Invitation card of 'Spring Selection' -exhibition, 2009
Jukka Siikala is a truly phenomenal artist from Finland. Especially since jaw-dropping contributions to the notorious “Anti-Social Realism” artbook, many people have felt drawn to his images showing sexual brutality and depravity in a perfectly executed style. It is with honour that I present this lengthy interview with Siikala in its unabrived form and the visual content provided by the artist, including exclusive footage. It is my sincerest belief that Jukka Siikala is one of the most skilled and noteworthy contemporary creators of art and it has been a pleasure to hear some of his thoughts!
Jukka Siikala: Sick fuck, commented some anonymous critic on my blog. Term has a negative charge, but I sort of like it. Two strong words that have had a great importance. I was 8 or 9 years old, when my stepfather called me sick. I had just declared that all people should be killed (I was a passionate conservationist in those days). Later realizations have soften my misantrophy and the present hatred is more of a hobby, for the old times sake. Anyways, the term 'sick' has accompanied me since and I still identify to it. Sick stands for thinking with open mind. Fuck, in this context, represent the emotional entity, including a challenge, call to action.
I have always had a strong curious drive within me. The thing with curiosity is that it eventually leads into dark side, towards phenomenas that aren't clearly visible, towards areas of uncomfort. I'm one of those who need to turn the rocks over, see the insects and their eggs, taste the reaction of the body, analyze. My mind is constantly chewing on something, can be totally pointless, usually is. The paintings that I do are platforms of my analyses, distilled from life. Over and over again until there is just the bitter sediment left. Defecated out from the body. That makes me a happy and healthy fuck.
'Door', oil on canvas, 62 x 62 cm, 2014 - 2015
TM: You seem to have gathered a lot of recognition within Underground circles, so far. But how about the “real” art world? Do you see the possibility of making a name for yourself outside of the extreme underground? Would you like to?
JS: At this point breakthrough to art world doesn't seem likely to happen. I have made some gestures to the direction of real art world, but galleries haven't been interested. My adolescent hostility served with technical skills and experimental approach to attitude fall into niche of its own. It is not attractive to adult minded nor to the ones who dwell in fantasy worlds. But I don't mind really, I have my small audience.
Leather, feet and milk, photoshopped model image to assist painting. Under work.
TM: Some of your images are almost photo-realistic. What fascinates you about these exact depictions of reality?
JS: Details and all that time consuming work gives weight and credibility to my cheap exploitative subjects that would otherwise be ignored. It feels nice to have this manipulative power on people's position. Exploitation on many levels. I also like the information blast created by all those tiny details. The feeling I achieve is more tense.
Then there is this sheer stupidity of copying. It is my comment on attempts to personal style, drama, poetry, originality. I am not judging those attempts. I am just taking a grip of that level, flashing some self-destructive sides of power play, just for the sake of it.
Good plain photorealistic work is impressing, but it lacks dimensions. I prefer to add some openings with expressionist and surrealist elements. Play around with the whole paintings style-thing. Build compositional disharmonies, create contrasts, give balance, give birth.
'You are worth it' -exhibition. Markkula's video.
'Samsung', oil on canvas, 50 x 70 cm, 2009
TM: How do you pick source material? Is it important for you to have a deeper connection to it?
JS: There must be an honest real interest, but the depth of the connection.. not so deep necessarily. I like shallowness, cheap, provocative.. good adjectives. Instant feelings, impulsivity. That's what our core is about. The way of the Rorschach test: vagina, vagina, splattered blood, vagina.. The depth of a curse: cunt! fuck! My source material reflects these views. I am not that interested in visualizing the aspects of 'deeper connection'. They don't serve my needs. Deep is false, the very idea of depth is misleading.
Lately I have created my source material by using models. I prefer to have strong involvement, gain control over subject, feel rooted to the image. HAVE it. 'It' referring to the image, not the female models. Earlier I used images from the internet. That was ok, too. Very shallow and cheap in that easiness. Maybe I go back copying internet images later, just to erase my attempts of genuinity. Motivations are moving constantly. Actually this is very rewarding side of painting: the movements in inner compositions. Doors opening and closing.
