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Siina Levonoja

How would you describe yourself as a creator?

My practice is quite diverse. The public art interventions and the interspecies art experiments have a focus on research and process. On the other hand I love modelling clay, which is realised in ceramic sculpture that finds its way in the exhibitions. The interventions are flexible, open and unruly, while the sculptures need to be taken care of by following the conditions of clay.

Siina Levonoja, Tuhkaturkki, 2019, stoneware, glaze and ash, H 30 cm. Tuhkaturkki is Finnish and it means "ash fur". The artwork has two sides, it is bright and colorful on the one side and ashy on the other side. Tuhkaturkki is fired in the anagama woodfiring kiln.

The interventions are temporary and vanishing but the ceramic sculpture can stay here forever.

My practice in intervention art has opened me a window to the life of other animals, their relationship to humans and their role in the city. I am interested in the mundane places where people and the other animals meet and their routes cross.

People around me are sometimes confused about what my job actually is and what I do on my workday. I have no stable working hours, and the work actualizes in many forms and in many locations. I work when the work needs me. I begin from the perceptive research and planning, but despite that I usually end up with intuitive, unruly solutions.

How do you tune in to your creative channel and get ideas for your work?

I think my channel is open constantly, it goes off only if I am upset or worried. I have noticed that the talks and lectures given by other artists and also hiking in the forest are situations that can give me insights and open new angles to my own thinking.

Where do you work and what kind of a place is it to you?

I have a studio Savio Artists’ Society in the old rubber factory at Savio train station, Kerava. It is an independent and diverse community of working artists and 12 artists' studios. I joined there in 2015, when I was in the beginning of my MA studies in Aalto University. The society has been an important springboard for me, especially in a mental sense. To watch how the more experienced colleagues practice their profession, and how they state their artistry, have given me the best abetment and boost.

What have been important steps and happenings in your life and artistic path so far?

My expression in ceramic sculpture is influenced by the studies in ceramic design and small scale manufacturing in Häme University of Applied Science in Hämeenlinna. We students had comprehensive conditions to experiment and made research on the raw materials of ceramics. I got used to developing my own glazes and techniques. The exchange year in LUCA School of Arts in Belgium and especially the drawing lessons by the teacher Robin Vermeersch were important. That period gave me the needed push towards art.

I applied for master studies in design in Aalto University, because I wanted to keep studying ceramics. After one experimental and conceptual course by the professor and artist Maarit Mäkelä, where I made my first public art intervention LITTLE POT EXHIBITION (2016) by using unfired clay elements, I realised I should pay my attention fully on artistic practice. I switched to the art program called Visual Cultures, Curating and Contemporary Art (ViCCA), and finished my master studies there with a thesis which draws on the discussion on interspecies art and the posthumanist human-non-human theories. This conceptual, post-discipline “seceding” from ceramic practice gave me a new insight on my artistic expression and have enriched my work in sculpture as well.

One meaningful moment was when The Finnish State Art Commission acquired my artwork Caribbean Red in 2019 while I was still a master student. I felt it was very supportive and encouraging.

Siina Levonoja, Piilo (Hideout), 2020, Stoneware and glaze, H 50cm

What would you do if you wouldn't make art?

If I could not do what I do now, I would have time to write. If that would not be an option, I could work in city planning or gardening. And would feel slightly undone, wasting time and being in a wrong place. It feels awkward to think about it.

What do you dream about?

Right now I dream that I could make my living by making art and I could quit teaching. Thank gods, teaching is fun!

What other projects are you working on?

Next summer I am honoured to be part of the On the Edge exhibition, which is the Finnish national exhibition related to the 49th IAC Congress. The congress is held in Finland, in the Arctic Ceramic Centre in Rovaniemi. I just settled an exhibition for June 2021 in Cafe Bar No 9 in Helsinki. The bar has a very nice gallery program curated by Anna Jensen and Emmi Suominen.

Siina Levonoja was part of Marcy's Unraveling exhibition 2020.

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