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About the essence of art and flowersocks - Tuija Teiska as our monthly guest

Hello Tuija, who are you?

I am Tuija Teiska, artist and Master of Fine arts. I was born in Kajaani and I live in Helsinki with my cat.


How did you become an artist?

I became an artist, when I started art studies when I was 15 years old, I got into art school when I was very young. I graduated in 2016 so I studied art for 10 years in total.

My parents have encouraged me and supported my art hobby, and I went to high school with an emphasis on art. I never considered other options. It wasn’t even an option, it was a direction to follow. 


What kind of art do you do at the moment? 

I have specialized in sculpture, but I don’t see myself as a sculptor. I don’t like to label my art or myself as a person. I’m not a sculptor or a painter, I am an artist.

Creating just one type of art limits your work and creativity, and for me creating art is a way to learn and develop myself. I like challenging myself and learning new methods. For example, by combining different methods you can surprise yourself and discover something new. Art is moving forward all the time.

Nowadays I make textile sculptures, I draw and do performances that I film and photograph.

I think of everything I do as some kind of drawing. Performance and body art is about movement, which is the same as a line in a drawing. In the same way dance or a sound wave is a line that leaves a mark. 


What themes do you work with in your art? 

I create a lot of art about love and lovelessness. I am interested in communication between people, the need to be heard and touched, emotions and memory. Things that are borrowed, like people or art, fascinate me. Everything is temporary and that makes it so meaningful and beautiful. 

My art is personal so events in my life affect it. I have lost a family member and been in a serious accident, and then I worked with a lot of pain and death. Sometimes I stay with a theme for a long time, I make multiple artworks or art shows, and then I let it go.

I am a feminist, but I don’t intentionally make feminist art. My art works are about me and my life, so they contain a female perspective: a woman in a society, as an artist or in a relationship.


What inspires you? 

Strong, independent, brave and talented women. When I feel weak or silly, I look at Louise Bourgeois’s or Frida Kahlo’s paintings and they give me courage.

Random and momentary things inspire me. When I see street art outside, I immediately go to examine it. They are like modern cave paintings: messages that people leave in their environment, and they tell about the life around them. 


Why do you create art?

Good question, I have thought about quitting many times. However, art is my way of communicating with other people and the world. Through art I try to understand other people and be understood myself. Art for me is also a profession, and I have been creating art for so long that it has become a way of life. In addition, art is a long-time friend of mine. In addition to work, I also share feelings and home with it.


How has your artistry changed? Are there any specific turning points or has it been a steady growth process? 

It has not been a steady process at all, there have been ups and downs along the way. One of the biggest turning points was an accident I had, that left me in a wheelchair for six months and I had to go through six different surgeries. I had to learn how to walk and sit all over again. Back then I made these huge sculptures, and after the accident my first thought was: will I ever walk again?. And if not, how will I make and move my sculptures? That made me realize that a sculpture can be more than a physical object. I can be the sculpture, I can create body art or performances and I can bring the same things visible, just with my own body.

That way I started thinking about other ways to make art. After I got better, I was accepted into Master studies at the Academy of Fine Arts. I decided I wanted to be a contemporary artist and create art that is more conceptual, and so the entire process of making art changed. I’m well now, but I still haven’t returned to making huge, heavy sculptures. 

Even then, it did not occur to me that I should stop making art. When life has been tough, art has been my driving force. Why do I want to get up from the wheelchair, heal and walk? Why do I need to get better? Because I want to make art. 


What kind of profession is “an artist”?

A professional artist is a person, who devotes himself or herself to his/her own work and makes it a first priority. A professional artist will also be able to make a living with their art, or is at least striving to do so.

When he/she is not working, he/she is thinking about creating art and continuing projects. A professional artist keeps a process journal, collects receipts for accounting and sends a lot of emails. The planning takes plenty of time and you need to think very far. Application periods for exhibitions and grants are usually six months beforehand, so if you don’t do the administrative work, your calendar may look empty next year. There’s a lot of application writing and administrative work, going forward. It’s not just painting in the sunset or carving bears.


What is the greatest part about being a professional artist? And what is the worst? 

The best part is the people, other artists and people interested in art that I get to meet in events and exhibitions. People are the reason why art is made in the first place. Besides, creating art happens in your own head and with your own hands, so other people bring an important balance to the work. 

