THE PATH OF AN ANT
HOW DID I COME ON THIS PLACE?
An oxygen-powered wanderer
I was born in September in 1948 to the Hakkarainen family living in Joensuu, a town in North Karelia in Eastern Finland. I have two older brothers and a younger sister. My birth was a traumatic episode, of which I did not became aware of as a whole until as an adult. I am a twin, but my twin sister was stillborn. ---
My father was a surveyor by profession, he also was a surveyor's son, born and bred in Joensuu. --- He liked to work outdoors in the field, and he used to bring home all kind of staff found during the day. --- My desire to wander and walk may descend from him. As a child my favourite profession was to be a nurse in Africa or a tramp. --- I have inherited much from father. He was curious, eager to get into conversation and socially active. He supported me in my efforts to be an artist. "Our Anu is Bohemian, twisted by art." ---
--- My mother was a nurse by profession, but she gave up her wage work for the family. --- She looked after aestetic things at home, she had a good sense of colours. --- I remember her often singing with her clear voice. I have a fine memory of my mother. However, I did not come close to her until as a grown-up after conflicts and fights. --- My mother was not against to my desire to be an artist either- she liked to place my works on view at home - but she also worried about my living: how to earn bread and butter. ---
Security and extravagance
I went to Niinivaara elementary school. --- When I thought about my teacher in the evenings I felt safe. The walk to school took time, because the grocer's and butcher's shop windows had to be checked, or because there were plants to be gathered.
--- Our home life was social. There were always friends at table. Father had his office at home, where he also met his clients. --- I was allowed to work upstairs in the office: I coloured cross-ruled papers and turned out envelopes. ---
After the years in the secondary school I passed my matriculation examination in 1967. --- At puberty I had a religious period. I red the Bible obsessively. I have a tendency towards extravagancies. It may have something to do with talent, sensitivity and searching, but sometimes it may turn into fanatism. ---
I became interested in writing, language and literature mainly because I had excellent teachers in Finnish.
--- My love of literature has remained and I still like to write. Also my pictures have often text elements.
My interest in the visual arts was awakened during the secondary school years. My first studies of art started in the open college at the age of sixteen. --- There was a separate class room built especially for the graphic art studies. The class room became my second home. Sometimes we stayed there even overnight. We learned to draw from life and to paint. My drawings depicting the model did never fit on the paper! We had no permanent graphic art teacher, but guest teachers were hired. --- The open college studies had something to do with getting loose. I got to know new people and found good friends such as Ippe there.
In 1965 there was a culture seminar organized by the summer school. There I heard for the first time of the theory of composition, when I went to the lecture of Mauri Favén. ---
Next year some drawings were sent by the open college to a competition organized by Nuoren Voiman Liitto. Ippe and I won a price: the opportunity to take part in a summer camp in Imatra. --- I took part in another summer camp too. In Ruokolahti Eeva Vesterinen, one of the teachers, and I became good friends. From her I have learned a lot about the professionalism as an artist.
Shyly into the Esplanade
In 1967 I applied for admission in the School of Arts and Crafts (both day and evening classes) and in the Finnish Art Academy School. Both Ippe and I got a student place in the latter. ---
I moved to Helsinki with Ippe. We shared a lodger room in Rauhankatu near the sea. --- There were a lot of smells in the room, when two art students were painting works to achieve their marks. Sometimes Ippe had even hallucinations. We were drying the fresh paintings in the wind on the way to the Academy by foot and by tram. At the Academy we sat paralyzed close the wall, like small sparrows, waiting for the reviews of the teachers.
Next winter I started to study in the School of Arts and Crafts meaning to qualify for an art teacher. Ippe stayed in the Academy. I had a bad crisis. It was possible to continue in the Academy, but I had my doubts: Am I suited to be an artist? What does it mean to be an artist? ---
I studied to be a teacher by having a copper plate in front of me and pretending to listen to an art pedagogy lecture. I made a huge number of graphic works, Pentti Kaskipuro and Maria Kähönen as teachers among others. --- I had also a permission for the evening classes and I went to some lectures at the university as well. Days were long, time was meaningful and graphic art became important to me.
