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Interview With Finnish Artist Sanna Maria Paananen

Updated: Jan 3, 2018

Artist Sanna Maria Paananen talks about her work and collaboration with Tero Ulvila.

Can you share a few words about the city you are living in and how is the local art scene?

Sanna: Tampere (Finland) is a ”small big city”. There are artists of several ages and disciplines here, active artists’ associations and art museums and galleries of different specialties. There is considerable variety for the size of the city, but nothing is too intimidating – everything remains very approachable. I have lived here for a year now, and the atmosphere has been really welcoming.

Unfortunately, there have been some cutbacks in the past years – one important exhibition venue was lost and the local art school will be closing. The full effects of these changes remains to be seen, but particularly the loss of new art students and recent graduates is going to change the feel of the local art scene permanently in the coming years.

Paananen & Ulvila, Shadow Bearer II, 2015, Oil on Canvas, 150 x 160 cm

How would you describe your work and what are your main influences?

My personal paintings are rather subdued oil paintings. I use a limited palette of two colors and approach figurative painting with a rather graphic overall stylization. My themes are generally personal viewpoints on larger themes such as feminism and social interaction.

I also work in collaboration with Tero Ulvila. He is the very opposite of me: a very expressive, colorful abstract painter. It has been a very fulfilling project – our differences mix surprisingly well. I usually sketch and research my own paintings beforehand, and rarely change much when in progress, so it’s a completely different experience working on a piece not knowing at all what the result is going to be!

It’s hard to pinpoint specific influences, since it’s so easy to have access to a great variety of inspirational material these days. One thing that however has definitely affected my attitude and style is the background I have in Russian academic art. I had the possibility to study abroad in Saint Petersburg, and the experiences I had there really helped me answer many questions I had about what to do with my art.

#like4lie, 2015, Oil on Canvas, 65 x 100 cm

"I use a limited palette of two colors and approach figurative painting with a rather graphic overall stylization"

What made you want to become an artist?

I started studying art for the simple pursuit of ability. During my education my tastes and interests started to broaden and deepen, which made all of the experiences and emotions of both creating and experiencing art become so much stronger. Now I feel so fulfilled by all the art I have in my life that I don’t even want to imagine things being different. It’s a challenging field, but an infinitely rewarding one.

Are there any artists in particular that you identify with today?

I don’t really look at artworks to specifically identify with them. I try to learn new things from them and especially to escape from myself. I’m the type of person who gets locked up in their own head very easily, so I like to experience art like it’s a holiday from my mind. I do have to admit that many of my favorite artists are Finnish, so some type of relatability is probably in effect there. I particularly enjoy the works of painter Heikki Marila, photographer Elina Brotherus and sculptor Kimmo Schroderus.

Paananen & Ulvila, Shadow Bearer I, 2014, Oil, tempera on Canvas, 140 x 150 cm

What are you working on currently or your plans for the near future?

Currently I’m working on a solo exhibition. I received a grant for this project and am hard at work creating new paintings with the overall theme being the influence online social interaction has had on people’s behavior.

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