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People from all over the world come to London to study. Liis Koger, an up-and-coming Estonian artist who has exhibited her work in several European countries, is now working towards an MA at the Royal College of Art. Sue Ward asked Liis Koger about her work and her reasons for coming here to study.
Sue Ward: When did you first realize you wanted to be an artist? Can you tell me whether there were any family influences in making you choose art as a profession?
Liis Koger: I cannot recall when the moment I first realized I wanted to be an artist was – there is no exact moment. Life has been a flow. I have always been more into humanities – interested in literature, writing, philosophy, and with a slight kick into more practical knowledge like theology and psychology. I was using words as a medium before paint. Then again, there is no school that teaches you how to write poetry, it's always about feelings; the genre is secondary. I still write and paint and discover mediums that show and help myself – and therefore perhaps other people – best. The most beautiful forms still have to capture life and give some hope – the most important things will not change.
SW: I see your first degree was in Theology. Has that influenced your art?
LK: I was actually taking university courses in painting and theology at the same time. Both were also held in the gymnasium [secondary school] and art school next to my primary school. It might have some influence for I hope art as belief can release and/or motivate people in some way, make the quality of life better, give some hope, give some love. See the bright side. But it is actually more complicated, I deeply believe people who know and/or have experienced suffering can also feel more joy, have more courage and be more in the moment while on the road.
SW: Tell me about your degree in painting from the University of Tartu, the national university of Estonia.
LK: The University of Tartu – the painting department to be more precise – gives students the basic knowledge about drawing and painting: to know how to capture nature in its realistic way. We studied plastic anatomy, saw corpses, etc. You have to know the muscles. And then, after knowing how to do those realistic things, you are given the freedom to choose your own way and express in your unique sense. It definitely gave me the freedom to choose between different roads, a base from where one has to move forward in the interests of general development.
SW: I see that from 2014–2016 you are taking an MA at the Royal College of Art What are you hoping to get from this degree?
LK: RCA seems to have the best lecturers and technical possibilities to get to know different mediums better. I hope it to be inspiring, because for the other things like their experience, technical equipment and prestigious power, I have no doubt.
SW: What are the main interests and concerns that you address in your work?
LK: I suppose every artist – who is a true artist – first has something to express, and that expression comes from oneself. If it touches people, it's good – but saying if it doesn't, then doing it doesn't matter, is not correct in my humble opinion. If you do something from your sincere heart, there is simply no way of not doing it. It's a bit like an addiction. But as it is said that obsessions are a young man's game, then at a certain point, you as an artist, have to take some responsibility and develop your knowledge about what you do. You cannot perhaps always find the inspiration, but if it should come, you should be ready to express it just the way you want. And admit when you are not ready, and search for ways to do so. The step from a very good to a perfect artwork is an eternity. The artist has to take the risk with his or her own mental state, that can be devastating, but it has to be taken. Well, my paintings are about love, as is my poetry. I am not old enough to paint illustrations for cooking books!
SW: I know you are also a poet, but where do you as an artist find inspiration – are your poetry and art linked?
LK: They are absolutely linked. As painting is something physical, sometimes I am just not strong enough to take the brush and start preparing the canvas! Or just afraid to go to the atelier, as one can lose the emotion while walking there. So, there is always a pencil and a paper that can be used everywhere. But with writing, at least here in Estonia, one cannot materially survive; it is even said that one can write everywhere, but to live, being a poet, it is impossible everywhere. I do not believe in that sentence actually, but so, being a colour lover, and considering there is still a chance to do so, I would not like to live without painting, which I consider is a bit of my mission here on Earth this time.
SW: Where have you exhibited?
LK: I have taken part from some international biennials and exhibitions and exhibited all over Estonia. Personal exhibitions have taken place in Italy, Switzerland, Germany. As time goes by, I can understand more and more that it does not matter so much where you exhibit, but what you exhibit and how you put the paintings up. So, a real satisfaction doesn't have to come from the big events only – sometimes it is exactly the opposite.
SW: What do you hope for in your future development as an artist?
LK: I hope to bring more and more joy to people.
SW: I read in your blog that you like to make people happy – I can understand that from your paintings, but how do you yourself see your paintings accomplishing this?
I cannot talk for all the people, but I believe ‘great minds think alike’ – and it doesn't have to be that great always, it is just that similar people understand each other, and if I have put a lot of emotions, non-emotions and energy, pure energy into something, how can it get lost? If people say they see my paintings in their dreams, well, that's already a moment and motivation to keep on going, even though I wouldn't see any other chance anyway. This is what I do, and what I love.
SW: Good luck with your studies here in London, Liis – thank you for talking toCassone.