Interview edited by Mia Dillemuth | English editor Julie Uusinarkaus | Gallery pictures by Markus Rissanen & Pertti Kärki

Markus Rissanen’s doctoral thesis Basic Forms and Nature; From Visual Simplicity to Conceptual Complexity, examined in 2017, is a cultural historic survey of the human effort to understand and represent nature by means of elementary geometric forms in fine arts as well as in science. The research starts from forms familiar to everyone, namely the triangle, the square and the circle, and develops, via the rhombus and the form of a branching tree, partly to generalize and partly to question the concept of a basic form.

The painting chosen by Mika Tolvanen for Habitare’s Signature is called Mirror ball in landscape and it already belongs to his “post-doctoral life”. This may partly explain the reckless technical execution of the work and the fact that the basic form found in the work is disguised.

Markus Rissanen, Mirror ball in landscape, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 160 x 180 cm.

MT: This year you received a doctorate in fine arts, and you said that you didn’t always find enough time for painting during your studies. Did your studies have an effect on your artistic work, or did you continue your painting just like before?

MR: Entering the program for the doctorate actually pushed my painting almost into a messy tangle. Perhaps I felt a need to do works that would be very “uniform” with my research. But a painting, the result of which is already known in the beginning, is easily a boring piece of art. Probably the same holds for all research; if one already knows the results in the beginning, such research cannot actually produce anything new, it can only confirm or reject some hypothesis at best.

Markus Rissanen, Black cristals, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 45 x 40 cm. Picture by Markus Rissanen.

MT: How do you begin a new painting? Is each work a novel exploration or a continuation of a long journey of research and thinking?

MR: My practice has shown that I have three possible ways to start with a new painting. The rarest is the case where I invent some non-visual idea that I want to represent in visual form. Another rare but even sweeter one is the case where there appears an inspiration, as if out of nowhere, either for an completely ready work or at least for a good half-ready part of it. The most common case is, however, just to paint and to gain seeds and ideas for new paintings as side products, almost without even thinking about it. This can produce a certain kind of concatenation of the works even if such a continuation is not sought.

Markus Rissanen, Funny lip, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 45 cm. Picture by Pertti Kärki.

MT: In my own field it is almost a necessity for a designer to work with foreign customers. How do artists in Finland act? Do you think there is enough room for all of the artists in Finland, or is exhibiting only in Finland insufficient?

MR: There is plenty of room in Finland for all of its artists, but income from such a profession only for a small group. True, nobody seems to know the actual size of this small group, but civilized guesses most probably move between a dozen and a few such dozens. I don’t believe that that many Finnish artists have successfully solved the problem of income just by directing their efforts abroad – at least when it comes to painters. Perhaps among photographers there might be some cases. It is quite often that activity abroad is taken as a sign of a successful career, and it is true that these two have a correlation between them. On the other hand, there are so many different forums in the world with a wide spectrum of quality that being “international” no longer tells much about the actual artistic standard per se.

Markus Rissanen, Totem and taboo, 2014, acrylic on canvas 200 x 240 cm. Picture by Markus Rissanen.


Mika Tolvanen (born 1975) is a designer with a degree from the Royal College of Art in London. Tolvanen mainly designs furniture, but also home décor products and light ttings. He is also one of the founders of the Rehti design collective. In 2012, he was awarded the Mathsson Award for his work. Two years ago, Mika Tolvanen and his spouse, Julie, founded Studio Tolvanen. The clients of their joint design studio include Muuto, Design Within Reach and NakNak.

Mika Tolvanen

The visual artist Markus Rissanen (born 1973) received his doctorate in ne arts from the Academy of Fine Arts at the University of the Arts in Helsinki in the spring of 2017. In Rissanen’s paintings, forms of visible nature merge with stripes or scales of bright colours resembling old computer graphics or scienti c visualisations. Rissanen has held solo exhibitions in Helsinki in Galleria Heino and in Galleria Huuto, of which he was a founding member in 2002.

Markus Rissanen. Picture by Markus Sommers.

Studio Tolvanen

Huuto Galleria

Habitare Signature

Habitare 13.-17.09.2017