Interview by Katja Räisänen | Pictures by Rauno Träskelin, portrait Aino Huovio, artwork images courtesy of Makasiini Contemporary | English Editor Julie Uusinarkaus

Finnish artist Tiina Pyykkinen’s (b. 1983) art underlines some essential attributes of our lives  – full presence and slow perception. Her strong alkyd and oil paintings and installations serve as stages where the viewer becomes the actor of a play, fulfilling the purpose of the artwork. Space and light have a fundamental role in her work.

Tiina Pyykkinen, Shared Space, 2017, alkyd, oil and green pigment on canvas, 210 x 370cm. Photo: Rauno Träskelin.

The presence of the viewer has an important role as they experience your work. How are your works constructed?

I try to influence the total experience of the observer through several different elements. In my works, the situation specificity influences the viewer’s direct experience. I like to construct my works through a careful selection of materials, changes that occur in the environment, the movement of the viewer, and lighting and suspension. I use a lot of glossy paint materials, through which the situation can be reflected, and the situation is built into them as part of the “image” world of the work.

In addition to the reflection and movement at the exhibition site, the materials chosen have a relationship both to the situation and the ”reality” of their perception. Recently in my works I have created works whose perception is ”intellectually” in the mind in conflict with what is seen. The color perceived in my work is ambivalent. The surface of a painting is monochromatic, but for the viewer it appears as multicoloured surface. Interactivity is thus built on a number of different elements, and in the end, the viewer becomes distracted by his own viewing.

Everyday Secret,2017, alkyd, oil and violet pigment on canvas, 180x150cm. Photo: Rauno Träskelin. Courtesy of Makasiini Contemporary.

Tell us about your interest in light; how did it become so central to your expression and way of working?

My interest in using light as an element of my works has been shaped partly through personal experience, and it has fit the topics or content that I wanted to address in my work. My personal experience of light is associated with my bodily/body memory experiences. The light in my work is both content related and a dimension of the material.

Your exhibitions contain not only paintings, but usually also installations. What does space mean to you?

Space or place is always the basis for the works or a collection. It is a frame that plays a role in determining the work’s “spatiality”. In this way I have thought that an installation and a painting have little difference in their form. Whether it is a “two-dimensional” painting on the wall or a work in the form of an installation, both have a relationship to the shape of the space and each other.

The space itself also has the sense of a private and shared area. In my works, I have wanted through reflection to take advantage of the space’s double meaning, as if both present and absent in the space. On the other hand, the work’s image area shows the view behind the observer’s back, and through the viewer, the work’s image area is duplicated.

Painted Place, exhibition view from Finnish Painters’ Union’s gallery, Helsinki, 2015.

Your working method is slow and persistent; could you tell something about your technique?

I select the materials according to their characteristics, and of course the impression that I hope the work will convey also directs my choices. In recent years, the focus of these characteristics has specifically been on the ability of the materials to refract light and how light passes through different colors.

The technical construction of recent paintings seems as if it consists of many layers of glass, through which the light is refracted and passes through and makes visible what can be perceived in the works.

Spectrun of Nature, 2017-2016, Alkyd, oil and pigment on canvas, 180x150cm
Photo: Rauno Träskelin. Courtesy of Makasiini Contemporary.

How have various means of expression taken your way of working forward? Could you tell us a little about your studies?

I have had the opportunity through my studies to try out a number of different means of expression. Mainly, I have however over the years concentrated on painting and endeavored to experiment with different forms of expression within this area. While studying at the Academy of Fine Arts, my Master’s degree studies focused on examining the structural properties of paint materials more closely, and I feel that since then my expression has moved toward a more defined area regarding topics and materials. (It should be noted, however, that the materials and subjects are not separate issues, but always a single entity.)

Before my Academy of Fine Arts studies, I studied at the Orivesi College of arts in their visual arts program, the Nordic Art School, and at the Centria and Satakunta and Universities of Applied Science. During these study years, I have had the opportunity to view my work in the form of many, very important conversations and courses. Perhaps the most special thing that diverse and multifaceted teaching can offer is the possibility to question.

Tiina Pyykkinen, Young artist of Finland 2017 exhibition. Installation view from Tampere art museum. Photo: Rauno Träskelin

The young artist of the year exhibition series ended in November 2017. What are you working with now and what do you see in your future?

I am currently working on different site-specific (public art) projects and a collection, which will be exhibited next autumn at the gallery Makasiini Contemporary in Turku. The January 2018 I have worked at Sim Residency in Reykjavik.

Tiina Pyykkinen was selected as  Young Artist of the Year 2017. Helsinki-based Pyykkinen graduated as Master of Fine Arts from the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts in 2014. Her captivating works have been on view at museum and gallery exhibitions both in Finland and other European countries. Her works are included in established Finnish collections such as the Finnish National Gallery, the Finnish State Art Commission and the Saastamoinen Foundation.