Interview: Yasushi Koyama, cuteness and nature in Finnish and Japanese aesthetics

Japanese sculptor Yasushi Koyama lives in Helsinki, Finland and exhibits frequently in the local galleries. In this interview, he ponders the aesthetics behind his cute wooden sculptures. The artist brings the two artistic worlds together in his deep knowledge of both Finnish and Japanese cultures. One of his revelations connects to an idea of etic (or ethic), a general belief that influences people’s behavior and attitudes.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: When did you move to Finland, and how did you decide to go there to study?

Yasushi Koyama: I moved to Finland in Autumn 2007 to study Fine arts in Saimaa University of Applied Sciences in Imatra. In 2006, I met Finnish printmaker Tuula Moilanen and took her art courses in Kyoto Japan. She was a good teacher and gave me some advice for Finnish education and art school. Then I decided to come to Finland to study.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What is the best part of having two cultures to live in and with?

YK: The best part is to have another viewpoint beyond one culture. In addition, in my own artwork Finnish culture meets Japanese culture automatically, unconsciously and unintentionally. It is a good mixture of two cultures for me.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Do you think that new cultural heritage transforms you?

YK: I am transformed by Finnish culture on a daily basis especially with the sense of nature and with the contemporary culture of art & design in Helsinki. While in Imatra I experienced a lot of nature such as forest, lake, snow, river, waterfall etc. I took many photos of the beautiful Finnish nature during each season. In this point I was transformed to be a person who likes nature. At the same time, it reminded me of how to be a Japanese, because a life with nature is the very style of Japanese culture too. I came to Helsinki in 2012 to have my solo exhibition in NAPA Gallery. In 2012 Helsinki was the world design capital and my exhibition joined in with some events of World design capital 2012. NAPA Gallery had many artists who were related to graphic design. It was very fresh for me. The art of NAPA members inspired my own art language to absorb the feeling of contemporary graphic design into my art. So I am transformed to get the design viewpoint from the Helsinki contemporary culture.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You are currently taking part of an exhibition at the Cable Factory in Helsinki. Tell about the background for this particular show.

YK: The show is called “Masters of Saimaa’16”. It is Masters of Fine Arts graduation exhibition in The Saimaa University of Applied Sciences. 9 master degree students have joined in the show. My artworks are 3 works. There are 2 wood sculptures and 1 wood installation from me.

One of the wood sculptures is titled Panda papa and child. It is a large sculpture, 160cm high and weighting more than 400 kg. The artwork is made for my Art for Children project in 2016. People can touch & hug this Panda papa sculpture, so it is interactive art, and the art also connects to our well-being. It is going to be donated to children’s public place as a public art after my upcoming solo exhibition in Galleria AARNI. I have a good memory attached to Panda. When I was 6 years old Panda came to Ueno Zoo in Japan from China. I visited the Zoo to watch the Panda with my father.

Another wood sculpture is titled Walking cat with Katja’s T-shirt – collaboration with Katja Tukiainen. It is 150 cm high and weights more than 200 kg. Artist Katja Tukiainen is my supervisor for my final works of my thesis. Both Katja and I had a similar experience of having cats as pets in our childhood, and we both like cats. Katja Tukiainen has also designed the official T-shirt for the Cable factory. I liked the T-shirts and so got the idea for the collaboration with her.

Then, my  wood installation’s goes with the title The horizontal – wood installation. It is composed of 6 pieces of woods that were originally from one large tree (5m high). Each piece weights between 30 kg to 150 kg. It is made from ash wood that my friend gave me. The title is from Eija–Liisa Ahtila’s video work “The horizontal “ to use 6 screen panels to show one long tree in horizontal way. Her video work “The house” was the first contemporary Finnish art that I saw in Tokyo in 2003. Through this work I wanted to express the culture of wood in Finland and Japan, the process of wood sculpting and wood as a material itself. In Finland the forest area is 71% of the entire land area. In Japan the forest area is about 68% of the land area. In the world, the average of forest area is 31%. So in comparison, our countries have a lot of forest and woods. I think that we both have the tradition of wood culture such as wooden buildings, wooden houses, wooden tools, wooden arts etc. So wood is really important material for me.

yasushi-koyama-panda-papa-and-child-2016-birch-house-paint-oil-color-162x85x80cm
Yasushi Koyama, Panda papa & child, 2016, birch, oil color, house paint, 162 x 85 x 80 cm.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You hear often that Finnish and Japanese cultures have something in common from the point of view of the design cultures. Do you think it’s true and in what ways?

