FLUXATIONS 2017: Interview with the Artist Salla Myllylä

Posted on 2.3.2017

The moving image inspires Salla Myllylä because she considers it to be the best medium for her to communicate and convey her thoughts.

Salla Myllylä’s inspiration for making art is based on the way she observes her surroundings and the changes that for example light creates in them. She started to make images of all that she saw in order to bring her perceptions to peoples notice.

Salla Myllylä (b.1961) became a video artist through drawing. She studied drawing and painting in the Free Art School graduating in 2009. After working for few years she continued her studies in the Academy of Fine Arts where she earned Master’s Degree in 2014. Myllylä lives and works in Helsinki.

“I started to make art in the early 2000s. It all started with the perceptions I was making of my surroundings in the suburban neighborhood in East Helsinki. I tried to share my findings with people, but soon noticed that nobody really did feel like listening my thoughts. I started to create images so that people would notice the same things I was seeing. With the art studies my motivation became even subtler focusing also in the process of perception itself: What kind of things we notice and why?”, Myllylä says.

In the Free Art School studying was pretty much based on drawing and painting. In her final year Myllylä focused on working with a charcoal. She got inspired by the charcoal animations by William Kentridge and wanted to try the same technique in her own works. Her thesis for the Free Art School consisted of charcoal illustrations and a charcoal animation and she continued to work on with the same technique after her graduation. With the studies in the Academy of Fine Arts studies, Myllylä started to make different kinds of moving images.

“In the Academy of Fine Arts my major was graphic arts but my studies also included some media art classes. In the academy I learned to use technical tools such as editing softwares better. I also got to try out different styles to project video images to the space. The most important and influential course in my studies was this class called ‘Moving image as a part of the working process’ taught by Marjatta Oja. The course brought together students from different fields. The aim of the class wasn’t to learn about filmmaking but rather about moving image in general as a part of the set of different mediums. After another graphic art related course held in an old factory building in Suvilahti (Helsinki), it really hit me that the site-specific art was the right working form for me”, Myllylä tells.

To Myllylä the most interesting projects are site-specific ones: when she is able to shoot and show the work in a same place. The moving image inspires Myllylä because she considers it to be the best medium for her to communicate and convey her thoughts.

“I rather speak about ‘moving image’ than ‘video art’ because I consider the former term resonating better with painting and drawing. I relate to painting and drawing in that sense that my perceptions or impressions of things are in many ways similar to ones made by painters or illustrators. There’s often this drawing figure or drawing hand motive that I keep repeating in my art works“, Myllylä describes.

“Midsummer night” is like a dream image of a stove

Myllylä’s work Midsummer night/Kesäyön uuni is one one of the videos presented in the Fluxations 2017. The work is based on time lapse photography in the Old Town Hall Gallery in 2016. It was presented for the first time in the group exhibition that Myllylä held together with fellow artists Ulla Leppävuori and Maria Pääkkönen. The exhibiton ”Imagine / experience / gather” played with the concept of space from different angles. Myllylä was pleased to get an opportunity to create a site-specific piece of art. She was also really happy about the way practical arrangements went in the gallery.

“My starting point in the Old Town Hall Gallery was the physical space itself. It was far away from this neutral white box of a space. When I first visited the gallery I noticed this old ceramic stove that stood in the corner of the room. The surface of it reflected the light in a really fascinating way. I photographed the stove day and night round the clock during many days in July 2016. At daytime the stove showed reflections of the view from the window opposite side of the room. At night time, the light from the street lamps showered the stove with orange shade of glow. I had never been in the gallery space during the night time, so the view really took me by surprise. The experience of this time lapse shooting functioned as a kind of discovery: it expands the perception“, Myllylä tells.

In the Town Hall Gallery exhibition, Myllylä projected her work beside the stove. In that way the work kind of gave this replicated view of the reality and it also inspired the work’s name. The video projection of the stove presented beside the real stove was like a dream image. At the moment Midsummer night is presented in the Charlottenborg Spring Exhibition in Copenhagen. Seeing the work travel from place to place is really interesting for Myllylä to see.

Myllylä thinks that Finnish media art is appreciated both in Finland and abroad. Although she feels that the small amount of the grants admitted to artists affect the working process. She also thinks that it is quite difficult to receive a grant for making site-specific art. That’s because of the quick nature of these kinds of works: they often born quickly as a reaction to some specific place. Installations aren’t cheap to present because of the expensive equipment rents and that sometimes forces artists make compromises and give up on the ideas that they might have originally had for showing their work.

Myllylä thinks that there is a lot of potential in showing video art in public spaces but she also thinks that this potential isn’t yet properly used. She’s especially interested in showing video art in every day surroundings but there’s lot of challenges regarding to the subject:

“Fluxations is a good example of an event that brings the video art to the everyday surroundings. There are definitely some challenges for example with lightning or the maintenance of the equipment but those challenges aren’t overbearing, they’re manageable. We should try to develop different solutions and some kind of structure on how to bring the video art to the public space. One of my own works was showed in the dayroom of the hospital in Tampere. We should have more of these kinds of experiments“, Myllylä points out.

Photo: Lassi Laakso

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.