FLUXATIONS 2017: Interview with the Artist Saara Ekström

Posted on 6.3.2017

Saara Ekström is interested in different point of views and mediums and has made art in the forms of video, newspaper, installation and photograph.

Ever since she was a child, Saara Ekström has been interested in the visual world. Feeling the shapes and the touch of the everyday materials, organizing artifacts and drawing things were all part of this game of perceiving the world and her self that is still going on.

Saara Ekström studied painting at the Turku Drawing School during 1983-86 and sculpture and photography at the Northern Arizona University in 1995-96. During that time, the school didn’t offer any media studies. The whole field was just making it’s way to Finland. Ekström got to know video installations particularly in the United States.

“Artist like Bill Viola and Bruce Naumann, among many others, broadened the understanding of the spatial and contentual aspects of the video art. Before that, pioneers of the avant-garde, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Maya Deren, Luis Bunuel among others, confused and fascinated us with their ‘dream images’. They made visual and optical experimentations creating their own unconventional, delirious and anarchistic language. Both the avant-gardists and surrealists were looking for new ways for expressing their selves. They wanted to visualize the dreams they dreamed and reality they experienced without opening the mysterious and hidden layers connected to these things. This kind of instinctiveness and willingness to challenge one self’s boundaries – ability to see un-visible and embody it – is something I wish I could bring more to my own working process”, Ekström says.

Some influences of Ekström’s art come even further away, from the golden age of the Northern European art.

“In my work, I have commented the 16th to 18th centuries Dutch and Flemish stilleben and vanitas motives. Still life paintings of that time contained symbolic references about the time passing in the forms of different artefacts and plants. I’ve worked with these same themes with moving image. At first, I was interested in the concept of time and representations and visualizations of it. A camera became kind of an instrument of study for me. An instrument, that allows one to portray things that eyes can’t register. Video made it possible to document processes like growth and withering of things. With editing you can stretch, fasten and reverse time. Although the viewer understands the basic mechanics of the effect, it still manages to make a magical and strange impact“, Ekström tells.

Ekström has done more than just video art. She’s interested in different point of views and mediums and has made art in the forms of video, newspaper, installation and photograph. For Ekström, the form of making art is related to the subject in hand. She chooses the medium based on which ever feels like the most natural approach to concretize her subject. When Ekström makes art, she feels like learning something new and that keeps the interest up for the working.

“In a way this is a profession that requires falling in love with it over and over again. It’s a relationship that needs respect and nurturing in order to keep alive. Artistry isn’t an act of automation but a constant process that consists of learning and observing. Making of art is connected to the world and people around us, and for me personally, it is important to see how my works are connecting and resonating with everything around us”, Ekström describes.

Ekström finds inspiration from varied sources: for example from conversations, literature, music, movies, history, art and all of those things happening around us.

“The source of my inspiration is depending on the artwork that I’m currently working on. For example, some specific type of music or piece of literature may serve as a data bank for me. A bank from which I can draw inspiration from: “put flesh to the bones” in so speaking. At first the impulse comes and right after that the experience of that what it is that needs to be said. The birth of an impulse is a complex thing. It may for example be provoked by a state of a political affair: like the cut offs of the funding of the library and other cultural instances. The maintaining structures of culture, civilization, diversity and equality are being undermined pretty badly at the moments, and it is a scary thing. Like everybody else, I’m exposed to these things and they are demanding my attention”, Ekström says.

A Rose is Sorrows puts together concepts of time, memory, materiality and history

Fluxations 2017 presents Saara Ekström’s work A Rose is Sorrows (2011). The work is based on time-lapse photography and it includes a pseudoscientific aspect, characteristic feature for Ekström’s work. A Rose is Sorrows combines many different themes: it deals with the concepts of time, memory and materiality, and it also offers a generalized view of a personal history. In the artwork, hand-sized plant unveils things about different things: artifacts like a key, a necklace, a lock of a child’s hair, are familiar to everybody but they’re also connected to the past of the artist.

“In the artwork, I chose to show things and artifacts that are both personally meaningful and generally humane and relatable. There’s for example a tress of my newborn father’s hair that my grandmother preserved in a small box. Time folds in my hands. In the work, the fern like plant with its’ rhizomes relates to us in the individual level, but also provokes broader ideas about the branches of the family tree. The artifacts shown in the video represent the building material we use to build our identities. They represent preserved memories and everything that ties us together with the past and the community. They tell a story about the ways people are dependent on everything and the ways experiences affect individuals and through them the whole surrounding world. In that way, these small objects that stem from the memory become bigger than their size“, Ekström describes.

Fluxations 2017 brings art to the people and Ekström sees these kinds of events important. She is hoping that art would touch larger group of a people that it is doing right know. She also wishes that art could be more easily approachable for people.

“For many reasons, people feel like art is a difficult thing to approach. Everybody has those things that they feel disconnect and skeptic about but it is often a good and healthy thing to challenge our selves and question our attitude towards something”, Ekström says.

Turku Artists Association presents the curator and each of the Fluxations 2017 artists. The interviews are published before the event on Turku Artists Association’s webpages and on Facebook.