YK: Yes, it is true. As I told, both Finland and Japan have the culture of wood. Both Finnish and Japanese like nature in life. So natural materials have an influence on the expression of our cultures of design, architecture and art. In addition simplicity, clarity and repetitive nature are similar in both cultures.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How did you find your artistic expression with the sculpture? 

YK: My artworks are animal sculptures described as “Cute, lovely and humorous”. Most of my works are made from one piece of wood by using hand chisels. The rich textures of wood sculpting give people a warm impression. My wood sculptures have the good mixture between traditional wood sculpting and contemporary expression.

I learnt traditional wood sculpturing in Japan, New Zealand, Transylvania and Finland. For example in Finland in school I learnt wood sculpting from Finnish sculptor Pasi Karjula. He cherished the traditional way of wood sculpting using axe and hand chisels as well as other methods.

In the contemporary art context my wood sculptures have the expression of cuteness and positive energy. Finnish painter Katja Tukiainen had an influence on those expressions. And Finnish sculptor Kim Simonsson inspired me with his innocence of cartoonish sculpture. In addition, the graphic design of Marimekko etc., as well as the culture of the Finnish children’s characters, especially the Moomins took effect on me.

At the same time Japanese Manga & Anime and “neo-pop” art by Japanese painter Yoshitomo Nara have influenced my art language of cuteness. The ideas of art works are inspired by animals, natural shape of wood, self-drawing, Finnish art, illustration, textile design and Japanese art & culture.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Are your cute animal sculptures loved by both Finnish and Japanese audiences alike?

YK: Yes, I think so. They are loved and sold in both Finland and Japan. The interesting issue is that Finnish people say Yasushi’s works have Japanese feeling, and Japanese people say that Yasushi’s works have Finnish feeling in them. I accept their viewpoints as a good mixture between Finnish and Japanese culture.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How do you develop and teach your concepts to kids? 

YK: I remember that I was making animal sculptures with clay almost every day when I was between 4-6 years old. My father gave me photo books of animals. After I looked at them I made animals. It was my ordinary life during my childhood. So it was natural for me to make cute animals. Although I was making a human sculpture while in school, after my graduation I remembered my enjoyment with animal sculptures. So it is normal and natural for me to make these cute animal sculptures. After starting to create animals, some friends and gallerists told me that my artworks include concepts for kids. So I will continue developing art based on my own childhood memories.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What is your favorite museum or museums in Finland and why?

YK: I have many favorite museums in Finland. It is difficult to tell of all the museums. So I point my favorite 3 art museums with exhibitions in 2016. I liked Ai Weiwei & Yayoi Kusama exhibitions in Helsinki Art Museum, Ernesto Neto’s exhibition in 5th floor in Kiasma and “Suomen Taiteen Tarina” (Stories of Finnish Art) in Ateneum Art Museum. Ai Weiwei and Yayoi Kusama are top well-known artists in the world. I appreciate HAM to have offered their exhibitions to people in Finland. I also like the space in Kiasma’s 5th floor. Ernesto Neto’s exhibition gave us the participation and experience, the post colonial and interdisciplinary disciplines in the contemporary art context. “Stories of Finnish Art” was very compact exhibition, but at the same time a very profound way to show Finnish art history. I thought it was a great opportunity for tourists in summer to see the exhibition in Ateneum and also for Finland to show their image through Finnish art.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: How would you describe Finnish aesthetics?

YK: I want to describe 3 concepts of “less is more”, “silence” and “sorrow” as Finnish aesthetics.

When I think about aesthetics, I always think about “etic” of aesthetics. Etic (or ethic) is a general idea or belief that influences people’s behavior and attitudes. I think that Finnish etic are diligent, honest and simple. Finnish aesthetics is the general idea that influences Finnish people’s behavior to understand beauty. So in my opinion one of Finnish aesthetics is about “less is more”. When I see the simple structures of Finnish architectures, it is so obvious.

About “silence” (hiljaisuus in Finnish), and how it is connected to nature. I remember silent landscape of snow in forest during winter. It was very beautiful. One of my Finnish friends gave me the message about nature, comparing sisu to silence (sisu is a Finnish spirit against strong power). “Nature means more than forests or lakes. It means freedom for oneself. Sisu is the most important for Finns. But how can one respect the other’s freedom? To respect one’s own freedom and the other’s freedom, Finns are keeping silent.” It is poetic but precisely showing the Finnish behavior of silence.It says that silence is the expression to respect one’s own and other’s freedom. Silence is one core of beauty related to the idea of freedom in Finnish culture.

