Apr 11, 2019
 in 
Interviews

Fanny Tavastila

F
anny Tavastila’s work draws upon a nuanced spectrum of emotions. She builds her paintings slowly, layer upon layer: they are an intuitive and multifaceted examination of the relationship between the visible and the hidden, the everyday and the elegiac, the figurative and abstract. With an innate and lyrical sense of color, rhythm, texture and composition, her paintings capture the essence of that which is not easily expressed in words.

As a painter, how would you describe yourself?

I’m very intuitive. My workspace might seem a mess, as I have a thousand things going on at the same time. Various things lie here and there, as my working method requires multiple layers of colors, different drying times and so on. I have many ideas and I tend to start them immediately when they come to me, but the work itself usually takes a long time to grow into its final shape.
I admire artists who can work in a more organized way, for instance with one theme at a time, where the process – at least from the outside – seems to be more straightforward. It has taken me a long time to accept that this is my way of working.

Can you tell us about your current exhibition About Seeking a Home at Ama Gallery?

My exhibition at Ama Gallery investigates the subject of seeking a home: what a home might be to you, what you would like it to be, what elements are the most important in order for you to really feel at home. Is it the physical space, the atmosphere, the people you share it with, or is it memories, traditions, maybe certain things, feelings – or the lack of them? The exhibition consists of both paintings and installations that have travelled some of these paths with me. I’m really happy and excited to include music for the first time as part of the installation in the form of an original piano piece composed by my dear friend, talented singer Emma Raunio.

Fanny Tavastila, Om att söka ett hem II, 100 x 100 cm, 2015-2017, oil on canvas, picture by Jussi Tiainen.

You have a very unique workspace at the Cable Factory. What does the working environment mean to you?

I sublet my first studio here together with a group of friends, and it was really the feeling of the building that I fell in love with. I ended up subletting from different artists for many years, whenever someone was going on a longer trip or residence. It did mean quite a lot of jumping from place to place. Even though it was tiring at times, I kept on doing it until I finally got a studio of my own. It must have been one of the smallest studios in the whole building, 10 m2, so if I wanted to move or turn one of my bigger paintings around, I needed to leave the studio, turn it in the corridor, and return. I love working at the Cable Factory. Being a painter can be quite lonesome at times, so to know that there are many other people working behind all those doors just a knock away is very reassuring.

Can you talk about your working process?

The starting point is always a feeling. It can be a thought inspired by a song, a shadow on the street, some colors that accidentally meet on a surface, a comment or a discussion with a friend. Books and nature also inspire me, but most often it is music. The feeling, which often includes its opposites, leads first to color and then form. As I work with a lot of layers, some forms will be hidden with time, and some will be enhanced. While the physical application of paint is important, the process of rubbing, scrubbing or gently wiping off the paint is also a big part of the process. I usually stand with both a brush and a rag in my hand when I paint. And this is exactly what painting feels like to me; to not be afraid of destroying something you just spent a lot of time and effort in making, and equally, to not be afraid of letting traces of the previous elements and experiences show, even though the life of the painting might start moving in a slightly different direction.

My studio is filled with small memories from many generations of family, friends or travels, notes and souvenirs. Even though I sometimes wish for just a big, blank, very airy studio filled with space, I enjoy how you all of a sudden can encounter a dear memory in the form of a note or a feather. How you always have the chance to go on a treasure hunt of your own without leaving the studio.

Fanny Tavastila, Om att söka ett hem III, 122 x 122 cm, 2016-2017, oil on canvas, picture by Jussi Tiainen.

What interests and inspires you to create and paint?

For the longest time, the core of the paintings has been the same: how to live with all the sorrow, happiness, feelings of uncertainty, the tragic, everything that is wrong in the world and all the beauty there is at the same time. The themes may vary; sometimes the shape of a Ferris wheel or a carousel may stand for the way life goes up and down, or the excitement of just a short moment of happiness even when you know that the ride is going to end – both the good and the bad.
Organic forms also interest me because they have the elements of growth and change.  For instance, the smallest breeze can make the leaves on a tree vibrate in completely different colors than a second before. And even though this kind of form is under constant change, the core stays the same and even manages to grow – an inspiration for life in general.

What else are you working on right now?

I am currently also working on an art charity project together with 40 other artists or artist groups as part of the Finland 100 celebration year. Designer Stefan Lindfors has designed a huge seal that each artist will paint in order to raise money and awareness of the condition of the Baltic Sea. The project is called HejHylje!  It was initiated by Camilla Hackman and curated by Veikko Halmetoja, and will take place throughout this summer, starting on June 12 when all the seals will invade Senate Square in Helsinki.

Also, on June 9th I will perform in Tampere with the Helsinki-based chamber choir Spira Ensemble in a concert conducted by Kari Turunen as part of the Tampere Vocal Music Festival – a beautiful and interesting repertoire where melancholy, beauty and hope entwine.

Adapted and edited from the original interview written for Around Journal, published on June 1st, 2017. See the whole story here.