23 Nov 2021




Sarah Hillebrecht is a sculptor living and working in Bremen, Germany, who works mainly with wood. Her works are often figurative. She is interested in site-specific processes and the new possibilities that emerge when unpredictability is embraced. Sarah is an autumn 2021 HIAP resident, staying on Suomenlinna from September until the end of November.

AA: What made you want to work with wood instead of other materials?

SH: Wood is such a powerful and versatile material, warm and lively, and therefore easy to connect to. It also is friendly to work with, not such a health hazard as stone. What I like most about working with wood is that every piece is different and has its individual character. This contributes a lot to my work. The tree has grown and developed and I as an artist have the privilege to continue this development and extend it into a sculpture.

But I also integrate other materials into my wooden sculptures and objects: metal, all sorts of synthetic materials, and preferred textiles or wool to add something soft.

During my residency I have tried a few different things: adding some modeling clay and messing nails, and also some found footage, branches and a bone.

AA: Your sculptures seem to have grown from the material, not sculpted. What draws you to the subject of the human form?

SH: Figurative sculpture never deals with the human form alone; it is also about the conditions of life and existence. To me there is nothing more interesting and important than that, or to say it in Alexander Pope’s words, “the proper study of mankind is man.”

As I had quite a remarkable encounter with a squirrel in Helsinki, I have started sculpting animals here too, which is completely new to me, but very fascinating as well.

AA: You have been interested in learning about Finnish public sculptures. Have you found yourself communicating with the community through your research?

SH: It has been a lovely and interesting journey to me, and I discovered and learned a lot, especially from those artworks that I did not look for and did not expect to discover. Through my research I also got in touch with a few Finnish artists, most with the Helsinki based illustrator Eero Lampinen. Just by accident I came across his mural in Kallio, and it immediately spoke to me. I got in touch with him and I decided to base some of my sculptural work here on themes that he introduced to me, such as the peaceful unity of people and animals that you will find very often in his work. It is wonderful to me to use art to show people alternatives to reality, in this case that we are so alienated from all living world around us.

AA: Has adapting to new spaces during your HIAP residency inspired new works? Has exploring the unknown incited the unexpected to happen?

SH: Yes, it was very inspiring, and I did much more practical work than I had originally planned. To me this has been a very fruitful stay, living on the island of Suomenlinna gives you so much space and freedom for new thoughts, dreams and ideas. And at the same time there is the reliable infrastructure of HIAP who help with all the residents’ needs. In my case it meant that they organized some wood for me, from trees that grew on the island. I was so happy to be able to work with that. And now I have made some sculptures that I never knew I would be doing. When this happens, I am satisfied.


Sarah Hillebrecht’s residency is organised as a cooperation between HIAP and Künstlerhaus Bremen.

All photos courtesy of Sarah Hillebrecht.