In the studio with Olivia Springberg, whose practice recalls and examines ambiguous memories and interactions that affected her in emotionally profound ways. We met with Olivia who tells us more about growing up in Arlington, her greatest influences, and unexpected sources of inspiration.
When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist?
My whole life I have been passionate about art. Even when I was only a few years old I would be found with a paintbrush in hand. However, I was very hesitant to refer to myself as an artist. I thought of myself more as a person who ‘did art.’ I felt that I hadn’t earned the title of artist yet. It was not until I started at art school that I considered myself an artist.
Where are you from and what was your upbringing like?
I grew up in Arlington, Virginia, just outside of Washington, DC. Being so close to DC is an incredible privilege. I was able to frequent museums, as well as concerts and theater. Contemporary exhibitions at museums such as the Hirschhorn and the Renwick served as an ongoing source of inspiration. I was also very fortunate to have supportive arts instructors throughout grade school who prioritized the arts and made visual and performing arts accessible.
Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. What inspired you to first pursue, and then continue to practice, artistic work? Was there a pivotal moment when you felt you were on the right track?
I cannot remember a time that I wasn’t interested in art. When I was little my mother would teach me to draw little flowers and things and we would look at how-to-draw books together. I enjoyed making art so much that I never gave it up. Throughout school I attended all sorts of classes and workshops exploring a plethora of media. I can never say for sure if I am on the right track, or on any track at all. My style and my interests change frequently. Some projects are successful and some aren’t. However, if I’m happy with what I am creating, I consider myself moving in the right direction.
What’s the message of your work? How would you describe your aesthetic?
While my aesthetic and my practice are constantly changing, I find myself often returning to ideas of intangible relationship, psyche, and anxieties. Additionally, as my practice has expanded, I have been integrating elemental materials such as clay, paper, cement, and glass. I enjoy examining the distinction between soft and hard mediums and exploring the painting as an object. I think that the purpose of this process is that it enables me to experiment with new materials, as well as a way of taking the weight of thoughts and feelings off of my shoulders and using negative energy in a more productive way.
Who/what are your greatest influences?
Overall I’d have to say Helen Frankenthaler, Hilma af Klint, and Laurie Anderson. I am also really inspired by work I see on Instagram from artists such as Sacha Ingber, Maja Ruznik, and Yi To.
An unexpected source of inspiration?
The ghost colors and shapes you see when you close your eyes. It’s a fun source of palette inspiration.
What do you want people to take from your work when they view it? Do you have the audience consciously in mind when you are creating?
I often don’t go as far as to think of the audience during the creation of a piece, but I hope that when people look at my work they can connect with it and find their own meaning within the imagery.
What events in your life have mobilised change in your practise/aesthetic? How has your art evolved? Do you experiment?
Art school has definitely shifted my practice significantly. I used to be occupied by completely different aesthetics. Being around such a variety of artists and just seeing what they are creating often influences the way I work. Especially with close friends of mine, I’ve started to see parallels in our styles and practices. Friends share with me materials that they are experimenting with, and we work together a lot to incorporate experiments into our projects.
What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?
For me, a strong idea comes from a strong feeling. A thought that needs to be expressed and worked out visually. I appreciate when a piece has a story behind it that is reflected in its creation or its composition.
Something in the future you hope to explore?
I’m hoping to begin incorporating more woodworking into my pieces, as well as mold making. I have recently become more interested in combining sculptural and structural forms with painting.
Tell us about the inspiration behind one of your works?
Dreams provide a lot of imagery that I use in my work. Free Fall was inspired by a dream in which I watched strangers jump from a parking lot on top of a local mall. My car subsequently slides off the roof too and onto the people below. In the composition I loosely convey three figures lying on the ground and my car above them. Despite the dark imagery, I employed a pastel-like palette. The painting also has more white space than I usually let show through. I think that these decisions aid in creating a dream-like atmosphere.