Henni Alftan’s paintings depict the mundane, quiet situations of everyday life. The play of shadows and light and the close-frame compositions often give a sense of peeking into an intimate moment. We sat down with the Finnish-born and Paris-based artist to learn about her creative process, what inspires her most and what she’s looking forward to next year.
Henni, your works are very precise and sensual. What do you wish to convey through the imagery?
I prefer to do pictures about things that we probably all see or experience, but I'm not really interested in creating any kind of personal mythology. I would much rather know if you see what I see.
Your compositions use tight framing of close range photography - could you please talk a little bit about the intent behind those compositions?
The close up creates the sensation of a more intimate experience, but it’s mostly a practical choice. Because I want to picture only the bare minimum amount of elements necessary to convey whatever the subject of the painting is. So that the paint can still be there as itself, as paint and as tableau.
It's for this same reason that I don't use photography and rarely any model at all for my paintings. I spend a lot of time composing my sketches that are the basis for each painting.
Henni Alftan, Shower, 2021. Oil on canvas, 81 x 65 cm.
What is the source of your inspiration?
Anything I see, including all the art, cinema, tv-series, everything really. All the world and its pictures. But particularly anything that gets intertwined with reflections on painting and picture-making itself.
How has Covid impacted your creative process?
I have always worked alone in my studio. I think the most precious resource is time. With the pandemic there were no distractions, no travel for shows, so I did more work in 2020 than in any other year.
Could you talk us through a day in the life of Henni Alftan?
It's very normal really. I get up at 8, answer emails and do other paperwork. I go to the studio around 10-11 and go home sometime between 6 and 9 pm. Maybe do some drawing or notes in the evening.
Henni Alftan, Veronica, 2021. Oil on canvas, 73 x 92 cm.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
I look at a lot of artists, of course particularly painters, of all ages. That's one of the great things about painting; you can go look at a 16th century painting and learn something from it that you can take back to your studio. But I don't have any specific mother/father figures in art.
How do you think your Finnish roots and French education have influenced your work?
I'm a very pragmatic person. That's probably a more Scandinavian feature. I think it shows in the work a lot. I try to find the simplest, most straightforward way of doing things. As for my French art education, I'm not so sure what of it was particularly French and what about it exactly had influenced my work. I certainly made a few encounters that had a lot of influence on me. But I think once you're an artist you also have to unlearn a whole lot of what they teach in schools.
Henni Alftan, Necklace, 2021. Oil on canvas, 65 x 81 cm.
What is something you are looking forward to next year?
I'm really looking forward to starting work again for a larger solo show. I've done some interesting projects this year, but I prefer to work on a larger group of paintings, over a longer period of time. This is really when my work advances the most.