About “sorrow” (suru in Finnish). A Finnish pop singer-song writer Kaija Koo says the phrase: Niin kaunis on hiljaisuus, mutta kauniimpaa on kaipaus. It means: So beautiful is silence but more beautiful is longing. So, when a Finn misses another person or a place, they feel sorrow. The sense of sorrow is connected to the feeling of longing and missing. In addition, a Finnish sense of sorrow takes place in the melancholic climate of Finland, such as during cold, dark and snow etc. “Sorrow” is a general and profound concept in Finnish art, film, novel, mythology etc.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What does innovation mean to you?

YK: Innovation is the attitude to look for new applications of old knowledge and the one to create new concepts by mixing more than two different concepts and cultures.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Who do you collaborate with and where do you work? Is teamwork important to you? 

YK: To meet a person is very important for me. So I would like to cherish meeting a person. This time I collaborated with Finnish painter Katja Tukiainen in Cable Factory, Helsinki. I met her in Cable Factory in 2009 coincidentally, when I was walking around the Cable Factory. She was very kind to me even though I didn’t know her at all at that time. She talked to me friendly about Japan and her exhibition in Yokohama, Japan. I think that meeting is sometimes coincidental but often meaningful. I would like to cherish such a meeting. For the collaboration it is important for me to have a similar concepts, and to be able to share ideas. It is important for me to make collaboration beyond your own culture and to create something new from it. I have collaborated with artists such as painters, sculptors and printmakers. For the future I am interested in collaborating with not only artists but also with designers, anthropologists, philosophers, children, and with ordinary people to be transforming my art.

yasushi-koyama-walking-cat-with-tshirt-by-katja-tukiainen-2016-birch-house-paint-156-x-72-x-71-cm
Yasushi Koyama, Walking cat, T-shirt collaboration with Katja Tukiainen, 2016, birch, paint, 152 x 72 x 71 cm.

 

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Do you have an opinion about Kusama’s works, she is now extremely popular in the West. How do you like the exhibition in Helsinki at the moment?

In my opinion Kusama’s exhibition includes an important concept of interdisciplinarity, the roles of post colonial and gender in the contemporary art world. So it is natural for the West to accept her art. And her exhibition shows not only art but also an idea to share an experience of her art with visitors. It means that her art works are not only objects but also the image of her art, spirit and that of the contemporary culture. Her exhibition goes beyond art and connects with people in the gallery space to share their experiences. From this point of view, the visitors can participate in her exhibition. And I find that her paintings have an influence coming from native art and aboriginal art. Then, I think that her dot art includes not only pop art but also biological consideration of a cell, Shintoism and neo animism. I imagine that those concepts are fresh and still new to the West. So I admire HAM (Helsinki Art Museum) to have her exhibition.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Does Kusama have an approach that can be applied to other things, or could there be a recipe for a good idea to be developed further. There seems to be something that makes people really want to participate in it?

YK: Yayoi Kusama was the world’s most popular artist in 2014. And she is still one of the most popular artist in 2016. I think that the quality of this exhibition is among the top of the world. And her exhibition has been already developed by the point of visitor’s participation, comparing it to her exhibition that I saw in Matsumoto, Japan in 2003. It would be possible for her to use 5 senses to prompt visitors to participate in her art, such as the sense of touch, the sense of smell and auditory sense.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Do you think that art should be more sensorial, and available for people to touch?

YK: Yes, at least for me. I think touching art is a much deeper experience than seeing art. I make my large animal wooden sculptures (about 160 x 80 x70 cm) to be touchable and huggable. It is a hands-on way of “interactive art” in a sense that visitors also take action towards the art. And it is also “participation art” as you are touching and hugging a sculpture in the exhibition gallery space or in the public space. The importance of touching art is also connected to the internet period or described as a post-internet period. Although we can see a lot of images through internet, we can’t get a sense of touch through internet as well. So the sense of touch is a strong point attached to my animal sculptures. The feeling of a wood material is little warm and nice to human body. My animal sculptures have been already in some public places as public art. It gives people happiness and experiences in a way that they participate in a society through art.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Is there a line between art and design in contemporary art or does there have to be?

YK: For me such a line is not so meaningful in our contemporary time. Design can be art and art can be design. I think that art and design have an effect on each other especially here in Helsinki.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What are you planning next, do you have new ideas and exhibitions coming up? 

