Interview by Katja Räisänen | Copy Editor Matthew Jones | Photo courtesy of Paola Suhonen, Kunsthalle Helsinki

Fashion designer, artist and filmmaker Paola Suhonen made an impressive exhibition, Love on the road, at Kunsthalle Helsinki inspired by her friendship with world-famous pornstar Nina Hartley. This is Paola’s first major exhibition as an artist and also first time Nina Hartley has been presented from artistic point of view.

The body of the exhibition grows around the main piece, a documentary Poem Portrait of Nina. This sensual, narrative and intimate multichannel video piece reveals the sides of Nina’s life, projected partly by her close people. Walking through the space experiencing the snapshots, hand-developed film clips, passing moments and listening to the stories and comments one can feel like walking through a passionate poem. On one level it is also a certain kind of time-lapse of eight years friendship.

The only reference to Paola’s career in fashion design visible at the exhibition is an installation of printed t-shirts that almost liken the pornstar’s role to that of a worshipped rock star. Paola’s recognizable approach can be discovered easily in her films and photographs, especially visible in her video and photography series Southern Boys, Southern Girls.

Paola Suhonen, Southern Boys, Southern Girls, 2016


Paola Suhonen, Poem Portrait of Nina, 2009-2016

Your series of artworks on display in Kunsthalle underline the themes love, courage and freedom in one’s own life and outlook. Why did you choose to manifest these themes?

I feel these three elements are the most important things in life. Each is essential to finding real happiness and meaning in life.

Paola Suhonen, 7 Heaven Loveways, courtesy of Kunsthalle Helsinki
Paola Suhonen, 7 Heaven Loveways, 2011

You met with Nina Hartley when working in New York as an editor in Love Contemporary. What have you learned from her?

The most important thing I have learned from her is that you need to start searching early for the life and way of living that is important to you. One day it might be too late. Never care about what other people think. The only rule is not to hurt anyone or yourself.

Nina Hartley and Paola Suhonen on the opening day, Photograph by Katja Räisänen

What has inspired you most in filming her over these eight years?

Her totally free spirited appearance in front of the camera – she is really relaxed about being naked. But what inspired me most were our many discussions, her sense of humour and her quick intelligence.

What has been the most difficult part of this long project when following Nina and filming?

Hah! Running away from the cops or neighbours… When they got shocked about nudity.

Paola Suhonen, Poem Portrait of Nina, 2009-2016

Your career consists of multi-discipline projects and roles, in addition to a successful career as a fashion designer. What has that meant to you: do the different paths relate to or support each other? And how?

It’s a large playground where art, commercial design projects, different materials, people and values all come together and as my personal playmates.

Why did you choose filmmaking as one of the tools to express yourself?

I love the analog world and especially the visual quality of 16mm film. Moving images with audio are the strongest medium to express oneself. It has the sound, the story and the visuals. It’s like visual poetry to me.

Paola Suhonen, Poem Portrait of Nina, 2009-2016

What else did you bring back with you from US than the degree of cinematographer?

My desire to compose music. I started my folk music project while living there and now it’s the next path I need to pursue.

What are you planning to do next?

See above… the project is called Lone Deer Laredo, and we are starting to record (analogically) the album in January.

What do you dream of?

Being a poet.


Paola Suhonen: Love on the road, 3.12.2016-8.1.2017

Kunsthalle Helsinki, Nervanderinkatu 3