intention of challenging the traditional preconceptions that we are often presented with in modern culture. Covering subjects that are often philosophical or spiritually-charged she believes it is important for human beings to embrace the unknown, question our judgement and welcome curiosity.
Given that you live and work between Berlin, London and Tulum, do you think that your geographical and cultural surroundings impact your artistic process?
Absolutely. Each base provides me with a different landscape, a different set of tools and a different set of challenges. The tapestry I’ve been weaving and its contrasting textures are a direct reflection of the various influences I have as I flow between countries and cultures. For example, I pay very special attention to my colors and the source of the glass, which are not readily available in places like Mexico and Ibiza, so I have to tailor my ideas and vision to accommodate a limited range of options. On the other hand it's much cheaper to produce in Mexico so I can be more risque and more experimental with my productions, which gives me a lot of pleasure. Wherever I go, I visit the local flea markets without fail. I’m a serious treasure hunter and always looking for treasures to combine with neon. Two installations from this show were sourced from antiques; a brass faucet from Mexico City, and a metal scale from Berlin. This is another example of how my locality dictates my practice.
You have previously stated that art mirrors the spectator rather than life. With this in mind do you feel that it is integral for your work to have an impact on each individual?
My work doesn't speak to everyone, but for those who it does, it speaks volumes. It’s integral but not imperative for my work to have a personal impact on my audience. I’m not attached to any outcome or desired impact on others. I dream about my art and then I produce and install my dream, putting it out there for anyone to experience. However they want to interpret it is their freedom. My work has a lot of potential to touch people in a positive light. Therefore, I can only hope those who need it can receive it and share it. My art is less about what I see, it's more about what I invite you to see, think and feel. The purpose of art and being an artist is to touch the hearts of strangers without actually meeting them. I think that's a pretty good summary of the dialogue between the artist and the viewer: to touch the hearts of strangers, as I have been touched by art.
Do you intend your art to be confrontational as many works appear to pose existential questions?
Absolutely. The truth is not always pretty. I deal with some pretty heavy topics like love, death and explosions. I often portray what I feel is the true nature of reality, the truth behind the lies, the darkness in the light and the illusions of our delusions. Of course all of the above are subjective, but applicable to the general public. Nonetheless, these are not all rosy subjects and clearly strike some chords with individuals coming from a sensitive background or education. My statements and installations are never meant to be negative or insensitive. If you interpret them as such, then it’s a reflection of what’s inside you. I think words are less open to misinterpretation. They say life begins outside your comfort zone, so when you’re confronted with controversial art, it’s merely an opportunity to observe yourself and your reaction.
Do you feel that it's important to convey your own beliefs and opinions within your art? And should your work therefore be viewed as autobiographical?
My works of art can definitely be seen as autobiographical. Each installation is a reflection of my conscious/subconscious, whether I want to admit it or not. I learn through experience and the spiritual path is full of different kinds of experiences. I've encountered my fair share of tragedy, obstacles and blessings. Often, these experiences are my teachers, my influences and messages in my art. The beauty of darkness is that it forces you to create light. When you are guided to creativity therein lies true freedom. I always learn a lot about myself and what’s going on inside me subconsciously through the process of conceiving and producing my art.
Olivia Steele's Faux Real will be exhibited at Circle Culture Gallery from June 24th until September 3rd 2016
Written by Lara Monro, Contributor to Arteviste.com in Berlin, Germany