YK: My next exhibition is coming soon 23.11-18.12.2016 in Galleria AARNI in Espoo, Finland. The concept is “Cute” –between SÖPÖ and Kawaii. I mix Finnish cuteness “SÖPÖ” with Japanese cuteness “Kawaii” in my art. In Japan “Kawaii” (= the quality of cuteness) has become a prominent aspect of Japanese popular culture. This term Kawaii has taken on the secondary meanings of cool, groovy, charming and innocent. The book “Kawaii Syndrome” tells “cute” and “neat” have taken precedence over the former Japanese aesthetics of “beautiful” and “refined”. So cuteness is a new cultural wave of Japanese postwar generation especially of the ones born in 70’s and 80’s. This cultural wave has come to Europe particularly through Manga and Anime. For the design of my animal wood sculptures I use Finnish wood, and the Finnish cuteness of SÖPÖ is inspired by Finnish art and design. In the exhibition visitors can see ”Cute” animal sculptures, touch & hug a large sculpture ”Panda Papa & Child”. I am hoping the audiences will enjoy Yasushi Koyama’s world of cute animals in the exhibition coming to Galleria AARNI.

***

yasushi-koyama-photo-by-ayana-palander
Yasushi Koyama, photo by Ayana Palander

Artist profile: http://www.kuvataiteilijamatrikkeli.fi/en/artists/3620

Ai Weiwei @ Helsinki

Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei’s exhibition opened in Helsinki in September 2015. Ai Weiwei @ Helsinki will be on view through the end of February 2016. His first solo exhibition in Finland features 25 works from 1985 to the present, including selection of wooden sculptures and installations, and taking materials from antiques and building structures of old temples. Ai Weiwei’s exhibition is connecting to historical China, raising contemporary questions and speaking of the critical voice, which requires to be heard. The exhibition narrates of the personal and the cultural, weighting the nuances that the artist has tested in practice.

Ai Weiwei is the artistic figurehead for thinking how today’s east meets west in many forms. I call my perception of the works ‘massivity of matter’. Firstly, the amount of matter in a museum space probably recalls any sculpture display as the intervention of matter over the space. In this exhibition, however, the sculptural speaks together with the space, the airy high ceilings are breathing with the objects. Second, the massivity of matter is more of a feeling that comes with the lack of scripture between the works. An echo of Chinese contemporary art, in which ancestral is disconnected from the line of reproducing the artifacts?

Map of China
Ai Weiwei, Map of China (2008) installation view.

Map of China (2008), is Ai Weiwei’s large opening piece to the exhibition. The sculpture is tall, hard to measure, and made of tieli wood fragments that come from ancient temples. This material is centuries old and told to be very rare today. Map of China is made with traditional Chinese woodworking technique bringing the pieces together. The challenge was to create the work without any visible seams. The configuration has the shape of the country showing how there was not a single history or culture in the first place, but only a forced effort to fit all the richness into a one state.

ai weiwei installation
Ai Weiwei, Traveling Light (2007) & White House (2015) installation view.

So a question arises, how to connect historical meaning and the general meaning of the past to those issues that define a contemporary consciousness of a man, after he had to struggle with the fascist propaganda and denial? I am not proposing this question as an individualist concern, but more as a rhetorical phrase to speak of a multiple choices. The artist can mirror his personal position on the power/to shed light on the power, which one-sidedly and univocally has taken over all the other voices, eventually starting to represent masses of voices. This is where massivity arises in artistic aesthetics. And perhaps this is why there is no single narrative imposed in the exhibition, because bringing together all the objects would already be a lot. They would utter so strongly, so let them escape the definition, and let the cacophony sing its well-orchestrated noise. Needless to say, as the wood is concerned, the aesthetics is well rehearsed, well mounted, the sculptural is well organized in groups, following up the international sculptural aesthetics of the moment. Working with wood, and collecting pieces that come from a cultural place with this huge time span; say, goes far beyond our contemporary time. This makes the works epic for today. Historical load is apparent. History arrives with the same massivity, as the ancestral would drive you over.

To be a political artist is not easy from the point of view of artistic aesthetics. Our art world needs the voices to break silences, but often the politics becomes massivity. It would perhaps be different to subtly speak without ruins taking over, as objects do have their own weight without us directly attaching them to ‘art’. In this case, the objects are not simply cultural artifacts as they appear in the art museum context, however they connotate in the form of temples, for instance. Some pieces come from temples – that is the shrine nature of a house, narrating about ancestry and patriarchal dominance. These fragments are ultimate references to the age of property, practice, and material attachments.

