January’s Artist Interview: Eija Tähkäpää

Posted on 7.1.2014

Eija Tähkäpää (born 1956) had felt like an artist since childhood, so applying to Turku Drawing School was a natural choice. She studied there during years 1974-78. The students formed a kind of family supporting each other and they spent a lot of time together. Pub Hämeenportti was like another home for students and the queues could last for hours.

Turun Taiteilijaseuran tammikuun jäsenhaastattelussa Eija Tähkäpää

January’s Artist Interview: Eija Tähkäpää

The studies were quite traditional at the time: drawing, painting, sculpture. There were few teachers, and Tähkäpää says she has learned most from her fellow students.

Turku Artists’ Association’s exhibition space in the seventies was in Taidehalli (Art Hall) on Kauppiaskatu, where students of the Drawing School could also have their own group exhibitions.

“Taidehalli was a ‘real’ gallery. The rooms were gorgeous and continued to the second floor. I remember well admiring the logo of the Artists’ Association on the wall of the exhibition space. It was really awesome to get one’s own work exhibited there”, Tähkäpää says.

Tähkäpää remembers how one day during the exhibition was really quiet. So one of her fellow students, artist Eija Ruoho, decided to go to the window and show her leg, so that the exhibition could get visitors.

”Instantly, as Eija went to the window, a derelict stepped in” Tähkäpää laughs.

Students had to watch over their exhibition themselves, but often it was forgotten and the students spent their time in the back. Once a passerby succeeded in stealing one of Tähkäpää’s paintings that was hanging just beside the door. In the painting there were Chinese children holding their hems. The painting was never returned.

Self-made labels.

Self-made labels.

Tähkäpää joined Turku Artists’ Association in the late 1980s. She was active in the association board in the early 1990s, when the city of Turku offered a small building, a former well and nowadays a toilet on Itäinen Rantakatu beside Samppalinna hill, for the association. Artists’ Association arranged for three times a happening, where the members of the association could sell beer bottles with self-made labels. The bottles sold well. Tähkäpää has saved some of the labels in her clipping books. Some of them were made by well-known artists.

Labels made by association's members.

Labels made by association’s members.

At the time Tähkäpää took part on several theme exhibitions of the Artists’ Association. She remembers particularly one exhibition by the theme Death.

”The lights of the exhibition space were turned off completely. Thus the exhibited works were seen by no one, except for maybe art critics, who were given flashlights”, Tähkäpää remembers.

Tähkäpää is interested in many different ways of making art and she uses a wide variety of materials and techniques. She has made paper and woven textile. In addition she has made several artist books, small artworks with a book motive.

Tähkäpää has participated in the making of outdoor exhibitions by the association Taivasalla. In a forest on the border of Lieto and Turku they combined a walk in the forest with a visit in the exhibition. A table with a white tablecloth was laid near the works, where people could write their name. During the weekend 350 names were written on the cloth, which is a lot compared to the number of visitors in art galleries.

Besides Drawing school Tähkäpää has graduated from higher level education in 2002. She wonders, though, if you can ever become an artist through for example education.

Eija Tähkäpää

Eija Tähkäpää.

“It’s nothing so strange being an artist. I often feel that I haven’t done anything so amazing in my life. Then I bladder through my clipping books and there are all kinds of peculiar things ”, Tähkäpää wonders.

Tähkäpää works as an art teacher for children and seniors. She gets a lot of inspiration from teaching children. It’s also important to teach art for children: that’s how art exhibitions and art events get audience. According to Tähkäpää “decent people” may be afraid of going to an art exhibition, although everyone should feel welcome.

Besides children Tähkäpää gets inspiration from theater, but so far she doesn’t have other hobbies.

”An artist doesn’t need to have so many hobbies; the work is already so giving. But maybe it would be good to play football or something.”

Text and pictures: Enni Niemelä
Translated by Pirkko Holmberg

In honour of Turku Artists Association’s 90-years-jubilee the association wants to present one of its members per month throughout the whole year. Artists Associations apprentice Enni Niemelä interviewed the members in year 2013.