An Interview with the Conceptual Artist Anna Fafaliou in her Dalston Studio, London

The conceptual artist Anna Fafaliou and I first met after a talk I gave on ‘artists of the digital generation,’ but ironically we had actually shared an Instagram flirtation before that. Just as her beautifully curated digital presence has attracted thousands of followers, her purist white installations and sculptures are continuing to make waves across the international art scene. Anna’s unique work explores the relationship between object, memory and space as well as the interplay between reality and abstraction. With her sculpture and installations she creates imaginary environments questioning the visual and physical ways of considering materiality and how we perceive, process and record our immediate environment.
I visited the conceptual artist in her white studio high above Ridley Road Market, Dalston where you have the pleasure of experiencing a diverse array of cultures as you pass through the market. This perfectly complements the international artist who is in herself a blend of cultures. Drowning in natural light, the space reflects her minimalist work. As I immersed myself in the works on display it seemed that her artwork distorts commonplace objects, materials and forms in order to create new dialogues with the viewer. By focusing on how spatial relationships can be disrupted and open to interpretation Anna comments on how consumerism forces us to justify ourselves through our possessions.
 Anna came to London in 2011 after studying Fine Art in her native Athens, Greece. With experience in both performance and fine art she underwent a Film and Visual Arts masters in London and took up roles as an assistant to a broad spectrum of revered artists. Since then her work has been shown around the world from Nostos at the Venice International Art Festival to Going South at the International Exhibition of Contemporary Art in Malaga, Spain and Maps at Scene Art, London. In 2016 – once you’ve followed her on Instagram – look out for her beautiful, evocative work at the Brick Lane Gallery’s Abstract Art show and at the Bennetton Foundation, London.
Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your passion?
Deciding to move to London was a pivotal moment for me. Trying to escape –mostly from myself- I landed here and I found a ground where I could start from the beginning and follow my dreams. It was very hard at the beginning but the love that I developed for this city and the few mind-blowing people -I was lucky enough to meet here, gave me wings to fly. I wouldn’t have been the person and artist I am today, if it wasn’t for London. And I absolutely love what I am today.
What piece of your work would you like to be remembered for?
I think the one I haven’t done yet.
What is the significance of the colour white for you?
Through researching colour theory, I became fascinated with white, because many theorists say it represents a lack of memory, an emptiness. I found the associations between white and memory interesting, because I believe that we remember and feel in colour. Our emotions are stimulated in colour. When you add whiteness to commonplace objects you take out an important part of their identity, distorting part of your sentimental attachment with them.
If you could be born in another period of history, when would it be?
I’m more curious about the future, rather than the past. So I would love to see how life is going to be in 2300.
How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?
Self – evident & effortless.
Do you have a favourite book, film or painting, which inspires you?
The brilliant existentialist Jean – Paul Sartre is one of my favourite writers, his book Being & Nothingness and his play No Exit, have inspired –and shaped on a certain extend- not only the body of my work but the way I experience life in general.
What is your greatest indulgence in life?
Food. I can eat like there is no tomorrow.
 What fictional character from literature or film would you like to meet?
I remember as a child I desperately wanted to meet Peter Pan and go to live in Neverland for a while.
Do you believe that true creative expression can exist in the digital world?
Absolutely. Every form of creative expression is always in response to the environment we live in, to our current reality let’s say. And whether we adapt, react or even push further, it’s always in response to our environment, to our world.
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
With my All I Can Remember installation and performance piece, I had two workshops asking my audience to bring an important object that they had a positive or negative association with. They talked about the object, then I would ask them if they were willing to give it up to the installation and paint it white – they had to do it themselves. Some said yes and some said no, but that’s how this installation was created through audience participation. For me, the process was about the stories of the people involved, it was almost overwhelming with objects on the walls that surrounded me in the middle. It felt like I was surrounded by their voices.
What do you wish every child were taught?
To keep the qualities that make them unique and not to be afraid to be different. Different is good, very good! But the kids are fine, it’s the adults that worry me the most. It’s us who teach them how to become all the same. Same goals, same lifestyle, same outfits.. So if I could teach a child something that would be, be yourself even when everything is pushing you to become any less.
Have you ever had a moment when you questioned your career entirely?
All the time.. I question my self, my choices, my way of living and being, my work, the way I drink my coffee, the tone of my voice..everything! I believe that’s the only way to get to know yourself a little bit more and realise you can’t be sure about anything. It’s the only way to self-development. So, for me everything is always under question.
What is your favourite museum or art gallery and why?
It would be too predictable to say the Tate.. But it’s still one of my favourite places and whenever curators like Frances Morris curate an exhibition –such as the Yayoi Kusama in 2012- then that’s the best it can get.
Who would you most like to collaborate with and why?
I’ve been so lucky to have met so many interesting and super-talented people, I really wouldn’t be able choose one. I’m always very open to collaborations and share of ideas.
Why do you use commonplace materials and found objects in your work?
My practice relates to the sense of attachment that people have with the objects from their past; from old houses, family heirlooms, presents from lovers etc. Somehow these trace the story of our lives and where we come from, therefore capturing who we are. I’ve always liked the idea of what we own reflecting who we are.
What is your daily routine when working?
I wake up very early in the morning and during the day I try to finish with my emails and meetings, and then usually do some research either for ideas or materials etc… I prefer producing my work from my studio at night, when everyone is sleeping so nothing can interrupt me.
What has been your most inspiring travel experience?
Cuba. It’s their rich culture, the history, their music, their educational system and the so warm & positive people,that makes Cuba a unique place.
What advice would you give to a young person following in your footsteps?
I feel too young to give an advice. But one thing I know for sure is that you have to be mad about what you love. Work hard –not because it’s going to be appreciated –it most likely won’t- but because the harder you work on something the more you own it, and that will make you more determined as to where you want to see your work going.
Do you find that London’s culture inspires or influences your art?
London has given me the space to find my own identity and create art. Wherever it is in the city, you always find something that can inspire you for the next step. For me London is about the blend of cultures and how we communicate them that interests me.
Why do you love what you do?
Because when I’m doing it, it feels like it couldn’t be any other way.
Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste.com

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