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When you talk about illusions, however, many times this type of works have more to explain than there is to see. By this I mean stories that are not actually your own and you don’t really know what you are talking about. It’s usually just like this – “I made a painting because I saw the movie” or “this painting is about this movie”. I find it more interesting when an artist tries to explain how to read the work in an unusual way. There is a real beauty in this difference when people use stories that are around.

I think it was Cage [John Cage] who said – “When you start painting there are million people breathing on your neck, but as you continue they become less and less in numbers. If you are lucky, in the end you are left with yourself.” This somehow describes what I talked about earlier – in the beginning there are many ideas and illusions, but as you continue working you realize that you cannot embrace it all, that your hands are not long enough.

You just mentioned your interest in the link between an artwork and a language. Has it influenced the way you name your artworks? How did the name “You’re hello I’m goodbye” appear?

I like to collect phrases. “You’re hello I’m goodbye” I found in a song but it easily links with an earlier show I had. It was called “On enter ok, on exit ok” [at The Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki, 2001], which basically meant “come in and get out”. This time, however, it’s is a contradiction in a single sentence. They are two parallel movements - like when kicking a ball and the ball flying over the goal; or trying to kick the ball but not being able to do it. It’s a miss. If you try to draw a picture, these diverse movements create a vacuum, openness.  It’s a misunderstanding and a part of everyday life. I hold on to this idea, when trying to figure out what these works are about.

The title of each artwork, however, was constructed of a weird language. I keep them quite abstract or I translate them into different languages and try them out. Art is a language for me and in that sense I try to find words that somehow sound phonetically relatable. I think that the most interesting sounds come from a combination between Swedish and German. They are really beautiful.

Being half German, have you explored or wanted to explore the contemporary art scene of Germany?

No, I moved quite early but looking at Germany from Finland it seems very interesting. To be honest, there has been a general move from Finland to Germany. It is also happening within the art scene – many artists have moved to Berlin but this movement is also bringing a lot of things back. The institutions follow these artists and then they bring back ideas. That is actually quite great because it carries new views.

Sometimes I have thought about moving there. It’s still an open subject. I don’t know what will happen. Maybe. It’s not a big deal for me – in the sense of a career choice. When you grow up with two languages, it’s like you are always not really there, but not there either – when you are in Finland, you look back at Germany; but when you are in Germany, you look back at Finland. It’s kind of a floating life. I guess it’s a natural thing.

This year Helsinki is carrying the title “World Design Capital” and Helsinki in general has been deeply linked with design. Do you think that maybe this has overshadowed the Finnish contemporary art scene?

Although previously the interest in art hasn’t been that high, at the moment we are starting to see things change – education process is happening. Artists are starting to expose themselves more and people are becoming more and more interested. Things are getting better.

I think that design has the ability to connect many different fields. The fusion of the Helsinki University of Technology (HUT), the Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration and the University of Art and Design proves that. You can easily spread design – you can use design everywhere. In that sense art is maybe not as accessible. Art is not so moldable. If you talk about objects – paintings or sculptures – you can place them, but they are very different from design. I think that people just haven’t been used to art but it’s something that you can learn – to look at art. And then you want to see more. 

Mikko Hintz sends many thanks to Nordic Culture Point, Katrina Sauškina from silkscreen studio LUSTE and Una Meiberga from Kalnciema ielas kvartāls.