‘Inherent Agitations’ - interview with the artist Aoife Soden
I met with glass artist Aoife to discuss her newest exhibition ‘Inherent Agitations’ at END OF THE LINE, her background and path towards becoming a hot-glass trained artist, as well as the influences and ideas that inspire her work.
Aoife is an Aarhus-based artist, born in Cavan, Ireland, but spending the majority of her childhood in Australia. As we get talking she tells me how she moved to Denmark after finishing her university course in Ireland: a Bachelor of Design in Glass and History of Art and Design at The National College of Art and Design in Dublin
“The reason for the move to Denmark was entirely for glass. There is much more here in comparison to Ireland - especially hot glass (Aoife’s speciality). I’ve been here since 2013 working with glass pretty much continually.”
Aoife tells me how, despite a strong tradition of factory production of glass in Ireland, all were forced to close following the recession during the late 2000s and early 2010s. So by the time she finished her course in 2012, “if you wanted to keep going with a career in glass production, you had to leave Ireland.”
From the little I know about glass production, it strikes me as a very technical and incredibly difficult process to master - the idea of handling boiling, semi-liquid glass which is centimeters from my face is also somewhat discouraging for an outsider.
I ask Aoife if she always knew that she wanted to work with glass, or if it was a surprise awakening.
“I initially thought I would go back to college to do printing. The degree course I was in let me try lots of different things - I chose 1 month in printing but only lasted 3 days as I thought the whole process was too flat and boring!
As soon as I began working with hot glass though I knew it was for me. There are different types of artists. I’m one who is very process oriented, so with glass there is a lot of steps. It’s a lot about building your skills, and as you build those skills your work can get more complex and grow in scale.
Italy was the first major glass-blowing area and to really become skilled it took a 10-year apprenticeship - so I still have some years to learn and build more skills!”
I ask Aoife about her childhood in Australia and Papua New Guinea, and whether she thinks the frequent movement and travelling influences her artwork.
She tells me how, between the ages of 4 and 12, she attended 12 different school in 3 different countries - and this has had an undeniable affect on her personality.
“As a kid you learn very quickly about pushing yourself in new situations to get ahead: swallowing anxiety to make friends in new school and fitting into different groups.
The focus of my artwork draws on this. I look less at chronic stress and anxiety but the persistent, everyday stress which we’ve learnt to swallow and disassociate from the symptoms so that we can keep functioning.”
As well as the focus on anxiety and stress in Aoife’s work, we discuss the continuing theme of biology and body organs. She tells me how she has always had an interest in the human body - a side interest in school was biology and, had she been better at maths, she would have wanted to pursue this further.
“I think the human body is an amazing construction, and we often forget that we are a functioning machine.
If one bit breaks other bits compensate until they can’t help any more. That is more of a problem in modern society than it used to be. We are in a hamster wheel where we are taught that we always need to be achieving - no one is ever allowed to be content - you have to be looking forward and striving for the next thing.”
There is a personal reason behind the focus on stress and anxiety too, which Aoife is happy to discuss with me. After working for thirteen years teaching children in Australia and Ireland, she stopped to pursue her first passion, art.
During the last year of her teaching, she tells me of a difficult time with a boss at school. After bottling up the anxiety and stress she was experiencing every day, she found that just 2 months into her new path at the art school she had to get her gall bladder removed.
“They..(the doctors)..could put that down to nothing other than stress - that was a big eye opener for me. I had to get this part of my body removed because of something I had done. I’d made myself cope with the situation when I probably should have just walked away from it. I think we do that all the time for the sake of keeping face - we are much better at ignoring what is happening in our bodies until it just can’t take it any more.”
We move onto the subject of her latest exhibition at END OF THE LINE, ‘Inherent Agitations’ - a name that perfectly covers the issues we just been discussing.
A lot of Aoife’s newest work for this exhibition is focused around nautical themes, with buoys and anchors accompanying the hearts, lungs and blood cells of previous works. The reason for this, she tells me, is the phrases and terminology we often use to discuss someone who is suffering from everyday stress and anxiety.
“Drowning, trying to stay afloat, sinking, weight of stress, struggling to catch their breath - all of these are related to nautical ideas, so I have incorporated that into my new artworks.
My intention with ‘Inherent Agitations is to combine my older pieces with the newer section on these nautical themes. It’s actually been great for me to explore the boxes and find old creations from when I first moved to Aarhus in 2013.”
Although Denmark has a lot of people working with glass, there are not many producing sculptural glass in the way Aoife does. Using hot glass in particular, is not common at all - the technical skill involved in making something so intricate look the right way is pretty challenging, when holding a ‘lollipop’ of heavy, fluid glass which has been heated to 1440 degrees.
“I love making artworks people can relate to - since I began exhibiting I’ve heard lots of personal stories which visitors have reached out with. But I don’t want it to be too obvious or driven by my insights….I’m perfectly happy for people to walk into ‘Inherent Agitations’ and say: “There is a glass heart” and nothing more!”
‘Inherent Agitations’ runs from Wednesdays-Sundays, 11:00-17:00 from May 16th-30th