The STRABAG Kunstforum takes care of the art collection founded by the Austrian construction technology company STRABAG and conducts activities around it. The main objective of STRABAG Kunstforum is to support the artistic and cultural milieus of contemporary Austria and the surrounding regions by establishing relations between the business, construction industry and the world of fine arts.
The Kunstforum covers many areas of the contemporary art world, from expanding and arranging the collection, organizing exhibitions, running the STRABAG Artlounge, to its unique studio and Artist-in-Residency programs. However, these areas are not separated, but organically connected to each other in the operation of the Kunstforum, since the works of the artists who won the prize, for example, enrich the collection of STRABAG, and winning artists can also participate in the residency programs operated by the forum.
As we have written earlier, the international jury awarded the 2022 Strabag Artaward to Jósfina Alanko this time. Below you can read our interview we have conducted with the artist on the occasion of her win.
ArtPortal: Congratulation on your award, that is certainly an extraordinary moment in your career. Could you please summarize in a few words which stage of your life as artist the Strabag Artaward has reached you?
Jósefina Alanko: I graduated in 2018, but have been working as a visual artist for ten years. I still feel myself as a young artist. I feel that I have been awarded in the beginning of my career because I know there is still more and much greater works to come. Now I work on paintings and with textiles. It is something I have started only one and a half years ago. So it is fair to say that I am still in the emerging phase of my career as an artist.
AP: One of the key aims of the Strabag Artaward Prize is to acknowledge the work of artists who are not only creating works in traditional genres of fine art but also creatively reshaping and reinterpreting these forms in their artistic practices. In what ways do you think your art connects to this mission?
JA: In my art practice I have a research-based relation to the material I work with. To that extent, I have been challenging the genre of painting in a way that it became three dimensional. In other words, my understanding of the art of painting is very much on the edge of turning into sculpting. At the same time, I want to be a painter. I am a painter, even though I started my artistic career with ceramics. This is the reason why I have this strong three dimensional way of thinking in me. I have practiced and researched for many years already, and maybe it is reaching the point that this really started to resonate with with the audience. It might be one of the reasons it has been recognised and acknowledged in the form of the award.
AP: Could you please tell us about the works you presented at the Strabag Artaward exhibition?
JA: The exhibited works were inspired by my own cultural heritage. I’m from Finland, from the North Karelia region, and my great-grandmothers in the 18th century were poets and singers whose role was to heal people by singing poems for them. They established connections with death and the otherworld through singing. The series I showed were talking about that, as well about my approach about myself as a continuation of my family heritage that I carry inside me. I tend to think about myself as someone who is keeping alive the spirituality of those great-grandmothers who could talk to death and were able to do things that people normally couldn’t. So the paintings are very much inspired by this living heritage.
AP: If I understand it correctly, on the one hand, you keep alive this unique heritage that you have inherited as an artist with Finnish roots. On the other hand, you also have strong ties to the Central European region. You are currently based in Poland but are also in the midst of moving to Vienna, Austria. Can you elaborate on your relation to the art scene of the region?
JA: I lived in Finland for most of my life, but then in the last six years I was living and working in Poland. That being said, I am also involved in the Polish art scene for some time. Thus, I was nominated to the award as an artist who is part of this scene, so the award connects me to the Polish culture in a way that I’m—sort of—representing Poland as well. However, prior to the award, I have already decided to move to Vienna, so I was noticed about the decision while I was searching for an apartment in the Austrian capital. In other words, while I was given the privilege to win the award, I’m also starting a new chapter in my life, so this represents many different symbols to me. It has lot of meanings to me, almost as if some kind of magic happened in my life.
AP: To what possible directions you think this prize will further boost your artistic career?
JA: Now I’m working for the solo exhibition for the Strabag Artaward, opening in January 11th, so I feel the urge of starting to grow. Of course, I have been preparing myself for this big moment for some time, so right now I’m working on this exhibition for which I am trying to do do my best. I feel that, thanks to art, a lot of people are helping me right now. And I also have very high hopes for myself and for these works, and for everything that the future holds for me.
AP: Talking of future prospects. What long-term professional goals or concrete ideas for the future you have since you won the award?
JA: First of all, my biggest dream is to make a career that lasts for long. I think this takes time to build. And I don’t know if I am dreaming big, but I hope to become even more internationally renowned and really grow with my work. I hope my work and my artistic career will grow, and I also hope the art world and the market will relate to this growth accordingly.
Cover image by Jósefina Alanko (Courtesy of the artist)