Swedish artist Kristiina Haataja’s focus shifted from painting to sculpting and her new work has been well received by art collectors. We had the opportunity to sit down together, extend our appreciation for her work and touch on art as a form of therapy.
Kristiina’s curiosity for art has been strong for as long as she can remember and at a very young age she knew that she wanted to become an artist. For instance, she was very eager to learn about oil paintings and at the age of 12 she attended an evening class for adults. At that time she also attended ceramics classes in both sculpture and throwing. During her years at secondary school she attended evening art school and had the privilege to learn from two prominent artists in both painting and sculpture. It was when she was taking her university master’s degree that she got her own studio space.
“We were 10 artists who rented an old blacksmith building and exhibited together. It was in these years that established me as an artist and I have been involved in different kinds of art societies and studios ever since, where I have exhibited at numerous galleries in both Sweden and abroad,” she said.
Kristiina works with subtle expressions in her work. There might be a hand that shows gesture or a simple leaning of the head.
“I want my sculptures to express a feeling of consolation, mainly because I think that in this stressful world we are troubled and need to be comforted. When looking at a sculpture the viewer could ask: ‘What is it dreaming of?’ ‘What is it thinking?’ or simply ‘Who is this person?’ or ‘What is a vessel?’ The viewer can answer himself, and therefore it becomes self reflective. That’s what I want to accomplish with my work,” she said.
The subjects she works with are ‘Dreamers,’ ‘Listeners,’ ‘Thinkers’ and ‘Vessels,’ etc. These themes interest Kristiina from a personal point of view and give an indicative context to her sculptures
Kristiina notes that somehow these characters become therapeutic and calming to her. She says it’s not just the result, but also the process of making them that calm her.
“There is another side of me that comes through and this is, what I guess, shows in my sculptures.”
In her younger days she loved to experiment with different mediums and tried graphic printing and photography. She developed her own collage style where she would combine photographic images in her paintings. Eventually she started putting collages on clay pieces and found it interesting to add them to three dimensional figures. Clay quickly became her favorite working media because of its natural colors but also because of the textures and surfaces it creates.
When it comes to her own style, through research and appreciation of her predecessors, Kristiina finds inspiration in the modern cubist style and the ancient form. She draws parallels to many artists such as Picasso, Legér and Gris, because they worked with body and figure. She enjoys researching creators of ancient Greek sculpture and learning about their tremendous expertise in making sculptures of the human body.
Kristiina says that creativeness is a gift that one should use wisely, choose the right people and projects to work with. She’s incredibly grateful for her ability to express her ideas. Working with art over 25 years has taught her many things but most of all it has dared her to believe in herself and go for it.
“It is really simple as that. Nothing else,” she adds.
Art has been a part of Kristiina’s life since she was little. She was always extremely eager to explore things and that is why she attended courses at an early age. She spent her school lunch breaks in the art class room and later had her own studio that enabled her to discover ways of working with different mediums.
She attributes being surrounded by inventive and creative people the key to continuous growth and success. That along with her curiosity to constantly pursue her ideas.
Her work is beautiful and she has a gift to create and evoke self reflection. The pieces depict a sense of calm.
“This is not something I try to make but it just happens. Maybe it is a way of expressing something I long for which is some quiet time for contemplation in this hectic world we are living in.”
Personal tragedy nearly derailed Kristiina from ever picking up a brush or tool again.
“I had three years of silence when I did not even paint a brush stroke or do a single sculpture. I was numb and I had no energy to create any kind of art.”
One day a friend of hers, Annaleena Leino, a talented interior designer, asked her to make a sculpture for one of her sets. It was her generosity and devotion to a friend that put her back on the path to being an artist.
“I think for me, going back into creating after so much time off has been my biggest achievement. It has made me more focused and has given me the strength to continue. A big bonus that comes with my work are the people who show appreciation for what I do and support me. That means a lot to me,” said Kristiina.