Another sculptural work by Ai Weiwei, is called Tree (2010). It is an assemblage of different woods deriving from individual trees. The dead tree trunks were collected from various locations in the mountains of South China. Differences between components is left visible intentionally:

‘We assembled them (the parts) together to have all the details of a normal tree. At the same time, you’re not comfortable, there’s a strangeness there, an unfamiliarness. And it’s just like trying to imagine what the tree was like.’

 

Wood as artistic material is so much about nature. Tree as a material is beyond our dominance. It exists and grows without our appropriation. But we did cut trees, we destroyed their existence, and we were cutting down entire forests. In the exhibition, the tree-sculpture is made from pieces to look like a whole tree, an original, yet at the same it is not. It is a look-alike, a not exactly, and a make believe of a tree, a form of a tree, a powerful signifier of a tree, of nature, of origin. It is quite interesting how this sculpture ended up being the center, as other objects are made of wood as well, representing crafty continuation of the artifacts as man made materiality, a continuation of time, which was before mass production.

The modernity of artificial materials, known as the mass-production is another question. Mass production creates massivity. Perhaps the ancestral places speak in the same manner as the modernity. The history is long; we communicate and paraphrase with it. Perhaps this exhibition communicates beyond art, becoming dynamic battlefield for matter and spirit, proposing final materiality in art. Where do we stretch the line between the materials that make the essence of an artwork? We draw from culture, bringing cultural objects into museum to speak for the culture. And this takes place ultimately not in the name of individual subjectivity but for all the collective consciousnesses.

After all, the dialogue between poetic and anti-poetic is what we are looking in the massivity. Poetry does not speak with the loudness unless it was dried out of mythological meaning and it communicates more with the naturalist approach to speak with metaphors. Metaphor can be standing for something, which is not invisible, and stands for something apparent, showing the evidence, creating presence of the political as inevitable. It is standing, yet changing?

There is an evident need for change in the cultural. The aesthetic is more of a repetitive force that takes form in the massivity. The criticism toward west comes in the undertone of the material in consumption, as enlightening force. The materialism is our new religion?

Traveling Light (2007), is a sculpture mounted on a temple pillar, appearing as being a gigantic table lamp or crystal chandelier. Ai Weiwei became interested in light as an object from the point of view of illumination and environment. The large sculpture stands for the idea that objects are close to human scale to be experienced physically.

Divina Proportio (2012), is composed of huali wood, referring to the golden mean, and as mathematical proportions to geometry in the Renaissance.

The exhibition includes two previously unseen works, White House, and Garbage Container, the former speaking of China’s developments and urbanization, the latter about five homeless boys who died tragically.

A new piece in the exhibition titled White House (2015) is an entire residential house of the Qing dynasty. The composition includes different woods and is constructed traditionally using nail-less joints. The work stands for the heritage, as the new developments in China have pushed away the traditional. The new white paint on a wooden surface creates questions about past and present, authenticity and change.

Ai Weiwei, White House, detail
Ai Weiwei, White House (2015), detail.

But cultures change slowly. The anthroposcience of human life shortly lived, continues in the legacy of a son who outlives his father (in a natural cycle). The artifacts have a longer life than we do, and this ends building the culture as fluid and as anatomically tilted. Objects lend to the patriarchal order creating legacy and interdependency. Objects echo about history, so in the name of the poetics and dialogue whenever they are on display there is an underpinning of voices that mesmerize with their presence.

The exhibition architecture divides the show into two large rooms. On the other side there are objects, which call much of the legacy that is darker, even more personal than the first exhibition space. Ai Weiwei became a prisoner after he was arrested in 2011 at the airport in Beijing. He was sometimes handcuffed to a chair while questioned. He also kept washing his one set of clothes while in prison, drying them on a hanger.

The art in this case becomes a historical conscience of a collective. It necessarily opens as a voice for the people whose history it is part of. The objects, their material consciousness and presence appear as inevitably non-corruptive, with presentation and physical presence, as non-poetic solidity. The substance is speaking through the stone, or the stones would shout, in this case wood objects.

Ai Weiwei’s role as a seer or visionary, means a hard position at home in China. His work Through (2007), is composed of tieli wood once again, having fragments of old temples from Qing dynasty. The scale is massive, and piercing, the tables and pillars form an almost cage-like atmosphere.

He says: ‘Artists are not in a position to decide the conditions imposed upon them but they can make statements about these conditions.’

Through
Ai Weiwei, Through (2007) & Frames (2013) in the background.