Example of pixellation.
TM: Your latest DVD “Human Porridge” mostly consists of pornographic imagery that you have visually modified. What is the meaning of your fascination with pixels, graphic glitches and so on? Do you want to distort reality?
JS: I like the cruelty of pixellation. The way those errors treat human image. I am not satisfied with errors that I design by myself. That feels so made up. I prefer to minimize the level of human touch and use external sources. Random digital cruelty is a better reflection of nature, of being, of reality, of my own sadomasochistic characteristics. So the answer to your question is no, I don't want to distort reality. I want to catch the feeling of it, the essence, the mechanism.
Ejaculation on prosciutto, model photo for an upcoming realistic painting in a classic style, New York, 2015. Thank you M&I.
TM: One could easily imagine that some objects you paint have a symbolic meaning. Is this the case? Is there any symbol you could (or want to) decipher?JS: My paintings have symbolic elements but I am more form oriented than symbol oriented. It is here in my mind, structure of forms. Within that structure lies power relations, tension. I try out something on art work. It fits the structure or it doesn't. It is not up to me to decide, I just feel it. I have understood that you, the interviewer, like my works. I suppose our structures fit together in certain points. There is a connectivity. My paintings are offerings to people's structures. You can add the paintings to your structure or if that doesn't feel natural, you can wonder the differences. Or you can just hate them. I am interested in exploring and cultivating my structure. Painting is a part of that process. Symbols are just references to the structure like the whole pornographic thing. There are colors, composition, ideas, quality. Symbols go under ideas. They are tools to present ideas in a manner that causes wanted feelings.
In fact, I feel that you can't create symbols, real symbols. They appear after you have done your work. They are not under control. The same thing is with the style. You can't create style. It appears after your work. Not that I would give importance on style. As an intrinsic value, style is surficial. There are some symbols that I would like to decipher like the narrow doorways or windows. You can see them, for example, in Chirico's paintings. There is something mysteriously haunting in those forms. Black latex surface, that shining, is it just the form or is there something more? Drawing connecting lines between objects gives me satisfaction, there is something hidden in that symbolic action, I wonder what?
TM: Perversion and sexual fetishes play a huge role in your art. What is your stance towards the scenes you show? Do they need to be arousing to you? Are some used simply because they are grotesque and appalling by common standards?
JS: I'm drawn by tension and contrast. They are my thing. They can make me really excited. If there is some feminine envolvement, the feeling turns easily towards sexual arousal. I'm built that way, total eroticist. Maybe even a rusty womens bike on a ditch could excite me. The perversity of this idea.
My art is all about tension. I don't necessarily need sexual element to create these power plays, but I tend to use it. Easy portal to biological system. Itchy manipulation.
Playing with common standards is cheap. I do that sometimes. It is entertaining. It is like stepping on sacred art, stepping on principles. But there must be some other angle, too. Not just grotesque and appalling by common standards.
Polaroid from video session with Bizarre Uproar and Elisabeth
TM: In the description on your web page, you state that your art is “flickering between active sadism and indifference of complete being”. Are these two sides of the same coin for you? In what way is your art an expression of your own philosophical views?
JS: No, I don't see them as two sides of the same coin. “Flickering between active sadism and indifference of complete being” is more like dimension between no-action and certain kind of action. Combination of humane factor and state of being. The other side of the coin would be “flickering between active caring and bubbling of problematic ego”. That would be maybe some sort of feminist or pacifist art?
My art is not a straight expression of philosophical views. It is more like an excrement of those views and there is something growing from that.
Human porridge', inner cover of the dvd
TM: You also did a show called “My Body is a Slimy Drug” which was shown on the sixth volume of the Institute of Paraphilia Studies DVD series. What was the concept behind it?
