September’s Artist Interview: Riitta Liede

Posted on 2.9.2014

The artist and free journalist from Turku, Riitta Liede (b.1947), studied social sciences and journalism in the 1970s at the University of Tampere, and worked as an editor before her art studies.

”I was married and planned for our future together. Then my marriage ended suddenly. After the divorce I wanted to do something of my own, and so I studied art history at the University of Jyväskylä, which worked as a kindling for making art. Finally my artist friends urged me to apply to Turku Drawing School”, Liede recounts.

September's member is Riitta Liede.

September’s member is Riitta Liede.

Liede studied sculpture in Turku Drawing School in the years 1984-1988.

”I was 35 years old as I started in the Drawing School. Other students were young and I didn’t know many of them. It was demanding for a start, but in the end the time of my studies became a truly awesome period in my life”, Liede notes.

In the Drawing School the studies were based on learning by doing.

”In my first study year we tried out different mediums and I could never have imagined that I would specialize in sculpture. It just felt somehow natural. I really enjoyed making art, it felt extatic. The sculptor Erkki Mykrä was my teacher almost all of the time”, Liede recalls.

Liede held her first solo exhibitions in Galleria Joella in Turku and in Gallery Pirkko-Liisa Topelius in Helsinki in the year 1989. The same year Liede also participated in her first group exhibition in Turku.

”I was terribly busy in getting exhibition time in the earliest phase of my career as an artist”, Liede says.

Liede’s art combines her education both in social sciences and as a sculptor. Liede often draws from societal issues and a central theme for her art is the need of every person to become seen and heard as themselves.

She uses wood as well as found and recycled materials as the material for her works.

”The materials depend on working spaces, money and whether I’ve had a car or not. I’ve often made works from light materials because they’re easy to move”, Liede states.

While she was living in Malaga, Spain in the beginning of the 2000s, Liede sawed material for her works from the destructed ships of the illegal immigrants trying to get to Spain.

”Dead people that had traveled in them kept constantly floating ashore to the Spanish coast, and it struck me forcefully. Based on this theme I made works in Spain that later in Finland became the exhibition in Galleria Just Protection alarm – sighs from land and sea. The exhibition in its turn gave a stimulus to the play written by Seppo Parkkinen, The Memory of Maria Andersson, which was performed in Köysiteatteri, Turku. It’s great, if the theme keeps carrying on in this way”, Liede tells.

Besides Spain Liede has also been living in Senegal, where she visited for the first time in 1997 because she was interested in West African music. In year 2004 she participated in the Taf taf -project in Dakar.

”I lived in Senegal for a long time and was also married to a Senegalese man. I worked as a free-lance journalist and dealt with the Taf taf-project. At some point I also visited an artists’ residence in China. I returned to Finland in 2005”, Liede says.

Liede was chosen to the Turku Artists’ Association Board for the first time in 1998, and she functioned as chairwoman for the association in years 2008–2010.

”From the first meetings of the board I remember how everyone sat quietly and you had to bludgeon them for opinions. I wanted to change the meetings so that there would be discussion and the members could influence and plan the activities. The association also had to become a professional actor”, Liede says.

Besides art and association work Liede has worked as an editor and publicist, written art related articles and given presentations.

”I have always had an on-off relationship with making art. I don’t experience myself as a professional and I don’t even feel it is necessary. In the turning points of my life I have always been able to attach to art. The well-being that art promotes has always meant a great deal for me. I remember how they said at school that art shouldn’t be therapy, but for me it has been largely also that”, Liede recounts.

Nowadays Liede is retired, but there’s still plenty to do.

Two last winters Liede has been in Senegal again, this time hosting the international artist residence Waaw, which is located in Saint-Louis. Now Liede has other plans for the future.

”After retiring I wondered what one should do. I wanted my new idea to be something lifestyle-oriented. So I thought that I could make my ground floor apartment in Martti a meeting point for culture oriented people interested in current issues. There will be small lectures and discussions – and of course art, which could bring me into cooperation with the Artists’ Association”, Liede describes.

”Alkupiste” which will be opened in September 2014 is located in the so-called Alku house and it has a supporting association of the same name. Liede has just finished a history chronicle about the over 100 years old Alku house.

After the making of this interview Turku Artists’ Association invited Liede to become its honorary member. The invitation was justified by Liede’s activity, which had significantly promoted the fulfilment of association’s purposes. During her time as a chairwoman the activities of Turku Artists’ Association were significantly developed and expanded. Association’s policy was defined and goals were made in a way that enabled the association to function in the way it currently does.

More info about the artists’ residence Waaw:
Pictures about works:

Text: Enni Niemelä
Pictures: Enni Niemelä and Riitta Liede
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.