--- Pentti Kaskipuro is one of my most important graphic art teachers, though I was not one of his school. Seemingly he was not teaching at all, he just leaned against the doorjamb and played his harmonica. But when he was lecturing about materials and their consistency his knowledge was extremely precise, absolutely exquisite. According to him it was the height of folly in art education to qualify by hearsay. He had a great impact on me, my professional competence comes from there, the striving for a good work. ---
I was not taking over the Old Student House in the turbulent years of student politics, but I had fun and studied intensively. The leftist movement and the ecological thoughts awoke an interest in me. The idea of democracy was living in my mind. Maybe I was fed up with the inequality like my grandmother who left her big house and joined the Salvation Army. During the years the ecological thoughts have effected on my works more than the left-wing views.
The North and Budapest mature the decision
The summer jobs in Lapland in many years made me interested in the art of the Lapps. --- I was first in Kautokeino working in a silver workshop owned by a Danish-German couple. They made for instance pieces of jewellery after old Lappish patterns. --- In the jobs I had to get to know more about the Lappish art and the meanings of the Lappish symbols. I also red literature about the subject. --- In those days I used to travel in Lapland, especially in Enontekiö. I stayed in the village Hetta for short periods making woodcuts, watercolours and writing. ---
I finished my studies in 1972. I worked as an art teacher in Rovaniemi for four years until all the loans taken up for the studies were paid back. --- Then I got a scholarship for studies in Budapest in 1976-77. After that I returned to Rovaniemi to my former post for one more year. ---
In Budapest I learned things, which I have carried on later. I made my first prints using a colour roller there. At that time it was new to use colours and to combine relief and intaglio techniques. Experimental methods started to take place. It was in Hungary, where the plan to work as a freelance artist and printmaker matured.
I do not know, why I chose the graphic art. All started with painting and the colours have become lately more and more important. I have been looking for the ways to make a print to look painted. I use to make unique specimens. I work like a painter. Maybe I want both of them, everything. ---
Back to Joensuu - teaching, family life, artist life
In 1978 I moved from Rovaniemi back to Joensuu. --- The work as a teacher in the childrens art school etc. has given the daily bread, though I have been supported by grants almost from the very beginning of my career as an artist. ---
I married architect Antti Torikka in 1981. Our daughters were born in 1981 and 1985. --- The family life rounded off the edges, teached to let go and to understand more widely. It has helped to appreciate life and to widen self-knowledge. The commitments to the marriage and to have children are the strongest choices in one's life. ---
An uncomfortable feeling means the beginning of something new
--- The new works get started by walking, reading, talking to someone, keeping the eyes open, leaving somewhere. --- An uncomfortable feeling means, that something is developing. I have also learned to trust, that something will always come out. It is quite another matter to produce ideas for images. They do not roll anymore as they did earlier. ---
To start work there have to be silence and peace. I may go through drawings. I alter or tear prints. Sometimes I may have a vision of the picture to come. I may colour a bunch of papers with the colour roller. I have some feeling inside me, I choose a colour to represent it and use it. Colour is feeling.
When I am free from teaching, I have time to ski and walk. There is more space to start to work. And there ismore time to think: Does this print still lack something? Maybe that print would work better as a part of a series? ---
There are many preliminary works before the printing session. First, I tear rags, cut waste papers, check the press. I choose the paper size. Is it an etching with one plate or with some part of the plate or with several plates? You have to decide, if you are going to use transparent colours or to mix colours etc. The background of the picture is often made first with the colour roller, and then you print on that with the etching plate. After that it is time to make observations and stare. --- The work is built in layers. The artist also has to decide when the work is ready. A fault includes in the work. It is left there so that the picture could breathe without getting blocked. You have some kind of overall view in your mind when you start the work. Of course you have to know how to make it into practise. --- To make graphic art means daily battles in many stages. You can slaughter the plate, old prints can be miraculously saved, you can continue and varify the works. The final result is always a surprise.
In 1999 I started the Inartes Studies of Expressive Arts Therapy. They affect my artistic work, though the work of an art therapist and the work of a visual artist are totally different. I wanted to start the studies, because I needed to end something and to make a fresh start. I wanted to change. I was even ready to give up the printmaker's work and the studio. But it went the other way round. Things are clear now with blacks and greys and stronger colours. Painting is strenghtening. The studies have been significant to my life on the whole. Probably I would collapse every day without this education. Now I can face crisis. I do not carry burdens of things, which I can not help.
