Anu Nirkko (b. 1961) is a Helsinki-based visual and performance artist. Nirkko's production includes paintings, installations and environmental art. She also uses drawing and photography as her tools.
At the heart of Nirkko’s art are presence and encounters, with people as well as nature. In her work, she often deals with the customs, beliefs and myths of different cultures.
Anu Nirkko graduated as a visual artist from the MAA School of Art in 1999 and completed “Space and Art” specialization studies at Lahti University of Applied Sciences in 2004-2005.
Since 2000, Nirkko has held solo exhibitions and participated in joint exhibitions in Finland and abroad. She has been organizing group exhibitions and environmental art exhibitions for example in Kivinokka and Vartiosaari, Helsinki. Her works can be found in private collections as well as in state art collections. Nirkko's works are on sale at the Helsinki Artists' Association's art loan office.
Anu Nirkko belongs to the Finnish Painters 'Association, MUU ry, the Helsinki Artists' Association, the LaruArt environmental art association and the artist collective Mind Mappers. Nirkko actively participates in the exhibitions and other activities of the mentioned organizations. As a performing artist, Nirkko has been a member of the “In Other Spaces” collective since 2015
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10 questions for Anu Nirkko
1. You work with many different methods and areas. How do you define yourself as an artist?
- I consider myself as a visual artist who makes art in different ways. I have painted and made environmental art and installations side by side from the beginning.
2. How do you think the different modes of expression relate or support each other?
- Environmental art takes place outdoors, and the idea to work usually starts within the place where it is done, the history and culture of the place. Environmental art often takes place in the spring time and exhibitions are often in the summer.
- The starting points for painting are different. I often have a photo or drawing, some concrete thing as a starting point. It often feels laborious to start painting. It’s its own process that requires a workout to get the routine. But in work “Bread and salt,” for example, I combined both, painting and installation.
3. Have you always worked alone or have you done joint projects?
- I have worked with young people. I have been directing art groups at the "House of the Helsinki Girls" for long time. Together with the young people, we have done, for example, a mural for the Brahe field and environmental art works for the Lapinlahti hospital area and Mustikkamaa.
4. Who are your role models as artists?
- I am interested in subconscious work based on artist's own thoughts and imagination. One such is, for example, sculptor Louise Bourgeous. On the other hand, I am interested in the documentary starting point and the description of everyday life. I like documentaries a lot. From Environmental art side, I like Ana Mendieta a lot.
5. How much do you plan your works in advance?
- Things are progressing best by doing. For example, when you start drawing on a topic, even if you don’t know what it will become. So I don’t plan carefully in advance.
6. What do colors mean to you? What is your favorite color?
- It have varied a lot. At first, I used broken earth tones. At one point I painted in really bright, fairly pure colors, and at one point again in pastel-type light colors. I have also been using only black and shades of gray. Yes, it can be said that they have been different periods. I have also varied colors by topic.
7. Do you change your works afterwards?
- I don't change the painting much. I paint with tempera and I like that the whiteness of the canvas can be seen through the colors. I think the tempera colors are just beautiful and there are a lot of different pigments available. They should not be mixed on a palette, but rather on a canvas.
8. Has art in some way “saved” you at some point in your life?
- It's a really important thing. Making art is my way of being in this world. I have an observer role i.e. I look at the world from the side and make the art from what I see.
9. Are there other things besides visual art that you draw ideas from?
- Definitely nature. If for one reason or another I don’t like being in the studio, I go to the woods or the beach. I've photographed and drawn a lot outdoors. Trees are really important to me. I feel they are like individuals, safe and wise. And some old cliffs and rocks by the sea are like my friends.
10. What is most important in life? What makes you happy?
- I like the company of people and there has been a small dilemma when doing fine art is pretty lonely. I was wondering how I could make art more social and I think it’s not impossible. Working alone in the studio is not always the most comfortable way of working.
- I lazily read about different economic forms, but I have been recent interest in solidarity economy. I think money should be treated differently. It is not fair that things cost the same regardless of whether people have money or not. Things should be able to pay by working. By working together, you can change the world and get things done. It only requires people to participate and invest some time and effort.
The interview was made by Sami Nissinen