Interview by Anna Parviainen | English Editor Julie Uusinarkaus | Photographs by Patrick Rastenberger, courtesy of Kunsthalle Helsinki

Visual artist Elina Autio works in between painting, sculpting, and installations. Her series of three reliefs, in which she has assembled the surfaces of wooden, painted angle fillets, is on display at the Young Artists exhibition in Kunsthalle Helsinki. Autio has studied in the University of Arts Helsinki and the Academy of Fine Arts Munich. In 2018 the Finnish Art Society awarded Autio with the annually given Ducat Prize. Founded in 1858, it is the oldest art award in Finland.

Can you introduce the ideas behind your latest works at the “Young Artists” exhibition?

At the “Young Artists” exhibition I present a series of three reliefs, in which I have assembled the surfaces of wooden, painted angle fillets. The color surfaces have been painted in the same way as my earlier works of corrugated cardboard, using trowel strokes, adapting the lights and shadows of a wavy surface. This makes the surface kinetic and lightweight and gives it an immaterial appearance. This visual effect was the starting point for my works seen in the exhibition. Lately, I have taken an interest in an open, plain structure and the installation of the object onto a limited (image) frame. The surfaces of my latest works are set into motion, and they don’t seem to obey the demarcation of the frame. I wanted to use the leftover colors from previous projects found in my studio. The color work was meant to resemble a patchwork quilt, but the result is more restrained than I first imagined.

How would you describe your working process?

When I work, I’m experimental, I seek, and I spend a lot of time sketching and working on paper. More and more, my work starts with drawing. I try to include the lightness achieved in the stage of drawing and sketching as much as possible in my completed works. Sometimes the most successful starting point for my work can be a ridiculously small doodle on a piece of paper. I seek meanings from compositions, shapes, and rhythms. From the compositions in my sketches, I often choose the ones that emotionally move me. Quite often I pay attention to broken, damaged, fragmented, and in some way troublesome appearing shapes or lines. I’m interested visually in different weak points and incoherence hidden in structures. Perhaps I identify with them as a human being, passing it on to my works, in which I hope in turn others can identify with.

Exhibition view of Elina Autio’s series of three reliefs and Raimo Saaninen’s Granite Block. (Untitled 150×250 cm. Laminated veneer lumber, plywood, triangle molding, spray paint, acrylic). Photograph Patrick Rastenberger, courtesy of Kunsthalle Helsinki. Young Artists 2019.

I’m curious about the materials that you use in your art? How do you acquire them?

I work with industrial materials. I try to alter the essence of the material in small ways (often using colors) to something completely different, however without masking the materials basic qualities. I’m interested in the contrast between magical/obvious, and in the appearance of these two simultaneously. I acquire my materials from hardware stores.

Can you tell something about your color palette and the use of colors in your art?

I often bypass color when I’m describing my working process, which is odd because color has a great importance in my works. Perhaps I just can’t describe it in words. I often try to give a coincidental impression of my choices of color, which also is a bit misleading, for coincidence is not present when I paint, even when I try to achieve it. I decide on the composition of colors between each other, even though it doesn’t necessarily show in the result. My color palette is synthetic and effect-like, in contrast with the ordinary and unprocessed materials I use in my works. I like the standardized colors, materials, and scales, and therefore the ready-made color charts of the spray paints I use are important tools for my work. Color can trick, alienate, deceive, and completely alter the impression of the work. Many of my works could appear tragic without color. Sometimes I wonder if I use color as makeup to hide the melancholia in my works in the same way as how you can dress up flamboyantly on a depressing day, or hide all the difficult things in life behind a smile. Perhaps it is most important that things are in a state of incoherence because that is the closest you can get to being a human, our actions, and the experience of living.

More of Elina Autio’s work at www.elinaautio.com.


This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Young Artists exhibition, which had its debut at Kunsthalle Helsinki in 1939. Young Artists 2019 exhibition is co-produced by the Artists’ Association of Finland and Kunsthalle Helsinki and it is based on an open call, with a shortlist of 25 artists and one artist group selected for the show out of a total of 500 applications. The four-member jury chaired by artist Jaana Kokko consisted of Kunsthalle Senior Curator Kiira Miesmaa and student representatives Aleksandra Kiskonen from Helsinki’s Academy of Fine Arts and Miia Varis from the Turku Arts Academy.

All the artists featured this year are Elina Autio, Siiri Haarla, Jussi Haro, Venla Helenius & Anna-Sofia Nylund, Maiju Hukkanen, Hermanni Keko, Nadiye Koçak, Komugi Ando, Sini Kähönen, Arja Kärkkäinen, Jenni Luhta, Anna Matveinen, Aro Mielonen, Milja-Liina Moilanen, Anne Naukkarinen, Rosaliina Paavilainen, Leena Pukki, Eeva-Maija Pulkkinen, Salome Rajanti, Mira Roivainen, Raimo Saarinen, Kristina Sedlerova, Astrid Strömberg, Pekko Vasantola, Maria Viirros and Niina Villanueva.

Around Journal presents a series of interviews of some of the artists exhibited at Kunsthalle. Previous interview of visual artist Raimo Saarinen here.