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Taru Happonen

Updated: Sep 17, 2021

"In recent years, my work has been based on wondering about the environment and organisms as seen for the first time, without a human perspective. If something were to arrive on Earth now for the first time, for example, it would not know that the seas used to be plastic-free. I have used this kind of creature perspective as a tool to be able to break away from my own point of view. The creature zooms its gaze close to the microscopic and again far to the cosmic scale."

Where and when were you born and where do you work now? I was born in Lahti. Currently, I live and work in Helsinki. My studio is located in the Roihupelto industrial area. What does your working process look like and what kind of materials do you like to work with and why? When I work my studio looks like chaos. The floor of my studio is usually barely visible when the most intense phase is in progress. I’m so focused on work that I don’t have the patience to clean up, and I frantically try different solutions through trial and error. At the end of the day, I take pictures of unfinished work and sketch them still at home in bed, usually with a snuggling cat. In my artistic expression, I give clues with figurative elements that I break down as unrecognizable. I utilize the thinking of the expanded field of painting. My works may often be seen as something between painting and sculpture. I combine bustling impasto painting with other material thinking. In addition to oil paint, I use, for example, recycled plastic sheets, linen, wood, plastic bags, and cable ties. The materials do not have virtuous or vicious features in my art, they embody what the world is like.

What have been important steps and happenings in your life and artistic path so far? I come from a family of fine artists, and it was clear to me from childhood that I wanted to do something creative. First I wanted to be an interior designer, then an art educator, and then a graphic designer. I graduated as a graphic designer from Aalto University but wasn’t happy in the profession full time. I learned to paint again as an adult. I felt a lot of shame at first, but I put my work on view anyway. You also have to do failed work in order to develop. The turning point was to get into the Academy of Fine Arts from which I will soon graduate with a master’s degree. In my master’s studies, I learned to understand painting more broadly, and that has encouraged me to move forward. What do you think you would do if you wouldn't make art? I hope to live to be old and still make art even then, but as a backup plan, I’ve been thinking about setting up a karaoke bar with a friend. Do you have any specific people or artists who have influenced your way of doing and seeing things in life and in your artistry? I have been influenced by the literary works of Geoffrey West, Donna Haraway, Stefano Mancuso, and Brian Greene, for example. Artists that I admire are, for example, Kaya (Debo Eilers & Kerstin Brätsch), Louise Bourgeois, Hilma af Klint, and Ida Ekblad.

What do you dream about? I dream of hiking alone in the Lapland wilderness, it would be an empowering experience. What other projects / exhibitions are you working on? I am currently working on the Ebb and Flow exhibition, which will be held at the new building of the Academy of Fine Arts. The exhibition will open in December 2021. After that, I will start working on my next solo exhibition, which will be in 2022 at the Gallery Forum Box in Helsinki. At the same time, I am also working on a piece for the summer exhibition held at TUO TUO in Joutsa.

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