AS: Tell me a little bit more about your involvement with the Oranki Art Environmental Park in Pello.
TK: The Oranki Art Park project was conceived in 2001 with four friends. One of them owns the plot of land occupied by the park. Since we already spent a lot of time there in summer, we thought it would be a good idea to invite a few friends over and work at some site-specific art installations. At the time this was just an occasion to get together, enjoy each other’s company and have a good time. In the beginning, we tried to keep it small and private, but it just snowballed into a much larger public event. The next one will be our 19th year. Over 150 Finnish and international artists have taken part so far. Whilst the symposium and exhibition are now more structured, we are making sure it remains true to the spirit of the first year. We want to keep it special, an easy-going festival amongst friends.
AS: How do you feel about the transient and temporary nature of the art on display at the park?
TK: All the artworks are the result of a dialogue with nature. They are not just site-specific, but are mostly created using materials readily available in the park. They need to connect with the surrounding environment, but also fit in with all the other works too. I am fascinated by the transformative interaction between nature and art. Winters in Lapland are long and harsh. The longer a piece remains in the open, the more it changes its appearances. With time it becomes something else altogether. It loses its individuality to become part of a bigger picture. Some installations last just one season before nature takes over, some change over a much longer period. None remain the same.
AS: How do you reconcile your work outdoors with your studio painting?
TK: It’s just a matter of practicality. Like most artists in Finland, I don’t get to spend much time outside in winter. By the time summer comes, I am desperate to be outdoors and to make the most of the long hours of light.
AS: The paintings you exhibited at ArtRooms in London are influenced by the Bauhaus and the Soviet avant-garde. What attracted you to this style?
TK: First of all, the aim of my show was to evoke ‘The Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings 0,10’ at the Nadezhda Dobychina Art Bureau in Petrograd.
The exhibition of 1915 was ground-breaking as not only it featured entirely non-figurative paintings, but they were displayed with unprecedented spatial freedom. I thought the versatile and unorthodox space of a hotel room would lend itself to a less conventional layout. (NB the ArtRooms fair in London allocates one hotel room to each artist to display their works)
I have always been very interested in the different colour theories of the Bauhaus artists, the use of a limited palette and the complex relation between shapes, colours and sounds.
AS: It is unusual to see watercolour used in geometrical paintings? Why have you chosen this medium?
After many years of acrylic paint, I was missing working with tempera. Since the ventilation in my studio is not great, I opted to use watercolours instead. I discovered that using them for well-defined shapes is both challenging and very satisfying. They also behave very differently with a primed or unprimed canvas. Whilst a primed canvas gives you better control, watercolours really take a life of their own on an unprimed one. The edges are well defined, yet much softer.
AS: The Bauhaus was established at a time of intense economic and political crisis. We are now experiencing a time of global uncertainty and political turmoil. What is your opinion about mixing art and politics?
I embrace the mixing of art and politics as it is not possible to separate the artist from the man. I am very open about my views and whilst they might not be immediately apparent when you look at my abstract paintings, they become clearer if you take the entirety of my artistic output into consideration. My political stance is more evident in my site-specific installations.
AS: What’s next for you?
TK: 2019 will be a very busy year. I am taking part in ‘Colour Attack’, an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia, curated by Russian artist Vladimir Zorin and Finnish visual artist Tiina Hallakorpi, a solo exhibition in Rome, two summer collective exhibitions in Finland, Oranki 19 in early July and a solo show at the Kemi Art Museum in August. In autumn I am taking part in a residency program in St Petersburg and an exhibition at the Museum of Non-Conformist Art.
To find out more about Tuomas Korkalo, please click HERE.