INTERVIEW WITH JANNE PARVIAINEN
Janne Parviainen is a 38-year-old Finnish artist.
He is one of the best known light painting artists; and his performances, light installations and performances have guaranteed him a series of mentions International.
With 20 years of experience behind him as an artist with a recognizable style characterized by oil painting that combines with leaves of metal, glass and other elements, Janne has also taught painting and drawing around Finland.
In some of your interviews I read that you like to choose abandoned places to set your photos because "they are places lived and full of stories to tell, they are lost diaries and photos re-emerge the lives they pass in those places". The subjects that animate these places are often skeletons, souls and I wonder how much importance is also the narrative component behind the birth of your works? Are the stories to start the artistic process or the images that revealing themselves tell a story?
When I'm photographing in a new place I always try to improvise based on the feeling and visuality of the surroundings. Usually, the story I want to tell through my photos is easily found, since I've gotten a good hunch on seeing which objects and rhythms work well in telling a story. The humane characters such as skeletons and light figures are a good tool in adding storytelling elements to the photo since we can read the body language of them easily.
Abandoned places are some of my favorite places to take photos in because of they have poetic beauty in them, and they are packed with stories to tell. In the abandoned places life is still and you can more easily attune to listen to what it has to tell and to let your imagination run free. One of my favorite things is to collect trash and other interesting objects from the locations and to build improvised trash sculptures to accompany the light paintings in the photos. As in my studio installations, I like the idea that the art I make is just temporary and it can be taken to parts or painted over after the photo is taken. There is something very zen in working for a long time on something that you know will be gone the next day, it is the act of doing that matters the most.
I like the idea that your choice of light painting is also the possibility that it gives you continuous evolution and change. Do you think that the technique itself can also change, evolving in a different way? Have you already taken some ideas about it?
The main thing I love in light art is that it leads the way forward, it's like I'm on a rollercoaster ride to new ways of thinking and how to create art. I am sure the technique itself is always changing too, and light art and light painting are both so relatively new techniques that we're just at the beginning of seeing how far it can go. What first attracted me most when finding light painting was the idea of the number of possibilities where to go with the medium. With new light innovations coming all the time and with artists collaborating and getting ideas from each other's work, the possibilities are endless. The only risk in slowing down the process with light art is the medium itself. Because light creates interesting effects so easily, it is easy to get satisfied with only that without seeing the possibilities behind the wow-effect.
There is a somewhat ambivalent message that comes from your works. There is a dark sense given by abandoned places, by the ghosts that animate them, but the idea of humor that can be read very often between the lines is also strong. What is the message you want to transpire from your works what do you want to communicate? Who is the audience you are targeting?
My audience is whoever stops to see my art and finds it has something to tell you, whether it be an installation or a light painting photo. Art is such an intimate thing, that you can't pin down a specific audience, it's more about are you open to hear what the art has to tell you at that moment.
I believe in spontaneity, and the story I want to tell with each work comes while planning the photo in the sets. I just follow the lines I sense and the story begins building together. With all the art I do, the moment I start creating it feels like I have a big bubble inside me that I need to transform into a physical form as an art piece.
I have never liked art being too easily digested, such as giving easy answers or trying to force others to your opinions. That is underestimating your audience, and it's, unfortunately, something I see very often. People can feel what you have to say (if you have something to say), and it's more effective if it comes through a natural thinking process based on the clues you leave to your art, instead of pushing it to their face. The ambivalent feeling of my artwork may be from that same way of thinking, things quite rarely are black and white. Sorrow and happiness may be seconds away from each other and often happen at the same time. This abstract world needs abstract ways to represent it.
I have seen several videos documenting the steps and preparations behind your work. How do you live this section of the work as a documentation, do they have a practical function of analysis or do you live them as a performative act? Or maybe none of these options ...
I feel the videos are an important part of the work, giving the light art photo a broader story and a deeper understanding of how the artwork has been done. The hours and hours I spend to create the scenery for a single photo is a journey for me. It is a sort of meditation to get lost in the maze your brains are creating in front of you, so yes, I would describe the videos more like a performance that is part of the bigger work.
I have always enjoyed video editing a lot, since it feels more sculpting than editing. Video art is something I will definitely be concentrating more in the future, and combining light art to that feels again like a new path to take.
Can you tell the details of your artistic technique in light topography?
For my topographic photos I trace entire rooms or spaces with a led light sometimes standing, reaching to the roof and crawling under the tables, so it is quite an exercise all in all. The topographic photos take really a lot of time to execute. Usually, the exposure times vary from 20 minutes to over an hour. I have made a topographic light painting of a staircase many times and after running and crawling the stairs up and down a couple of hundred times I have been all over in sweat. One thing that light painting really cultivates is the sense of a three-dimensional space so after thousands of photos it is quite easy to tell which parts in the photo area you have to trace and what parts are still to be traced. Also before I start to work on tracing the lines I carefully study the photos area and try to memorize which parts I have to work on.
In the section dedicated to light figures these have evolved from ghosts of light to skeletons is there a subsequent evolution or have the figures reached the image you wanted to represent?
The light figures have evolved into skeletons because of the new ideas from the new surroundings. At one point I was taking photos in an are where a huge building was being taken down wall by wall so that the whole building looked like a skeleton of a building. I thought to draw a skeleton inside my light figures to illustrate the surroundings better and from there the idea started to live it's own life, to a point where I mostly drew light skeletons to all of my photos. I like the paths art points us to go, and by following those paths the techniques and character I use have evolved to what they are now. I am intrigued to see where my art will evolve in the future and I am very open to taking the paths that will lead me there. Without progress where would we be and what fun would it be to create art, if it would always be just the same?
In your installations there are generally perspective lines that reveal an environment within the environment, given that the place behind the lines of light created by you is visible. What drives you to create this double vision of space?
I really like the idea that imagination can make the walls disappear, and by creating anamorphic drawings that idea is closest to its physical manifestation as possible! I first started to draw the anamorphic drawings in my studio's storage room and after a few months, the whole three-room studio was covered with them. My studio's main room was relatively small, so I liked the idea that I could make that small area an endless space by using my imagination. One thing I love in making the anamorphic drawings is to challenge myself, both physically and mentally, since they are a lot of work to do, especially when you have to plan them to be done half by drawings and half by light. Now at the time of the corona quarantine, I have tried to deliver this message of the power of our imagination by creating anamorphic drawings and light painting at home with my children and sharing them on social media. One thing that can't be quarantined is our imagination, and that is our power to dream the walls away.