The most difficult part is the constant financial balancing. I have been lucky, for two years I have had a grant, which is like winning the lottery for an artist. But the grant periods aren’t usually very long. The job itself can be very consuming. The days are long, and the job can be very physically demanding. 


Why do people make art? 

There are many reasons. Many people are intrigued with the thought of freedom. They think that artists are free. Free to wake up when they want, choose what they do, and when, where and who they do it with.

People also have the need for self expression, the need to say and be heard. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic people needed to get their voice heard even more, but because communicating is difficult, they looked for other ways to be understood. 

Emotions and thoughts are turned into a message using some method, be it a dance, a song, a musical, a play or a visual object like a sculpture or a painting. People find their own language and an instrument for that language. 

There are probably other reasons, but money is not one of them.


What kind of responsibility does an artist have?

Art should not hurt other people, the environment, nature, animals or the artist. It doesn’t mean that art should be boring or bland, it can still be very political or vibrant and take a stand. But you shouldn’t be mean, make fun of anyone or steal. Stealing ideas is like stealing from a thrift shop or a library.

An artist must take responsibility for himself or herself, his/her work and words. The job is visible, so the responsibility must be visible too. If a piece of art causes controversy, you should take responsibility for it, face the criticism and talk about it openly.

You also need to consider the environment. A lot of material is created from making art, and you need to be ethical and ecological when choosing materials and tools. The same goes for storing art and traveling. 


How does art affect society? 

The societal meaning of art is enormous, art has a lot of influence. It can be a way to influence people, tell stories and reveal things. But art is always only the opinion or an observation of one person, one artist, and the artist always reflects his or her own values in art. Art can be very communal, societal and political. I’ve heard the saying that all art is political, but I don’t see politics in a flower painting. 

Art also gets misunderstood, and spectators always interpret art in their own way. Everyone’s experience and interpretation is valuable, and the artist has no right to say that it is wrong, just because it’s different from their own thoughts. Art questions and should also do so, but at the same time art itself is also questioned.


Is it easy for you to hear other people’s interpretations about your own work? 

I think hearing other people’s opinions of my own art is interesting. I personally am more interested in the process, the moment, when an art piece is created. When I’m creating art, I go through different feelings regarding the creative process and when the artwork is done, the process is over. 

Sometimes I also learn about myself through other people’s interpretations. Maybe the art work reveals more than I thought I was saying when creating it. Other people’s reactions also continue the creative work, when the artwork is being talked about instead of just sitting in a warehouse collecting dust. 


Is it easy for you to sell your art?

Depends on the art piece. My artworks are personal, and sometimes I feel a small pinch when I’m selling one. There goes a piece of my history to someone else’s home or to a museum.

You will be showcasing your art in Art Market Budapest. Would you like to tell what artworks will be seen there?

I have different projects in progress. The mediums are different and the artworks are completely different from one another, but the connecting element in all of them is touch. One artwork about socks will definitely be there. I painted a pair of socks with watercolours and filmed a video of me sitting on the balcony painting them. The piece is a portrait of love and separation, but at the same time it is a portrait of an artist painting flowers in the garden. Touch is present in it on multiple levels. The brush draws a line, touches and leaves a mark to socks that will be worn.


How does staying at a residence affect your artistic work?

I am extremely interested in other cultures, learning new things and meeting new people is invaluable. Before the pandemic I visited residences in Japan, Italy and Berlin. For years I have wanted to take my work to a more international direction. I have also noticed that I am at my best at a residence. When life is busy and hectic I feel creative and efficient. I create more instead of just thinking. 

I get a lot of inspiration from my surroundings, and when I’m abroad I burst with new thoughts and ideas. In a new culture my own self feels smaller in the middle of new information and new experiences, it is both inspiring and educational. Abroad lights and colours seem different. In a new place all my senses are heightened, everything tastes and smells different and the sounds of the city are louder. 


You have now stayed in Budapest for two weeks. Have you enjoyed your time here?

Yes. Budapest is a really beautiful, hospitable and nice city, people here are very laid back. I also believe that when you are open and greet people with a smile, they will treat you the same way. 




Name: Tuija Teiska


Master of Fine Arts, University of the Arts Helsinki, 2016, specialised in Sculpture 

Fine artist, Saimaa University of Applied Sciences, 2009, specialised in Sculpture 

Lives in: Helsinki

Hobbies: Cat

Inspiring artists: Louise Bourgeois, Frida Kahlo


Hanna-Mari Ristimäki