JS: My friend was sick of all 'woollen sock'-art in his hometown Tampere. Woollen socks refers to people that habitate the comfort zone, so to say. So he suggested that let's do something gross. I made up a simple play: couple had sex, woman got pregnant and gave a birth, the baby was destroyed. We were just dwelling in tasteless b-class symbolism, vulgarity, urine and reindeer blood. Set of tv's showing aborted fetuses and grannysex. The video was filmed from live show. Making the whole thing actually took a lot of time and there were several people involved. We prepared the sounds carefully. My friend taped screaming women in a bomb shelter, some machinery etc. The actual video didn't turn out like I wanted. The editor felt bad about all the images I wanted to add and refused to work on. I had no editing skills in those times so we left it like it is now.
'You are worth it' -exhibition. Vernissage activities.
TM: Many probably know you from your involvement in the “Anti-Social Realism” exhibition and art book. How did this project evolve and how would you describe your role?
JS: Originally I was thinking of a solo show, but then I got the idea of asking Aspa and Markkula to join. We knew each other well and our works fit together. I was thinking that it would be a real feast of exploitation. I made up the name of the exhibition 'You are worth it'. Markkula made a very dirty poster in his Filth and Violence -style. I made another one: my ejaculation over fullmoon landscape photo. It went wrong, the sperm shined like a piece of plastic or stearine. I made the arrangements to rent the gallery. It was more like a space than gallery. Actually the gallery owner wanted to cancel the whole thing, when he realized what kind of material we were planning to show. The son of the owner was on our side. Also one woman who was supposed to have a show there later that year announced that she will cancel her time if we can't have ours (still grateful Riina!).
We splitted the space into three parts and filled the walls. Old style exhibition with lot of works. Me and Markkula kept gallery open because we lived in Helsinki. I think there were nearly hundred visitors at the opening, underground culture people mostly. BU played and dominatrix humiliated some slave, actually I don't remember if it was he or she. The transformation process was on. Somewhere in a middle. The somali visitors from the next-door reggae bar were staring the show in wonder. Couple guys were drunk enough to sleep on a floor. Very Finnish style. We had also finishing party with Grunt, another humiliating show and my video.
'Anti-Social Realism'-term, the manifestation and the book were Aspa's ideas. Me and Markkula delivered our images, I designed the covers and Aspa took care of the rest.
Installation to be used as a model for painting, 2013
JS: We got a very nice review to a local newspaper, but still, there were not that many visitors outside noise/PE/black metal-scene. People came in, people went out, Finns don't tend to chat that much. Besides the gallery didn't have regular visitors from art circles. It was more like a room with a light.
The ones who like my art share their views with me. Others become uneasy and avoid the topic or laugh. I can only guess what is their perception. Surely some keep my art morally corrupt while others just treat it as a childish attempt to shock or as self-flagellation. The most popular approach is to admire photorealistic side and pass the content with a smile. Oh, and then there are these people, who simply decide that this is not art and consequently this opinion becomes the center of their interest.
In my earlier answer I mentioned the structure of mind. The people with structural similarities are drawn to my art. They probably enjoy the world behind the image, the new links and perceive the painting as a structural symbol, more or less subconsciously. They enjoy the shared view. They enjoy this new face of trauma.
Model photo for future use, Helsinki, 2014
TM: What role does the reaction of the viewer play for you? Do you want to invoke any feelings in others? Disgust, maybe?
JS: Yes, absolutely. I am not after certain feelings like disgust, but a set of contrasting emotions, irritating disharmony glued together with sex, something ugly that you want to fuck with anxiety.
Painting for the cover of Nicole12: Black line, 2011
TM: You have close ties to the Power Electronics scene and have done cover art for projects like Nicole 12, Clandestine Blaze, Antichildleague and Bizarre Uproar. How does conceptualisation work in these cases? Do the artists provide you with specific wishes?