Artists have their own life, their own existential power, their own presence and saying. When it comes to power propositions with artwork, let’s say this. It is hard to assume that the artist proposes his artwork knowing that the entire nature of the artwork would stand for the resistance of power. Cultural legacy changes in a moment, when it becomes ‘art’. The objects are in a terrain of global and international exchange of matter. When it comes to materiality in the sense or meaning, would not the objects have a saying only inside their cultural reference? Legacy or cultural speaking of the history changes with the art market. When legacy becomes art, it has become layered with different meaning; yet the objects are not entirely free of their cultural origins.

The Garbage Container (2014), impresses as a valuable huali wood piece, reminiscing of a cupboard, and looking like a container when it turned on the side. Another impressive piece is the architectural installation titled Ordos 100 model (2011), which was built together with Swiss architect firm Herzog & De Meuron. Made of carved pinewood, an uncompleted, miniature city was planned to be build in Ordros. Treasure Box (2014), is another construction made of huali wood. interestingly, all the objects seem to highlight the wallpaper, titled as IOU Wallpaper (2011-2013), which has decorative appeal, yet a message that makes everything seem unconventional.

Treasure box
Ai Weiwei, Treasure Box (2014) with IOU Wallpaper on the walls (2011-2013)

Ai Weiwei’s exhibition at HAM Helsinki in on view until February 28th, 2016.

Artist website: http://aiweiwei.com/

images: Firstindigo&Lifestyle

Jasmin Anoschkin’s clever sculptures

Jasmin Anoschkin is a Finnish artist working with ceramics, wooden sculptures, drawings and painting. She is a member of the Arabia Art Department Society and has exhibited widely for the past ten years. The unique world of sculptures crafted by the artist includes expressive statement pieces. These works feature something of the magical world of animals that have spirits. As if animated, they are calling you to bond with them and follow them into the world of stories. Some of the sculptures also speak slightly of the aesthetic language borrowed from contemporary folk art.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Could you tell your story of becoming an artist?

Jasmin Anoschkin: When I was five years old, I figured out how to draw from a visual image. I was able to copy an image to another page, which made me feel pure amazing. At that time, I also started to sew and crochet small sculptural objects and flowy skirts. I guess I had a chance to do this since my mother was staying at home with me, and my siblings were all in school. Then, while I was at the junior high school, being an eight-grader, I was convinced that I would become a painter. During my studies at the Art High School, I got inspired to work on sculpture. When I later studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki, I took sculpture as my major.

You have a very impressive career with exhibitions, how did it progress?

JA: I graduated from the Academy in 2004, after which I have been continuously exhibiting. Often a current exhibition has birthed a new one, and so forth. I would say that my breakthrough exhibition and artwork was Bambi that was shown at the Mänttä Art Festival in 2009. The same sculpture was also in 2010 at the 100th Anniversary of the Association of Finnish Sculptors in Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art. Today it belongs to the Finnish State Art Collection.

In 2012, I was chosen to be the year’s young artist in the Satakunta region of Finland. During the years of 2009-2010, I was a visiting artist at the Arabia Art Department Society (it was established in 1922). And in 2014, I became a member of the society.

Are there any other artists in your family?

JA: My mother studied painting, but has not worked as a painter professionally, except having it as her hobby.

Your sense of color is very strong and expressive. I would say that this is the case in both of the paintings and sculptures. Do you attach to a particular philosophy of color?  

JA: I like many colors, especially the neon-colors, but white is my absolute favorite. In my paintings (I have painted life models always), the colors create the atmosphere of the room and the mood around the model. As it comes to my wooden sculptures, I pick the colors on the go, or they appear as coincidentally according to what jars or pigments I have available. When working with the wood sculptures, I start marking the wood with colors seeing which parts to leave and what to carve out. If the initial colors fit to the work they can stay.

In my ceramic works I use glazing that is actual leftovers from other artists, or opt for the colors that Arabia factory has used in its history of making utensils and everyday objects. I don’t really make samples, and sometimes you have to be firing the clay several times before the end result is perfect.

You seem to have two mediums in your art making, do you intentionally make paintings around humans, and then create the sculptures about animals?

JA: I would like to have animals as pets, but I cannot take care of them. It is easier to take care of the sculptures than real living animals. I don’t have to feed them, just dust them occasionally, nor do I have to take them out, except to museums. Painting is fast for me, and sculpting is very slow.

How about the paintings, which are portraits, how did you choose your models?

JA: I like to work with life models, and almost all of them are artists or other friends.

Do you start with emotional or affective state of a person?

