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Finnish Cultural Foundation Residency Alumni
Reija Meriläinen, Artspace, 2019
Reija Meriläinen's work
Reija Meriläinen is an artist from Helsinki. She worked in Artspace Sydney for three months in 2019.

I flew to Sydney via Hong Kong where I spent a week just before the big protests there broke out. After arriving at Artspace, I spent the first few days in a jetlagged daze meeting with the staff and some of the one-year studio artists.

Two weeks into my three-month residency period, I took part in an Artspace-organized Blockchain-themed event called Blockathon. It brought together artists and programmers and developers that had an interest in all things internet. We formed teams of about five people from different fields. We developed projects using Blockchain technology during three intense days of lectures, discussions, and working time. At the end of the weekend, the teams presented their projects, and all of the participants voted on a project to win a cryptocurrency prize. My team developed an art work proposal and a proof-of-concept version of it, and our project won the main prize.

The following weeks were spent getting to know Sydney and its surroundings, meeting some artists and curators in the area, and seeing art exhibitions at galleries and museums. I also took a little trip to the Blue Mountains, which is a couple of hours outside of Sydney.

I started planning and working on a new piece made up of a video and a sculpture that was partly inspired by some of the plant life common in Australia, especially a couple species of trees. I wrote some texts and shot some footage for the video piece, and started making a soft shield sculpture to go with it.

Some of the Artspace one-year studio artists and I started planning a two-day studio exhibition to coincide with a symposium happening at Artspace in August. Unfortunately, the studio exhibition had to be cancelled last-minute due to an unexpected reason. Instead, I took a week-long trip north to the Great Barrier Reef to do a scuba diving course. Diving at the Great Barrier Reef was an incredibly inspiring experience. I also attended a lecture in Cairns to learn more about the ecology of the reef, the sea life and the effects of coral bleaching.

At the end of my residency period, I threw a going-away party at my studio, where I invited my newly-found Sydney friends, most of whom were also in the arts field. I displayed some of the work I had done there as well as some of my old video works. After the residency, I spent a week in Singapore, as I had a layover there, and explored the local art scene.

My Artspace residency period was a wonderful growing experience for me as an artist. I learned a lot about myself and about how I work in an unfamiliar environment. Not having a final outcome expected of me at the end of the residency period was freeing as it let me be more open to outside influences while in Australia.