Interview by Mia Dillemuth | Copy Editor Matthew Jones | Pictures courtesy of Oksasenkatu 11 and Sinne Gallery

Visual artist Josefina Nelimarkka works in a multidisciplinary way but comes from a painting background. “In some ways, painting seems to define my approach even though of contemporary art does not need those kind of categorisations. However, at times, these traditions, frames and contexts can be helpful, especially when you want to re-establish them. One might say it is an expanded painting practice but I view painting as a way of thinking.”

I have always studied in a medium-specific context. I recently graduated from MA Painting at the Royal College of Art in London and now I am concluding my studies in the department of painting at the Academy of Fine Arts Helsinki. During education, I have learned to respect the slowness and eternal ongoingness of a meticulous painting practice, when one really invests time and thought into something very specific, it is a sincere investigation. Of course hectic demands on artists can be challenging.

Josefina Nelimarkka, Page Chapter Modulus, 2016, Colour process on silk, 2 x 160 x 300 cm, courtesy of Oksasenkatu 11.

How would you describe yourself as an artist?

As an artist, I see myself as a notetaker: I record or write down the eventuality around me as a material or sometimes textual process and then translate it into spaces and topography the viewer can experience. I am interested in instabilities; fleeting moments that one seizes upon. Some of them are more visible than others. Especially invisibility and inaccessibility are something that I attempt to recognise and bring forward within my practice. My work is about registers and signals that manifest that kind of unsettledness and I attempt to locate them as well as give them language or place within my work and exhibitions. Not knowing is important too, sometimes it is more productive than knowing but not in the sense of neglect.

In the spirit of Paul Klee, I do not wish to reproduce this kind of sensitivity and its signs per se but rather render those images visible. Klee used the term render against imitation. In other words, to translate those events on the edge of becoming into actual worlds. I am not so much into pictures; it is more about the energy and wonder that produces those images for us and naturally we look for a language to express it. Of course, one can understand an image in many ways and I tend to think that it does not need to be visual.  Maybe a thought-form could be a better way to express what it constitutes, but there is always an urgency to attention and recollection. Being an artist is always a political position too.

What projects are you working on now? Can you tell us a about the current exhibition at Gallery Oksasenkatu 11 in Helsinki?

Yet; predicted futurities tracked in poems presents my new time- and site-specific processes. For some time, I have been working with different wet paintings techniques, which means work that manifests itself as a continuous process and as a measurement of time. Works that are shown at Oksasenkatu 11 have developed during slow exposures to either stars or flows of colour and require a long waiting time. I have combined stargazing and astronomical alignments with wet painting techniques. Alignment is interesting because it is a relationship rather than a parameter that ceases the work to exist in a specific situation. It is about parallelism and simultaneity yet also testing the concepts of scale and time. The exhibition is looking into the idea of forecasting, what is there between causality and coincidence?

Josefina Nelimarkka, Stopping Symplegades a dove, 2016, Cyanotype exposure on silk, 60 x 80 cm, courtesy of Oksasenkatu 11.

I am inspired by the idea of potentiality and delay. When things are in the future or unknown, there is space for imagination and creativity. For me, that is productivity in art making. What arrives from the pause and even boredom is actually unsettled energy, a resource rather than passivity and nonbeing.

The show is a collection of wall-based works which I have then installed in parallel with glass and bronze objects, interactive videos and virtual reality technology. An exhibition is always an opportunity for me to test the limits of perception and how we can move from reading from one material to another. Materiality is important for me but it does not need to be always physical. Digital, textual and virtual materiality is fascinating!

You seem to be very comfortable with different techniques. How has your work developed during the years?

My methodology is that I try not to make distinctions between techniques but I seek for a nonhiearchy or consensus between materials and scales. Materiality is transient, ideas last longer. I want to understand how we react to the shift from physical to textual and digital and even to virtual and vice versa. The moment or space just prior that shift is important, before it becomes conscious, when we are in between language. I try to keep it fluid when changing from one material or technique to another and I always seek for that unique moment what makes the work. Digitality can be mesmerising but I always return to actual things present-in-time. This kind of materiality has a great impact on us. That’s why I have ended up developing live processes which develop in situ. I started with live material processes which evolved during exhibitions but now I have used new technologies in a similar way to create momentary experiences.

