Interview with Anna Tuori
Martti Anhava: You are now painting in darker colours than a few years ago. Is there any specific reason for that?
Anna Tuori: My explanation is that I grew tired of light tones, it's that artistic. But the colours that I use now function in the same way as white or light colours. When I paint larger works that acquire shape more slowly, I choose a passive overall colour that recedes. In that sense this somewhat dark green functions in the same manner as white. I don't want the overall colour to have any particularly prominent role. If I did, I'd probably paint red canvases. With regard to the way the colours behave, the scale mostly corresponds to that of my light works. So the change doesn't mean that I've moved from gay to sombre, only that it felt good to construct an image using different tubes of paint."

MA: For the viewer, however, dark tones readily find associations with sombreness, and vice-versa. Light tones seem to give light, while dark seems to absorb it.
AT: Of course. And when making the light-coloured paintings I even deliberately played with their lightness, testing if light and even tones regarded as treacly had some other dimension to them. Experiments like that aren't so obvious in the dark works, although a treacliness of a kind can be found in them, too.

MA: Your previous works left me with an impression that seemed hover somewhere on the borderlines of an idyllic-nostalgic fairytale image, while nonetheless more open to interpretation and offering an intellectual challenge. You've also used a lot of animal motifs. How did you originally become interested in figures of that kind?
AT: I have banal answers to that. Animals correspond to faceless human figures, images of human beings in a sense. One can identify more freely with a monkey, for example, when it isn't of a certain age and a certain appearance, when it can't be defined by such standards.

MA: The paintings that we are looking at here are, in a manner of speaking, figurative. Do you start from a subject? In order words, do you first choose the central theme and the image starts to evolve from it?
AT: It mostly goes the other way round. If I explain the subject too much to myself and try to think of how to depict it, it becomes pure illustration and it doesn't work at all. In the sense of 'now I'm going to address fear and'…. I go through a great number of images and try to get a hold of something that might be interesting, without analysing why in any way. I set them aside and I when go through them again I can see, hey, this works. You have to pull a picture out of your hat by mistake, one that will evolve to contain what one wants to say.

MA: Do you mean that when you browse images you try to act as if you didn't know what you're looking for? And then there comes a picture that …
AT: … touches me or draws my attention. In principle, yes. Of course there's the undercurrent of my attitude, but the individual image has to surprise me, and then I have to include the 'thing' in it. In principle I could even take a potato and it would have my thing about it if I could paint it well. So, even a potato could be the thing.

MA: What kind of images do you browse when you're looking for them? Picture books, newspapers…
AT: Anything. I browse the newspaper every morning to see if there might be something there. And if there is I cut it out and set it aside.
When I studied at the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts, there was a strong concept of expressivist painting there. In France I studied at a multimedia studio where conceptual art was the main thing, but they also painted there, and it was the complete opposite of the Academy. The Academy's message was basically that feeling comes straight from the heart and it is squeezed through the tube and brushstrokes onto the canvas. In France I was taught to read five books before making a single brushstroke and to consider carefully what kind of brushstroke that would be.
The joint effect of those experiences was perhaps that I started to become interested in expression with the brush, the point where expression is expression. The expressivist idea is void in the sense that even though you might want to paint as expressively as you can, you have to make quite a few choices about what to include and what to leave out, so that creating the image involves clearly explicit construction. There simply isn't any mindless connection with the heart that people want to understand as expressionism. That led to an unforced consideration of the boundary between expression and decoration, conscious decoration, and the kind of dialogue they could have. There can be a place in a painting where you can have highly conscious deliberation, but that is based on an expressive stroke and not on a brushstroke that seeks to be natural. And then you see a lot expressivist painting that looks mannerist, because the artist's awareness of the refinement of his or her expression is too obvious.

MA: So in France, then, images were interpreted in an overly abstracted and theoretical manner?
AT: Yes. The opposition with the Finnish attitude seemed an outright caricature; it had elements of comedy to it. There was a lion in one of my paintings, so they gave me ten books to read because of that. I gave the books back and said that since that lion is now there, it just might not become anything else. When you're learning to paint I think the real challenge is to acquire, through the work, some kind of consistency, confidence and faith in the medium and your own means, in the actual painting. No one can teach that and there are no textbooks for that. And since this is the ultimate point, difficult or at least inexplicable, it seemed as if people were fleeing into theories and abstractions, because you could always explain or gloss over things with them. Of course you can add explanations to anything, but that will soon lead to the problem of banality. For example, if you read a book about the problem of otherness and you make an image in which two faces are looking at each other, of course it's banal and boring.

An idea of authenticity is still maintained to a great deal in Finland with all kinds of annoying things about it. It is also reflected in choices of subject and theme. Brutality of a kind or certain bombastic themes are authenticity, also the tradition of so-called disgusting realism, which isn't actually realism but disgusting expressionism. Likewise, a feeling of disgust for sweet themes, which are to be regarded as postcard stuff. When you consider the issues of expression you mustn't get stuck in things as superficial as whether or not a man has a bare arse in a picture, or whether a girl is wearing a dress. What exactly is the difference between these subjects? It's a bit like with colours. What's the difference between a brown pile and a pink speck? Of course there's a clear difference because all kinds of things are associated with them, but is it a difference of expression? We should remember that any painting, however instinctive, is also an immensely conscious effort to envision that painting in the environment seen by the artist. So everything is participation in a discourse on painting: what painting is and what it could and should be.

MA: Although the idea of things coming straight from the heart seems hackneyed and trite, I've noticed that something like that nonetheless lies behind the work of most painters, their ultimate faith in the whole thing. Of course they use different terms for their guiding idea, but the core is ultimately the same.
AT: Of course I, too, think that content comes from the heart, but with regard to form and expression… what I find oppressing and stupid is the rejection of the explicit and intellectual element. It's as if there were some kind of childlike state where authenticity is sought without thinking. My painting, too, proceeds from things that touch and bother me and which I have to address in some way. I don't try to tell about them directly , but they provide the feeling that I want to include. Or you could say that there are things, especially related to my own experiences, that I can't break down, but I try to use the feeling, disturbance or ambivalence arising from them, the fact that they come back to mind again and again. It try in my own way to declare that authenticity is the most essential thing, but it's something else than aesthetics or a certain mannerism.

MA: Do you work through sketches?
AT: No, not usually. When I've started to make an image and it gets stuck somewhere, I stop the work and try some other way. In those situations you notice that a kind of logic and fluidity must remain to maintain faith. The whole painting is based on it, and through it the world of meanings can become what it becomes. At the point where faith is lost, the logical set-up is also broken. If the painting gets a flow, thinking will proceed and remain logical. If there comes a feeling that this isn't quite working and you start to save it, consistency is lost.

MA: You mean then that there isn't logic on the one hand and flow on the other, but instead the logic is there in the flow?

AT: Of course logic also means focus on the work and conscious evaluation, but in the final analysis you can't separate flow from logic. And the interesting thing is that a whole painting can be just a brushstroke if the faith remains in it. Strength, assurance and precision specifically come from the consistency that moves the brush, which is faithful to the receding point and cannot be named but will provide the direction.

MA: Despite logic and explicit solutions, flow sounds like something akin to improvisation. And you feel that the flow is essential to that faith.
AT: Yes. I think it can be seen immediately if I don't have it. And you can see it in the work of others, too.