| | |

Paper and light as artistic elements – interview with Emilia Tanner


Emilia Tanner is a young, rising artist who works with paper in various forms. At the same time, she is fascinated by the innumerable dimensions of light. At her latest exhibition in the Project Room in Helsinki, during 19 February–7 March 2021, she experimented with the relationship between paper and light.


Emilia Tanner (b. 1990) has been interested in drawing since childhood. As the comprehensive school gave little room for her growing artistic interests, Emilia increasingly began to entertain the idea of pursuing art studies. The first step on the way was the Pekka Halonen Academy in Tuusula where she could devote herself to art on a full-time basis for the first time in her life. At the Academy, she also had her first opportunity to try her hand at graphics, which was to shape her artistic orientation.


“It’s true that paper is a recurring element in my art. When I was admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts of Uniarts Helsinki, I started wondering if I should focus exclusively on paper. Paper carries so many meanings for me. Structure, touch, feel and the human side of it. What’s more, paper always transmits a history of sorts,” Emilia says.



Setouchi Triennale made a profound impression


Towards the end of her master’s programme at the Academy of Fine Arts, Emilia spent six months studying at the School of Art and Design of the Univerisity of Tsukuba in Japan. As part of the exchange programme, Emilia visited the Setouchi Triennale held every three years. The works of art on display are dispersed on several islands that visitors can reach by ferry.


“The Setouchi Triennale made a profound impression on me. Aside from the beautiful landscape, the works of art were quite incredible. They were often placed in typical Japanese houses with walls and sliding doors made of washi paper. In many of the works, light and sunlight played a special role, suggesting different ways of looking at things, for example via mirrors. The reason why I reflect so much on light in my art today stems from my experiences in Setouchi,” Emilia says.



Mistakes and aberrations become art


In spring 2019, Emilia was awarded a grant by the Stina Krook’s Foundation, which made it possible for her to work as an artist on a full-time basis. As a result, she is now in a position to look forward to a number of exhibitions of her works.


“Last year I could focus entirely on my art, and I feel that I have developed tremendously. I’ve experimented with every paper technique from relief printing to sandblasting. The most interesting works have been created by accident. For example, I use laser light to tone, or more precisely, burn paper. Normally, I plan the process in advance, but then something happens that disrupts the laser beam leaving a unique trace on the paper. It’s exactly this aberration that becomes the most intriguing feature of the work,” Emilia says.



Emilia’s latest exhibition in the Project Room of the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki from 19 February to 7 March 2021 displayed a range of paper works, installations and a video installation in which also sound was used as an element. An important part of the exhibition was the role light played in and on the works of art.


Text: Jonna Varhama

Photo: Teemu Silván