Susan Finlay grew up in Nottingham, England, and studied Fine Art at Camberwell College, University of the Arts London, and then at the Royal College of Art in London before moving to Berlin. Finlay is the author of five novels and three poetry pamphlets; although best known for her writing practice, she also works as an artist and curator. Finlay has collaborated with Coelacanth Press, with whom she coedited four issues of their biannual journal; the radio series Documents; and the podcast The Brexit Chronicles. Across these varied roles, her lines of inquiry remain cohesive, encompassing, but not limited to, psychoanalysis, the supernatural, and the visual and decorative arts. Finlay maintains a fluid approach to her work and its disciplines, exemplifying her commitment to independent and experimental forms of artistic production.
Finlay’s novel Objektophilia (2020), blends screenwriting, fiction, and criticism. As the artist has commented, “I’m interested in the ways in which writing can be performative, and I’m influenced by lots of ‘unliterary literature’ like psychoanalytic case studies.” “Objectophilia” is a psychiatric term used to describe a situation in which someone develops romantic or sexual attraction to an inanimate object; in the book, Finlay cites the case of Erika Eiffel, who married the Eiffel Tower in 2007. Finlay’s explorations are often subversive, occasionally absurd, and belie the artist’s interest in the consumerist urges that drive our societies. Her trademark ironic and self-deprecating style can also be found in My Other Spruce and Maple Self (2021), a novel set in England in 2016. Its plot follows cellist Allegra Le Clef during a period of convalescence and in the process of confronting themes of individual and collective decay. Throughout Finlay’s repertoire, humor and camp become radical strategies for combating the alienation she sees as inherent to contemporary life.
Finlay is an artist in her own right, and has presented her own work in group shows and performances at the Royal Academy of Arts, the Whitechapel Gallery, and Camden Arts Centre, among other venues. In 2016 at the Herbert Read Gallery in Canterbury, she co-curated a group exhibition titled Inland Far. Finlay drew inspiration from The Green Child, the only novel written by English art historian and anarchist Herbert Read; Inland Far was the original title. Published in 1935, The Green Child was noted as one of the first English texts to seriously engage with the then-burgeoning discourse around existentialism. Finlay called upon the surreal novel’s emotional, philosophical, and psychological landscapes to provide a conceptual umbrella for the works in the exhibition.
While in residence at Callie’s in 2021, Susan completed her novel The Jacques Lacan Foundation, which will be published in 2022. She also worked on her forthcoming novel The Lives of the Artists, which is scheduled to be published in 2023.