JA: The painting sessions I plan always three weeks in advance, so I can prepare myself to the work itself.  I do not sketch or do other kid of preparations, but what I do is to more intuitively process the work out. I’m always nervous to meet my models so it’s really hard to get any sleep the night before.

Your paintings also bring to mind expressive fluidity and specificity of the line, which is almost drawing-like.

JA: I draw and paint a life model, and its pretty fast-paced taking only 3-5 minutes, so perhaps this methodology has left some marks on my works.

Could you explain where the themes to your sculptures come from?

JA: Many of my sculptures have a story implied in them, either I heard them from others, or they are based on my own experiences. A friend of mine lived three year in China, and they had two servants. The other friend of mine went to India and brought back a sari. Third bought a dog from a faraway place. So I have this blue servant dog –sculpture who wears a sari as a hat. It is serving coffee from an earring, and the soap is like a pastry. The sculpture is called: Would You like to have some breakfast, Sir? Eventually, as you can hear, the artwork includes all three stories told by three different people.

My other sculpture, which is called Huulipunankoemaistaja, Lipstick taster, is an animal. A friend of mine worked at the Lumene cosmetic company in a laboratory. I imagined that the person was inventing and creating new shades for lipsticks while at work.

Do these fascinating animal figurines represent any specific animals?

JA: I cannot say it myself. Many customers tell me that this particular work is my personal power animal, and then they want to acquire it. And, I often call my sculptures as ‘random varieties’.

One more thing about the sculptures, how do you construct them, what is your technique?

JA: The clay sculptures I build by hand starting from the bottom and moving towards the top. With the wood, I start with cutting off the extra material, and adding pieces. The process goes basically cutting off from the material, and adding repetitively, and incorporating the colors from the start.

Artist website:

http://www.jasminanoschkin.com

 

Robin Rapoport: From Alexander technique to design sensing

How to describe living the artistic life? How to live a life surrounded by one’s own art? Making art is so intimately linked into one’s sensing of the world that there isn’t simple answers. In the current research of art, we try to map different kinds of knowledge embedded in the artistic processes. ‘Living’ with the arts is like ‘dwelling’, which in fact implies an old meaning for a house. The doors in the house keep opening and closing as a trespass to new fragments of interiors. The repetitious movement of stepping in and out of the interiors gives even the doorhandles almost allegorical significance.

Robin Rapoport’s designs at her Conneticut home and studio.

Robin Rapoport is a sculptor and designer who has been choreographing for her dance company Headless Horse. As a dancer in Robin’s company, the creative process made me reconsider dancing together with the sculptural.  Robin has been looking for a living and forming entity in the sculpture, which could be realized through the dancer’s body and her movements. Another layer came from the Alexander technique, which would bring those two materials even closer together. I asked Robin about this entire connection, wanting to know how the Alexander technique has changed her.


RR: So funny you should ask that. The other day I was speaking with a magazine publisher of home design who wanted her editor to meet me and I said I have a class for Alexander Technique, but will skip it in order to meet her. I reflected that most people do one thing like designing, and here I spend so much time on another activity perhaps losing accounts because I’m not as available. But if you understand Mr. Alexander’s work it is crucial to one’s sense of clarity. The more I go, the more I discover holding in my body that I need to release, and as an artist I am curious where this will all lead. I know I’m changing so much already. The way I stand, my breathing, and so I am not so hyper. I can make better decisions with a calmer mind. We are for the most part so disconnected from ourselves and from the proper use of the self, which enters into all arenas of movement. I am very concerned with health and maintaining it. I do not want to stiffen up but remain easy and fluid. And I think to be an artist is to think outside of the box, to think ahead, to be perhaps more aware of the dangers our planet presents to us on a daily basis. This Alexander Technique is what I do to combat that.

ORGANIC FORMS

Robin Rapoport’s sculptures and sculptural furniture display an array of different approaches to organic forms, which could be labeled, as somewhere between Scandinavian and African, they are modern, natural and primitive at the same time.The sculpture and furniture feels animated and living. In some cases it is almost talking to you, and these pieces are shaping the space. The design presence is not too loud, but the pieces make statements and offer alternative points of view to look at the space. A piece of furniture is standing on its own legs, when it is a floor lamp, for instance. And if it is a bookshelf it can even include eyeballs. You might as well know what I mean: When you talk to plants, you talk to trees. And this design is so ’whimsy’ that you might as well talk to it.

