December’s Artist Interview: Hanna-Leena Partanen

Posted on 2.12.2014

The artist from Taivalkoski, Hanna-Leena Partanen (b. 1984) liked drawing and making stories already as a child. Later Partanen went to a high school specialised in art in Oulu and dreamt about studying graphic design.

”I thought then that the work of a graphic designer could be more reasonable in terms of making your living than being a free artist. I fought with it for a long time and thought that I couldn’t make it as an artist. Subsequently I’ve discovered that free expression is actually easier for me than for instance designing logos for clients”, Partanen says.

After high school Partanen didn’t get in the school for graphic design, for which reason she went to Liminka art school to practice different techniques. In Liminka Partanen started seriously considering artist’s profession, and in year 2006 she started her studies in Turku Arts Academy.

”It is good if you have realistic expectations already when applying to an art school. An artist’s work is very independent and varies a lot. Luckily, in Arts Academy they encourage to find out things about artist’s work yourself, and to find your own way to survive”, Partanen says.

Hanna-Leena and her dog called Evano.

Hanna-Leena and her dog called Evano.

Partanen graduated as painter from Arts Academy in year 2010.

”I’ve switched back to watercolours, with which I started painting when I was in secondary school. It felt good to paint with watercolours already then. I tried acrylics for the first time in high school, but it didn’t come easy. In Liminka and Arts Academy acrylic and oil painting were practised a lot, but watercolour just feels own. I also often combine drawing to my works, and I am interested in making installations and wall paintings”, Partanen recounts.

Partanen paints figurative works, in which she combines random and more precise processing. The subjects are often very personal.

”If the motif is personal, I may hide it by naming the work on some general level. On the other hand my personal experiences can also be universal – such that others can relate to them as well. Most often my works depict a human being, but I also paint landscapes, atmospheres and different situations. I observe my own feelings and emotional reactions and study what it is to be human. Melancholy and weirdness are also clues to my oeuvre”, Partanen reveals.

While in school, Partanen did lots of self portraits and also in her degree work she studied self portraits and autobiographical art. The work Säälinkalastelija (Fishing for pity), exhibited in Turku Artists’ Associations 89th annual exhibition in 2013, was also a self portrait.

”When I make a self portrait, the audience knows that it is associated with me, and I incur and set painful and personal things before others. Fishing for pity is a contemtible trait in a human being, so it was difficult to deal with it in a self portrait. The result was a little ridiculous: pity-fisher doesn’t only walloe in one’s emotions but also peeks through her fingers if she’s got any attention”, Partanen smiles.

Partanen has been thinking a lot about how people deal with contemporary art.

Art works and art supplies.

Art works and art supplies.

”Sometimes I get annoyed when I hear people say that they don’t know anything about art. In my view you can just like an artwork, and there doesn’t have to be anything more mystical. Just like you can just listen to music so that you like what you hear, and don’t take into account the message hidden in the lyrics. Especially young adults are often really skilled at making interpretations and enjoying mass culture – interpreting visual art isn’t any more difficult”, Partanen says.

Partanen works in a joint studio in Manilla, Turku.

”In the future I’d like to visit my studio more often. Sometimes I feel restless, because I don’t think I have really gotten about with making art yet. The work of an artist is really challenging, because there isn’t a clear goal, like selling the work. You have to be really disciplined and get used to questioning yourself”, Partanen states.

Partanen has many aspirations and plans for the future.

”I hope that I could challenge and develop myself in the future. It would be nice to have exhibitions also outside Turku and get a rhythm to working in general: I would visit my studio regularly, make applications and save some time for thinking about my subjects. I also dream about telling bigger stories and making work series”, Partanen lists.

After making the interview Partanen has joined to Turku Artists’ Association’s Board, taken part in the 90th annual exhibition, made poster pictures for a metal festival and painted by substriction a portrait of a professor working in University of Turku.

”On top of that I’ve been working on my own works. I’m foisting acrylic in the place of watercolour again, but I’m aiming to paint with a really watery style with it as well”, Partanen says.

Works by the artist in Turku Artoteque.

Text: Enni Niemelä
Pictures: Hanna-Leena Partanen
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.