Oktavia Schreiner - Scottish Emerging Sculptor Award Finalist

Oktavia Schreiner - Scottish Emerging Sculptor Award Finalist


Where are you from and where did you study?

I was born in Austria, grew up in Berlin, then near Rome and then came back to Austria where I studied ‘Sculptural Conceptions / Ceramic’ at the University of Art and Design, Linz. 2017 I came to live in Glasgow where I did my postgraduate degree at the Glasgow School of Art.

How did you start making art?

When I was eleven I wished for a digital camera for Christmas. None of my friends had anything like it, but I must have seen one somewhere. I did get one (although very simple and not the fancy one I was imagining). I loved it, but the battery ran out after taking 5 pictures. I had to be very careful which photos to take because I could not afford to buy new batteries very often. For my 13th birthday I wished for a digital video camera (with a rechargeable battery). I very quickly learned how to use video cutting programmes and from then on I started making films. It was a great way of expressing myself. After using lots of digital media during my undergraduate courses I stopped completely and since then I have concentrated on ceramics combined with wood and metal structures.

Which art trends or ideas inspire your current work?

I am not sure if it makes sense to give art trends much space in one's practice (although of course I may do subconsciously). I think it is important to find something that you are really passionate about and then stick to it for quite some time. I guess it depends on what kind of art one makes but this is how I feel about my practice. Then again, the idea of online lecture programmes is something I really started enjoying lately. I guess it is one of the few good things that came out of the pandemic and something that has continued. By inviting audiences to online conferences or panel discussions or lectures it became so much easier to participate in discourses without having to travel. It is accessible and global, and I find it really inspiring.


Tell me about your recent work?

I often tell stories through my work. A recent piece of mine is called `The Invention of Religion and the Order of The Planetoids`. It draws on planetary diagrams and the desire for humankind to understand its position in the cosmos. In another series of works, entitled `Measurement and Weight`, I was influenced by a book called ‘Geographies of Dis-Orientation’ by Italian geographer Marcella Schmidt di Friedberg.  She explores the topic of orientation and dis-Orientation and how this affects our relationship with space, place, body, emotion and time.

Tell me about your favourite medium.

My main medium is ceramics and I combine it with wooden or metal structures. The structures are architectural and are often made industrially with neutral colouring whereas the ceramic elements are handmade and playfully decorated in bright colours. I like the contrast. Through this medium I can ‘say’ something about our relationship between spaces and bodies.

Where do you find inspiration?

Books, art, people, my 1.5-year-old daughter.


Is Scotland a supportive place for new artists?

I have had a very good experience since arriving here and I am fortunate to be part of a very supportive network of artists. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. That said, I am aware that an artist's career is a marathon, not a sprint and it takes time to find one's place anywhere.

How do you develop your art skills?

I have a studio at the Glasgow Sculpture Studios. It has large workshops for ceramic, wood, metal, plaster casting and spray paint. Also, there are technicians on site. This is the ideal environment to develop one's skills. I meet other artists at all stages of their career when I am in the workshops, working alongside them, but I also have my studio if I need solitude and/or a clean and dry space.

How do you define success as an artist?

Hmm, well actually, I would rather talk about a successful artwork I have made rather than success as an artist, but I’ll have a go! I guess it is a mixture of things: experiencing the rewarding feeling of working through something difficult (a new piece is always difficult); to be able to show my work and to a certain extent earning one's living from it; being part of a wider collective effort of artists and other creative people who try to describe/depict the condition of life we are living through and witnessing at this moment.


Why did you apply for the Scottish Sculptor Award?

I have been doing a couple of public art pieces recently, both now permanently installed in Vienna. I really enjoy working on sculptures for the outdoors in a publicly accessible realm, but I haven't done anything in Scotland yet. I would like to do more public art in the future and the Scottish Sculpture Award seemed like the perfect opportunity to expand my practice in that direction. All nominees get mentoring from curator Matthew Barrett while we develop a suitable piece which is amazing support to have.

Tell me what your reaction was to visiting Edinburgh Park?

I was very surprised about the amount of high-quality sculpture. Ever since Andrew Burton made his ‘Orangery Urns’ in 2018, I wanted to see them and when I came to Edinburgh Park earlier this year, I was amazed by them. I have to say they are even more impressive in real life than any image was able to convey to me. It is very inspiring to see how the Arts are intertwined in all aspects of Edinburgh Park. I love that the ‘poet in residence’ actually named the new streets and that the ‘Photographer in Residence’ is documenting the people who are building the new houses. I also heard that Edinburgh Park is partnering with Sistema’s ‘Big Noise’ Music project for children. My daughter is participating in the equivalent one in Glasgow, and she loves it.

What impact would you like your art piece to have on Edinburgh Park – if you win?

Since the winning sculpture is planned to be installed amongst houses for residential living, I have those people in mind to communicate with the most. I would like to give the new residents something they can identify with and feel proud of. I don't want to say too much at this point, but I had a close look at all the public sculptures in Edinburgh and am planning to address the ‘elephant in the room’ with my proposal!

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