When Robin takes on the art of creating a house with her interior design, she likes to enhance the warmth of the interior walls. The walls already have imaginative touch in them. Cardboard covered walls with a touch of asymmetrical designs gives them a hint of geometry, and overall, they have ethereal lightness in them. This meditative approach, which she also calls as an art of ‘dwelling’ continues in the wooden sculptures. The sculptures both gather and form the space around them, and they have their own individualistic character. Robin’s interest to form is fluid. Materials appear with fluidity; they are towards rough or process-like, rather, than simply solid or static structures.

Robin Rapoport, eyeball shelves

THE HUMAN BODY

The Dance Company is close to being like a living sculpture, where human body is constantly taking new shapes and testing the space where it moves. The dancing bodies with sculptural elements on stage together with them, is another Rapoport’s take on the theme. Along with the abstract, animated and organic forms are these narratives, which have several underlying layers. These stories unfold themselves in a course of a fairytale, or as a series of otherwise magical happenings.

Dance, short film, sculpture, and light design evolve from the same source creating narratives without suffocating punctuality. Robin’s events evolve around the form and texture. Sometimes a piece of plexiglass gives an idea to a story that becomes a gesture in the dance performance, or it is part of the furniture created, and the objects found, all made for the home. Home is an evolving space, which is the dwelling. And living one’s home is part of the artistic process. Basically home is living together with art, and art keeps changing, as the interiors get different stories and layers.

Robin has created her home in the woods of Greenwich, CT, together with her husband Edward L. Milstein, who himself is a painter of geometric color. Both share a passion for the arts, design and architecture. These three-colliding elements are coexisting in their home, where exterior is also mixing with the interior. A visitor who comes to their spatial industrial loft-like house and art gallery encounters the presence of the woodland nature. The house is evidently coexisting with its environment, as the landscape is not too worked, but remains the same type of organic fluidity with the rest of the things around. They collaborated with the Robert Young architects to create their ’Art Barn’. In the summer the house has a wire screen wrapped around it which is covered with wisteria, and so becomes a green jewel box in the woods emerging from a winter cinder block form of grey. It is amazing how a ’green screen’ that is like a living skin over most of the surface make the concrete-block look different. The greenery also adds thermal insulation.

LIGHT DESIGNS

As of today, Robin has developed Light Designs. She is creating fixtures that come from the sculptural roots of using wood, copper and paper. Interesting ceiling lamps are the ones like an octopus or simply ‘branchy’ wired designs, which are light weighted structures for the ceiling. Ceiling lamp can contain one long rectangular design that has two branchy-designs attached to it, or it can be a smaller sculptural design having one wire inside them.

{photos:courtesy of robinrapoporthome.com}

I asked Robin few more questions. I wanted to know how living in the woods inspires her. I also asked, where will her designs be in the future, and where will her passion be.

RR: I think there is nothing more beautiful and magical and instructive as Nature and so I stay here, somewhat hidden and enclosed and perhaps somewhat lonely at times as well but this is where my work unfolds. When I travel to New York it is to study the Alexander Technique but then I come home to walk the property where I have lived for 24 years. Every year I add or shift plants and every following year I can take pleasure in watching them bloom. Outside and inside are distinct yet connected, as are we with both an exterior and interior persona? With so much suffering and tragedy in the world I feel blessed to have this place as a personal sanctuary and which makes me acknowledge every day a higher being which I can attribute the beauty all around me to.

I hope my Light Fixtures can add beauty to a room. They are crafted by hand so each is unique. I am happy to personalize them for customers meaning that I could change the paper color and or wood color. How fascinating is it in Nature that a plant on the outside can be a dull grey with spikes and when it blooms the most delicate of leaves and colors emerge. And this color is for our eyes to appreciate like cinema except you can touch it.

My next passion is to have a home furnishing boutique where I would sell my designs for tablecloths and ceramics, as well as have my design services. I love to set the table, and I find very little of interest in the tabletop design right now. So much of what is out there is about simplicity and “whiteness”, but perhaps just too much simplicity. We have lost great craftsmen (women). With the current economy people are afraid to stock inventory that is not trendy. But I am uninspired by what is now trendy. I just find it bland and so will make my own.

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{ROBIN RAPOPORT’S WEBSITES: Robin Rapoport Home and Robin Rapoport:Dance, Sculpture, Film}

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Robin Rapoport established Headless Horse in 2002 in New York City. The dance company has performed in live show, in festivals and in her short dance films. Her ‘Thief’ appeared in Palm Springs International Film Festival, and in the Jumping Frames Film Festival in Hong Kong.

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{/More pictures for the Greenwich, CT house are seen at http://ryarch.com/art-barn}