In Conversation With: Sophie Schubakoff

Sophie Schubakoff is a painter and the first creative featured in our upcoming miniseries

`They Call It Creativity´

We wanted to get to know her a bit better and asked her some tricky questions.

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MP. Who are you, what do you do and what turns you on?

Sophie. My name is Sophie Schubakoff. I received my Master’s Degree in Fine Arts in 2011 from Kuvataideakatemia in Helsinki, Finland. I have exhibited around the world in: New York, Monaco, London, Florence, Paris, Helsinki to name a few. I have won the Anita Snellman Grant, Taidekeskus Salmela scholarship, Chianciano Award Exhibit London and Art of Basware public favourite award. I have been developing my signature painting style, which is greatly inspired by water.  My paintings consist of psychological mirrors, contemporary conundrums, whilst still embodying humor and playfulness.  I try to flirt with the imagery of an underwater world that obstructs the subjects and merges them together to conjure an unrestricted narrative. My paintings adapt to the surroundings just like my cosmopolitan background. Moving around as a child gave me a diverse understanding of different cultures.  

I am alone in my studio most of the time creating my artworks. This means I usually set my expectations and standards quite high and in retrospect am always trying to challenge myself in new ways in order to grow my artistic visions. I enjoy painting immensely and the smaller the brush the better; I am a stickler for detail, although I am coming to the realisation that things that are not so well chewed can also be interesting in their undone state. My artistic vision is an ongoing growth process, as life is.    

MP. Why do you do what you do?

Sophie. I believe I was made to do it.  I want to create and explore my mind and observations. It brings me joy and a sense of togetherness when I show it to others. It’s a cliché but my mother always told me that if you have talent you shouldn’t over look it. Acknowledge it, develop it and never be something other than what you are. Don’t get me wrong, I was never told that I should specifically do art or music, although when I asked for help I was given the tools for exploration.  I am always questioning why, what, how? Does it make me happy, does it make me satisfied? 

MP. If you knew you were going to die in 2 months, how would you spend your  remaining days? 

Sophie. Hmm… this is hypothetically, since no one knows what he or she would do, at least not really until the true moment approaches. If I would have to guess I would stay with family and loved ones. They are the building blocks of your past, present and future. Along side, I would want to travel and indulge my senses with the most beautiful places that mother earth has to offer and taste the most amazing foods I could find. There would surely be moments of destructive behaviour but all with a sense of humour I would hope.

MP. What is the toughest problem you have faced and how did you solve that problem?

Sophie. Toughest… it is very private and I will share that when the time is right and I’m willing to talk about it publically.  A close runner up is my national identity. I was born in Sweden and lived there for a couple years but that already creates a group of people that presume you are from Sweden.  My parents are born and raised in Finland and my far ancestry goes abroad. My last name is Russian so that creates another group of people that presume I’m Russian, sometimes German too…Schumacher. Historically Finland had been reined by Sweden and Russia. As a child I moved around a lot, staying 2-3 years max in a country. We ended up staying in Moscow for 5 years, which was the longest I had ever been anywhere so naturally it became my home. Then moving back to Finland and having an accent while speaking my “mother tongue” was difficult because no one believed I was Finnish and I felt I had to prove myself to complete strangers.  

Long story short, I have lived in Finland for 19 years now and at the same time I relate and disassociate from the rest of the Finns.  I have felt like an alien for the bigger part of my life but now I believe Finland is my home and I’m pleased to be a Finn. I believe, even though I am a suitcase child, I have managed to take the best parts out of each culture and consider myself a well travelled Finnish individual.  

I believe, even though I am a suitcase child, I have managed to take the best parts out of each culture and consider myself a well travelled Finnish individual.

MP. How do you deal with stress?

Sophie. I deal with stress by either cleaning frantically or sleeping excessively. I learnt early on that sleeping was my thing. As a baby I would sleep 8-9 hours uninterrupted. This was so troubling to my mom that she brought me to the doctors. I learnt to use sleep as a stress reducing technique. I am able to sleep anywhere if I have a want or feel the need for it.   

