Text and photos: Laura Iisalo
The on-going year has been unusual in many ways, and the exceptional circumstances have affected Miikka Vaskola's daily life too. Some of his planned exhibitions were pushed back from this year to January 2021, and the artist, who usually works in Helsinki's Lauttasaari, relocated his studio to the outer archipelago in Tammisaari to put together his solo exhibition at the Helsinki Contemporary.
The name of the exhibition, Shore to Shore, refers to the many boat journeys Vaskola has taken during the spring and summer. It also indicates the way light travels from space and reaches the eye of the spectator, moving from shore to shore.
Some of the new large-scale artworks are screen paintings, which Vaskola has painted directly on window screens so that the surface becomes visible while the painting behind it remains shielded.
"First they are these little maggots, and when they hatch, something else comes out of the cocoon than what originally went in."
For this exhibition Vaskola has created sculptures for the first time ever. Made of plaster, fallen wood and epoxy, the organic shapes form a collection titled Instar, which refers to a developmental stage of arthropods.
– First they are these little maggots, and when they hatch, something else comes out of the cocoon than what originally went in. It is an interesting concept that resembles the way artists reinvent themselves, or do something different to what they have previously done, Vaskola explains.
All and nothing
The best thing about art, according to Vaskola, is that it can be anything. Art can take a societal stance – or not. For Vaskola art is a way to process and work on things and ideas through trial and error. He is fascinated by the idea that something can be all and nothing, both at the same time.
– Art has no purpose at all, and on the other hand it has a lot of purpose. Time is another concept that is everywhere and nowhere. People do everything they can to control it but at the same time time doesn't exist. I'm interested in the moment in between the past and the future, and how that takes form. Or if there is no time, it doesn't take any form, he says.
Vaskola prefers to work during evenings and night-time, when the city around him quiets down. Completing one piece of art takes around one and half years. The biggest challenge, according to Vaskola, is how to transfer a thought from his head to the canvas. Even if he has a clear idea of what he wants to do, the end-result is always something else. When he makes a mistake, he washes it away and keeps going.
– I started doing that when I was still a student and couldn't afford to buy new canvases all the time. Not everything goes perfectly right away, at least not for me because I work on one piece for such a long time. The time spent working becomes evident and I like seeing how the painting gradually turns out, he tells.
The artworks speak for themselves
Helsinki Contemporary art gallery has represented Vaskola for years. For him the collaboration means added accountability but he also feels more at peace to create art.
– A good thing about working with a gallery is that I get help with curating, and that we can have a dialogue. It helps a lot as I work by myself – especially if I feel that what I'm doing isn't enough. It is good to have someone who has the courage to say that this is not enough. Then we discuss why that is, and it is easier to move forward, Vaskola tells.
"When the exhibition is hung and complete, I see a lot of things that I hadn't noticed before."
Seeing the final hanging can be an eye-opening experience that embodies years of work. Yet Vaskola feels that talking about the artworks never gets easier.
– I work so intensely that I find it difficult to see the artworks clearly, and it feels impossible to verbalize years of working. When the exhibition is hung and complete, I see a lot of things that I hadn't noticed before. I can experience quite cool moments when I see that yeah, that one turned out quite good.
Artist Miikka Vaskola received a grant of 26 000 euros in 2020 for artistic work.