Like many of us, Flurina Sokoll has always been drawn to collecting things. As a child growing up in Switzerland, the Slade graduate would walk across meadows on her way to school and back, picking flowers as she went – carefully looking and selecting, honing her observational skills and intuition. This meticulous approach to collecting has stayed with her and informs her fine art practice today.
Driven by an emotional response to leftover objects, Flurina collects and arranges found objects that she is drawn to in order to create compositions imbued with new meaning. The artist, who has two artworks currently on display in the 2020 Bermuda Biennial, likens the process to a two-dimensional approach to drawing.
We caught up with Flurina, who completed an MFA in Fine Art at the Slade School in 2018 and won the Art Association Graubünden’s Art Award shortly before moving to Bermuda in 2019, to discuss her unique approach and how the move from London to Bermuda is influencing her art.
BNG: How do you approach your practice? What does the process look like?
FS: Hard to say where my process really starts. I guess with collecting. It is an act which needs a conscious decision to want to carry something with me. This is accompanied by all sorts of feelings and it can be by all sort of things – images, readings, nature, environment, people, stories, music…but mostly leftover objects and materials. Unused, cleared out, thrown away.
I collect such remnants in my daily life and then they accumulate in my house and studio. There is a clear order to it. I never want to just accumulate. I have to be able to find time for every single piece and make a conscious decision about how to use or handle it. I have to arrange with these findings. I directly sketch out in the space with objects by arranging and rearranging. Through these actions, my emotional response to the objects broadens as I break things up into smaller details, into its elements, which I then use to walk into even more precise arrangements.
Take a mug as an example: you can think of its use, its story, its cracks, its traces of use, but then it is also just ceramic, it has a particular feel, its colours, shapes, how the light shines into it, etc. There is a lot to discover just in a simple mug. I’m able to enhance particular aspects differently through movement; often emotional and intuitive.
Later, arrangements may need some kind of binding. That’s when drawing in 2D comes into place with more of a design-led approach. Think of a flower arrangement which needs a vase to be positioned in a particular spot. Then in another step there is the positioning of the arrangements inside the vase. There are several aspects to it.
BNG: You have exhibited in very diverse spaces – from the Crypt Gallery, based in the crypt of St Pancreas Church in London, to contemporary galleries which have a very clean, industrial feel to them. In what ways does the environment in which the artworks are placed tell part of their story? Does this influence the work when you are making it?
FS: I am very intrigued by spaces and environments and I often need to focus my energy in order to avoid being distracted by a space. In sketching out my arrangements in the studio, I use objects as tools that allow me to discover the space. Equally, the space itself can influence the sculptural arrangements.
I may move my arrangements into other spaces within the making process, although I have stopped referring to my art as environmental because it is first and foremost about the sculptural arrangements and how they find their position in the space.
When it comes to exhibitions, there are often other factors: a short time frame, other artworks in the same space or curatorial decisions that can affect me. It helps to focus on the sculptural arrangements primarily and knowing from them how they best connect with the surrounding space. Then, if time allows, I can open it up again and let the environment of a particular space influence more again.
BNG: You have said that your practice is deeply rooted in your childhood memory of flower collecting. In what ways?
FS: My childhood memories of flower collecting serve as a metaphor for aspects of my fine art practice. I will explain with an extract from ‘Florets’ which I wrote in 2018:
‘In the small village where I grew up, I had about a forty-five-minute walk back home from school, up the mountain and over the meadows. This led me to collect flowers almost every day in almost every season. It feels as if I would still like to walk over these very fields, collecting flowers and making a bouquet out of them to bring home. Everything about this action fascinates me: the resolute choice to pick one particular flower out of the plenty, the act of picking itself, the colours, the textures. The season, the whole ambiance, the path and the walk, the time. Holding the flowers together in my hand and eventually putting them in an appropriate vase. Filling the vase with water, putting the object in the right spot, nursing the flowers over the following days, maybe relocating them and accepting that they fade quickly, maybe drying a few single flowers out of the bunch and then stowing away the vase.’
BNG: Is collecting objects something that you have always done?
FS: Yes, always. Well, we all do to a certain degree. Don’t we?
BNG: You recently moved from London to Bermuda. As an artist, how have you found the transition?
FS: It has given me the opportunity to show my work here in Bermuda at the Biennal – which is a great honour. Bermuda is much quieter and it has been good for me to not be too distracted by the noise around me, which happens quickly in the vanguard of London. But I also miss London and would love to live and work there again at some point.
BNG: Has the move to Bermuda impacted your practice? In what ways?
FS: Yes, 100%. I’ve been on island since February 2019. At first there was a lot to organize on many different levels and I needed to take my time. I’m now at a point where I’m able to open myself up more to all kinds of new inspirations and I am sure this will manifest itself in my practice in more depth.
As with most things, I try to achieve this not in too searched a way but more subtly. It happens in daily life and in its reflection upon it: through Bermudian houses and buildings I enter, people and their stories, objects I find on my way, colours, nature…and maybe also new dreams that I start to dream.
I have a studio here and I’m continuously making work. I have a certain vague idea of my “Bermuda series” It’s starting to take on some form but it’s in in the early stages and I’m not sure yet where it will lead me to.
BNG: You have won several awards and grants. How have these helped you to develop as an artist? What advice do you have for emerging artists in terms of both funding and furthering their practice?
FS: They helped me a lot, certainly financially but also and perhaps even more importantly with recognition. Especially the Art Association Graubünden’s Art Award which I won a year ago in Switzerland with which I won my own book publication and a solo show.
I have also put a lot of energy into preparations and interviews for prizes that I didn’t win. Never be shy to apply. There is nothing to lose in applying and with every application my portfolio and texts improve, new curators get to see your applications and new opportunities will grow out of it.