Cleaning came later on in adulthood… obviously.  I would perhaps classify it as not only cleaning but also arranging. Everything has a place and this process helps me declutter my thoughts. So while I make space and organize my surroundings I am in parallel doing the same in my mind.   

MP. With one sentence, what is creativity?

Sophie. Creativity is stepping outside of the mold. 

 One of my favorite quotes is by my university professor Elina Merenmies at Kuvataideakademia. She said, ”Here are your four walls, now go crazy.” 

MP. Who has influenced you the most?

Sophie. I have never had role models in the traditional sense. I remember being asked in interviews this very same question but in all honesty no one in particular comes to mind.  I have been influenced by certain styles or techniques but it has never been linked to the person portraying them.

For example, my parents had some friends over to our house for a dinner party when I was young and I recall listening to this Swedish woman with platinum blonde hair speaking English with the most lush American accent. I remember at that moment I wanted to have that accent. I don’t know why I wanted it, but perhaps it had to do with all the cartoons I was watching or the environment the accent presented itself to me and made it appealing. I do remember listening to Disney music and Mariah Carey as well but, I didn’t idolise being the characters, or a princess that needs to be saved, looking for prince or whatever… it was about talent and the ability to do something extraordinarily.   

Here are your four walls, now go crazy.

MP. Describe a day in/from hell.

Sophie. Wow these questions are heavy! Image wise I believe that Goya, Bosch, and Ruben depicted equally well what it could possibly look like in hell. I believe it would be an everlasting existence in utter despair, pain, guilt and anxiety.  Everything would be backwards, upside down and all that you believed to be real would be questioned continuously, slowly making you crazy.

MP. Where do ideas come from?

Sophie. I believe that they come from your soul, your subconscious and the universe. Ideas are like little sparks in the atmosphere and you can either see them or close your eyes to them.  Have you ever wondered how it is possible that many people are coming up with the same idea at the exact same time, perhaps on different sides of the planet? On several occasions our environment plays a role in this and our constant immersion in social manipulation, but perhaps it is also collective information that illuminates the light bulb in your head.    

Ideas are like little sparks in the atmosphere and you can either see them or close your eyes to them. 

MP. Tell me a myth about creative people and why it is a myth?

Sophie. Creative people are eccentric, dressed oddly, and messy. 

Perhaps this legend is more often linked to painters and sculptors.  This can be true in some cases (Salvador Dali for example was a master show man as well as an artist. Or Franz Xaver Messerschmidt who in his later years depicted his mental torment through the repetition of facial expressions. He was obsessed to show every emotion.) I do feel it is more of an expectation than a reality.  We are who we are and you loose yourself when you start to pretend.  

Creative people can be organised, dress like an average person looking and `normal´ in their character. However their creativity can speak louder than their words or image ever can.  The proof is in the substance and not necessarily in the package.   

MP. Would you rather:

A) Be in a small cabin with two friends on a remote island listening to the blistering storm and falling trees outside, and not knowing if you were safe there. 

B) Be on a huge stage with a group of strangers, in front of thousands of people, covered in glitter, feathers and the biggest wig you can imagine.

C) Alone in an infinitely big forest that has no sound, except the sounds you make.

Sophie. A absolutely! 

Although B sounds exciting purely because of the glitter and the stage.  I love storms! Of course being safe inside is much more fun. I remember once when I decided to go and dance around in the rain with two others and it was pouring like a faucet had been turned on, I mean I was drenched within a few seconds.  We were running around, acting silly and enjoying nature. Lightning stroke meters away from us with the loudest thunder I have ever heard. The smell of ozone surrounded the whole area. Naturally we squealed and sprinted to the house as fast as possible. The experience of nature and all its mighty is exhilarating. While it might be scary, if you survive, it’s a terrific story and an awakening moment in your life. 

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