To travel is to be confused and to recognize
On the journey everything affects you. The everyday life of a foreign country makes you understand its culture. In a new place I try to understand little by little the headlines, for example. In a different culture you receive art in a different way. That face, that cock, that climber is repeated in the bus, on the road, in the painting. You sense that feeling when things have not changed. In the old paintings you see the same what you are seeing in the street now. ---
To be confused, not to know, is essential on the journey. Everybody else know how to be. --- They are here as a part of the thousand-year-old history, I am just a stranger. To be loose is a state of mind which gets stronger by accidental and intensive meetings. ---
I have been on educational visits to many European countries mostly staying in recidences with the help of grants: Hungary (Budapest), Spain (Marbella, Arenys de Mar, Barcelona), Denmark (Viborg), Italy (Grassina), Sweden (Gothenburg), Czech Republic (Prague), North-Eastern Estonia, Russian Karelia (Belomorsk).
Haze, smoke and colours in Grassina
In April in 2005 I was in Grassina with my old friends. My rhythm of life abroad and at home are quite similar, but it is more peaceful abroad. You have time, you can decide how to use it, the day feels longer. ---
Mornings and evenings I worked, in the daytime I visited Florence or walked in Grassina. I climbed hills up and down. There were also days when we stayed at home. Without earplugs I would have waked up as early as the blackbirds. From my bedroom window I could see the hills. Haze was rising early in the morning, later there was smoke in the air. Cocks were crowing, children were running. I had a morning and an evening walk every day. I was keeping a diary and I was making an artist's book.
To travel is to be unskilled, to learn, to work regularly. Three techniques are enough: big oil pastels with gouache, watercolours with writing and etching with colour rollers. ---
My doings abroad are simple. I write down the word of the day, what animal I saw today, what colour symbolizes this day, how it was today. ---
To collect things is a way to work. There is always something lying by the road. An observation is the starting point. I start from zero, I observe the surroundings. I see, for example, a cone, a branch of an olive tree, a mummified frog, something concrete which means something to me. --- Writing, sketching, keeping a diary are my working methods abroad. I save the postcards and letters. I write letters and take photographs. I plan ahead how I am going to continue my works at home. The prints will be produced only after I am in my studio at home.
An observation as a starting point is a joy, a trouble and a luck. It is connected to something bigger, to concentration and presence. It is essential. But there has to be distance before anything can develope. You have time to feel out what is coming. ---
It is more safe to be on the way than to be at home. Prejudices break down, you are face to face with your works and with yourself. Your fears disappear. The world is good - that is the most important experience from the journeys.
The petroglyph journeys to Lake Onega - as if I had come home
In 1993 I had an exhibition in Petrozavodsk. Then I had a chance to visit the petroglyph area of Lake Onega. The journey made a strong impact on me. It was as if I had come home. Maybe these journeys have affected my works most directly because of the frottages.
--- In the tent camp during for instance ten days there may be five or twenty-five persons, mostly artists and researchers from many countries. It is intensive life which feels longer than it actually is. ---
The petroglyphs of Lake Onega represent the old Finno-Ugric image tradition. They affect with their beauty, curiosity and finished forms. The rock art is a comprehensive experience because of its position and place. It is important, that I can touch the images with my own hands. --- There is no definitive interpretation of them, so you can think them over yourself. ---
I copy petroglyphs by rubbing them with chalk or graphite on paper. --- Later in my studio I make plastic stencils after the figures of these frottages. With the stencils I print figures in my works. Usually I use the petroglyph figures in their natural size. Sometimes I combine them in my own way. I choose the colours too. In my prints the animal and human figures often are combined with etched lines. I am fascinated by the frottages because of their relationship with the graphic arts. Both of them are based on leaving a track on paper.
The home district - to know how to react to sleet
A note written down on the plane (Frankfurt - Helsinki) 30.4.2005:
"To know how to react to sleet... Smells are not allowed... It is just Finland... to miss... a country where you have grown up... that everlasting wait for a proper summer..."
A note written down on the train (Tikkurila) 30.4.2005:
"I am looking at fields covered with snow, still white and shiny after a frosty night. A strange feeling, that I have not felt before. An affection for Finland. Field, soil, forest. Somebody is skiing in a flat field. Spring."