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Meet artist Saara Renvall from SHIFT 2022

Saara Renvall, photo: Sakari Röyskö

Tell me about your background? How did you end up making art?
I have a background as a designer and over time my work has shifted more into stronger artistic self-
expression and independence. I wanted to solve problems, not to create them so I realized that
artistic practice and a control over the entire process is the only way for me to proceed.
I do art to examine questions that puzzle or annoy me. My work stems from an urge to understand
the world and how to be a human in it. I see my practice as some kind of a survival mechanism and the
only sensible way of communicating my observations and thoughts.

Re-cover, Hand-blown glass, 2019    Photo: Jarkko Örvesti

How do you describe the features of your artwork? 
I work with objects and sculptures. I don’t limit myself to any pre-determined set of materials or
techniques since the relationship between the subject and the material is essential and defining in my
artistic process. Even though I venture with various materials, I keep coming back to wood. I use
wood to examine my relationship with trees, forests, forestry, and nature. My process involves lots of
handcraft and research – trying to find new ways to explore and read the materials. I combine
traditional woodworking methods with more unorthodox ways, like burning and dying. Aesthetically
I’m fascinated by balance and order combined with the elements of surprise or anarchy.
My work is an attempt to reconnect with and re-evaluate myself as a human being. I examine topics
like fragility, time, death, and relationship between humans and nature. There is often an element of
worry or sorrow in my work. My intention is to peel off a layer of anything too obvious and try to
make my point so that I can leave the viewer with enough space to connect, react and realize. My
vision is to create objects and sculptures that serve as mediators for us, and I want the objects to
remind me and us of what we need to remember and work almost like talismans or compasses.

The Re-cover series consists of hand-blown glass sculptures that are collages made from multiple elements
that are placed within or hanging from one another. The works are materialized thoughts of endurance and
they represent moments of closeness, togetherness, balance and intimacy.

First conversation 2020, burned birch, 15 X 25 X 8cm

What or who your inspiration is?
I find inspiration easily, as long as I have slept well and have space around me. It could be anything
from conversations with small kids, driving too fast, and death/decaying, to simply just a feeling of not
wasting my time. To name something directly work-related, at this moment, I’m particularly inspired
by trees and forests, and my appreciation towards them is just getting stronger through my material
and field studies. I’m also inspired by ancient necessity objects, tribal artefacts, folk art and rituals
around them. I’m fascinated by the certain rawness and pureness of why these objects were once
created. They inspire me to find solutions to the mess we have made of this world today.
Artists who inspire me include Camilla Vuorenmaa’s strong visual language and working methods,
Emma Jääskeläinen’s new and fresh monumental stone works, Jussi Heikkilä’s poetic ability to
observe the relationship between man and nature, Alexander McQueen’s storytelling and craft,
Arlene Shechet’s effortless combinations in her sculpting and the freedom of George O’Keeffe.

Anthems 2022, dyed pines

What are your new realizations since you’ve started the SHIFT program? 
We have been on the program for some months now, and I have not been this confused in a
long time but in a good way! I’ve been digging deep and questioning my motives,
setting goals for my work, and getting out of my comfort zone. It has been challenging but very rewarding.
Ask me later about all the realizations I will get, but at this stage, despite my confusion, I am further
convinced that what I do professionally is precisely what I want and what I need to do.

What positive affect has the SHIFT program given you?
I’ve learned a lot about the art world and its practices, and the program has given me new
perspectives on how to operate in it. The best part has been self-reflection and putting things into
writing. I have forced myself to question what I do and why I do it.
Which artist’s career stage can make the most from the SHIFT program? 
I think the program can be helpful in several career stages. It is good to have at least some years of
working experience, but I believe it is never too early or too late to expand your thinking and grow.

What are your future ambitions or dreams?
When it comes to SHIFT, want to make the most out of the program and challenge myself to grow
stronger professionally. In the bigger picture, my dream is to maintain freedom in self-expression and
in life – to have a position where I have a 100% independent practice and, in that way, to be in service
of the society. I feel this is the best way of being human and to explore my relationship with the world
around me. I wish to communicate my work to a bigger audience and have sufficient financial success
to support this dream. Workwise, I want to scale up my work to be bigger, higher, heavier, stronger.

Sign up for SHIFT mentoring program 2023 – in English
Ilmoittaudu mukaan uuteen APOLLO mentorointiohjelmaan 2023 – suomeksi

Anthems 2022, dyed pines