Recently, interactivity with the presence of the participants has allowed me to turn digital journeys into live processes, for example in the case of my exhibition Precession (screensaver) which is a live-editing process using detecting radar sensers but it was also an installation specific to time and place. The work always renewed itself, it was never the same. Being interested in giving individual experiences to the viewers, now at Oksasenkatu11 in Yet; predicted futurities tracked in poems, the virtual reality technology allows the viewer to individually experience and with one’s own gaze control the colour eternity where you are virtually located.

Josefina Nelimarkka, Precession screensaver, 2016, Interactive video installation, courtesy of Sinne Gallery Helsinki.

I get pretty excited about these kind of things and I would love to know more about programming and codes! In my practice, experimentation plays an important role, sometimes I call my studio a laboratory. At times, I can have multiple artistic-scientific live colour set-ups with different pigments in progress and I do feel like a laboratorian doing analysis on samples. But of course my studio is not so clinical because an artist I have the right to manipulate my processes. Artistic research has much more intuitive freedom.

There are elements of nature in your work. What is your relationship with nature?

My relationship with nature is very elemental but it also means that I allow natural forces to interact with the work and for me it is mostly locating us in that same cycle and currency, not distanced but in relation. I use natural processes in my work in multiple ways, my recent works are actually made outside the studio under the movement of stars, so totally weather-dependable. Often nature offers element of chance and circumstances for the work, sometimes it provides conceptual parallels. For example, I am very attached to the idea of a cloud. Clouds are very present in my work both as non-gravitational shapes or weightlessness but also as an accumulation of ideas.

Where do you find ideas for your art work?

My way of working is process-lead and influenced by my ongoing research, I tend to get immersed by information flows from arts and sciences; most recently from astronomy, meteorology, linguistics and mathematics. Again, I guess I want to re-experience time and scale. Stars and planets are an everlasting source of inspiration for me. I like their distance and they stimulate my imagination. In addition, the etymology of words can be very inspirational. I try to to find roots and elements of things in my research.

Josefina Nelimarkka, Interstellar absorption, 2016, Bronze, 8 x 8 x 8 cm, courtesy of Oksasenkatu 11.

For example a while ago, I found an interesting connection between the words time and current, both very active concepts in my work. Not only this Ancient Greek alternative concept for time called Kairos as a kind of non-linear timelessness eventspace should get more attention in our everyday lives and challenge our notion of chronological time and ideas about efficiency but also it contains a link through language to the word current, a fluidity but also a contemporaneity. I got so excited that these words share the same root kers which relates to running in old Indo-European proto language. It is very affirming and I think kers has a beautiful sound of letters. And yes, I know, pretty nerdy…

Documentation is an important part of my material and conceptual research. So I have ended up with an extensive digital archive. It ranges from studio snaps to vast collections of cloud imagery, trees, plants, flowers, visits to museums, laboratories and archives. When I travel, I like to visit Botanical gardens and even after spending a couple of hours at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich or in my family’s summerhouse, I end up with hundreds of digital pictures which I then categorise and some of them can be used later in my work. Then these ideas and inspirations move back from digital form to materialisation.

Have you seen anything surprising lately?

I was amazed by paintings by Eugène Delacroix at Louvre, in Paris last time I visited. These dramatic works need re-looking and re-interpretation and especially I was looking at the animals, lions and horses how they were painted in such an emotional way. I also saw a good exhibition on his art at the National Gallery in London earlier this year.

What is the hardest part about being a visual artist nowadays?

Time management.

What work of art do you wish you owned?

Troubadours, a durational live performance by Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson would be fantastic to have around or to be part of again. I absolutely love the overallness of Romanticism and in his works I can totally sense the urge to make life more Romantic – accompanied with humour.

What are your dreams career wise?

I dream about a studio with a high ceiling, skylights and a garden where I can make work but also live.


JOSEFINA NELIMARKKA: Yet; predicted futurities tracked in poems

Until the 27th of November

Oksasenkatu 11, Helsinki


White Crypt, an exhibition curated by Anaïs Lerendu brings together seven emerging artists based in Paris and London.

White Crypt

25.11 – 11.12.2016

Friday – Saturday 12 to 6 pm

St Mark’s 337 Kennington Park Road
London SE11 4PW