April’s Artist Interview: Toni Hautamäki

Posted on 1.4.2014

Toni Hautamäki (b. 1977) creates nonfigurative and colourful paintings in his workspace in Barker, Turku. His plaid paintings often get their inspiration from nature, where Hautamäki seeks for colours often with camera and sometimes using watercolour. For Hautamäki the interaction of colours in the works and their relationship to nature and environment are important in painting.


April's artist is Toni Hautamäki.

April’s artist is Toni Hautamäki.

“You can’t describe with words what you depict; it has to be shown in painting. What interests me in painting is precisely what kind of possibilities there are to express something without words or narration. Earlier I didn’t name my paintings but nowadays I try to lead the viewer into some direction with the name of the painting. It is important for me to hear viewers’ interpretations, and sometimes they affect the paintings I’m working on or longer processes. You should use a sufficient amount of time looking at a painting so that you can enter its world. Painting is slow and takes time, just as its interpretation is”, Hautamäki ponders.


In addition to traditional painting Hautamäki has made environmental and community-based art in Senegal and in Varissuo. The point of departure for Hautamäki’s art is in American abstract painting and sculpture from 1950s and 1960s and the works by 1910-20s avant-garde artists. Also earlier art inspires him.


”Contemporary art is always repeating something, there isn’t really anything new. You can’t break with the tradition of art. I guess that in the end all art’s motifs, themes and symbols derive from Antiquity or Mesopotamia – or perhaps from your own childhood”, Hautamäki says.


Hautamäki studied first in Liminka art school, until in 2000 he came in Turku Arts Academy to study painting. In year 2009 Hautamäki graduated as Master of Arts from Finnish Academy of Fine Arts. As his degree work he painted a work called Monument to the Single-minded on the ventilation pipes in front of Tennispalatsi, Helsinki. While studying in Helsinki he noticed that competition between artists can be tough if egos start getting big.


“With respect to my career I could have stayed in Helsinki where there’s better opportunities to build networks and promote yourself. You can even get a work sold there! But I moved from Helsinki back to Turku because it’s cosier to be here. I may lack a little ambition”, Hautamäki says with a smile.


Lately Hautamäki has thought a lot about how he spends his time: there rarely seems to be enough of it. ”There is a lot about the work of an artist what the so-called audience doesn’t see. That you want to develop as an artist in peace, might to some sound like an excuse to not having to do anything. People understand that for instance Tero Pitkämäki doesn’t only take part in competitions, but before the competitions he has needed hundreds of hours to practice javelin. In the same way I have to develop myself as an artist”, Hautamäki says.


According to Hautamäki, a young artist has to create his/her own job: artist is an entrepreneur and often has to do it alone. Many young adults can burn out in the middle of all the hurrying and worrying about money. This is something that should be discussed more, according to Hautamäki.


“It may well be that nothing happens to you in a couple of years. You get operating loss, so to speak. That’s because you pay rent for your workspace but there are no exhibitions and you don’t sell anything. Nice thing about economical independency would be that I could concentrate fully on art and all the stray and pondering that relates to it”, Hautamäki says.


Hautamäki feels that he himself is just at the beginning of his career, too.


”I ask myself daily, why I do art”, Hautamäki tells.


Hautamäki has noticed that working with art goes in cycles: sometimes it’s really easy, and sometimes the artist has continuously to search for himself and justify his choices for himself. The same goes for life.


”I don’t know if the qualities of art itself develop in cycles. Sometimes artists emerge, who manage to picture the essential about the moment, so to speak. I’ve thought about Paul Gauguin’s work Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?, and about how I could myself set this time into pictures, where we are coming from and where we are going. These kinds of thoughts are usually pushed away from consciousness when the society is suffering hard times. Also during the ongoing recession the role of entertainment is emphasized: people stare at their Xboxes rather than look at paintings. This kind of escapism is interesting from the point of view of an artist”, Hautamäki says.



Becoming a father has again made Hautamäki wonder about what he wants in life. At the same time he has thought in general, what kind of a role an artist has in society.


”I don’t want to become just an old man with a lot of paintings. An artist should give voice to them who wake up to work every morning at six, or be an observer who mediates to others what he sees – sort of in return to everything that society has given him/her. Sometimes I ask myself, if I am privileged to have jumped out of the treadmill of everyday chores. On the other hand, I have to live with this responsibility of an artist”, Hautamäki ponders.


According to Hautamäki art is a part of our culture as well as a part of normal life. Artist gives something to the society through art and thus deserves its economic support. Nevertheless,  art is also personal and even individualistic.


”I do paintings, careless of whether somebody buys them or not. I do this in order to stay sane. That is to say, I paint to myself, and this has been a fundamental insight for me in relation to my career”, Hautamäki says.


Blogs by Hautamäki:



Music by Hautamäki and the band Mot Mot:



Text and pictures: Enni Niemelä

Translated by Pirkko Holmberg



In honour of Turku Artists Association’s 90-years-jubilee the association presents one of its members per month throughout the whole year. Artists Association’s apprentice Enni Niemelä interviewed the members in year 2013. The interviews are published the first Tuesday of every month on Turku Artists Association’s webpages and on Facebook.