JS: I ask detailed instructions, maybe some reference images or vague ideas of wanted atmosphere. Usually I give some suggestions. Most of the bands don't really care so much about covers as long as they are 'genrelly correct' so I am not that interested to do covers or create some recognizable style. There are exceptions like the above mentioned.
Nicole12 project, you can't imagine how many teenage images I went through before finding suitable model for the painting. Endless stream of tipsy Lilja4evers posing in bleak apartments. I suggested this symbolic idea of father and herself as a child watching her from the past through mirror because there was a song about mirror. Or maybe Aspa suggested. The original reference image Aspa gave me was very funny. Pair of sad faced stickmen.
Clandestine Blaze cover.. I got quite clear guides concerning subjects, but the style was up to me. Well, I took some freedom and hoped for acceptance. It went well.
BU painting took a long time to do. If I remember right Markkula just said that it should be a twisted portrait of his wife. So I surprised him with this autopsy painting.
I got a very clear advice to Antichildleague. Rotting penis with a style that I had used in a cover for Festerday lp.
Photo session with Elisabeth, Helsinki, 2015
TM: You were also involved in filming the “Dekadenz” clip for Bizarre Uproar. What was it like and what did you do?
JS: I took the photos and video clips. Another guy did the editing, added effects etc. Me and Markkula have a good mutual understanding and overlapping interests. He gives me free hands. So working with him is a pleasure, a win-win-situation, very intensive. It is all about exploitation. Feverish. Our approach is very different though. I am more into nyances. The women were just great in their roles. The punk girl had a good nasty attitude and the other woman, she was really into doing what she did. We had a break from the vomit session and I went to nearby-shop to grab some refreshments. It felt so weird, suddenly in a sunshine surrounded by people who wouldn't understand at all what we had there going on. That is a good feeling. Magic of marginal ways.
'Phthalocyanine', oil on canvas, 62 x 62 cm, 2012 - 2015
TM: Can you talk about your working process? Do you make a lot of sketches before completing the final painting? What kind of materials do you use?
JS: I used to get so excited over new idea that I started sketching right away. Just some simple images to get a hold of the idea. It was usually waste of time. Better let the idea be. Fresh idea, it is fresh, it feels fresh, there is no patina, no mutations or the mutations are made up. It takes a long time to develop a real idea, not just on image level. When it is ready you feel it, but you can't describe it, you can merely touch it with painted image. That is my sketching, mixture of feelings and images in my mind. I have no need to sketch it on paper, it is in my mind, alive.
When the time feels right I start to work on material level. Recently I have built models and/or used human models. I take photographs and work with them. I need a model image that is near the actual image I have in my mind, something to rely on. I do a lot of seemingly unecessary painting on details that will be overpainted later, sort of obsessive action. It feels good. It gives history. It makes the surface full. Over and over. While I am working the structure appears. Painting sets into its course and I am more like a person who fullfills the demands image has. We forget the model and go towards new, the fruit of all that. One thing is for sure, the painting is never like the one I had in my mind when I started. It is much.. more with less.
The Materials of the Artist and Their Use in Painting: With Notes on the Techniques of the Old Masters by Max Doerner (1949) is my bible concerning the priming techniques. I use mix of chalk, zinc oxide and animal glue on a close-knit linen. Lot of layers, lot of polishing, dammar varnish layers and good quality oil colors. Recently I have been experimenting with readymade glazing mediums and spray varnishes. Besided brushes I use finger tips, rugs, sticks etc. Foam is very practical for making thin colour surfaces.
Illustration for an upcoming zine, 2013.
TM: What are your plans for the future?
JS: Many exciting projects lined up. The most acute is the new video for upcoming minitour with Bizarre Uproar to Russia. Lot of editing work for the next two months.
Then there is a split-LP with Grunt that will keep me busy through the spring, I hope. Grunt deliver the noise, I deliver the visuals as oil paintings on one side of the vinyls and the buyers deliver the subjects. Subject being a self taken facial photo. It's going to be affordable and unique piece of noise culture.
I have also a plan for a lifesize statue of a woman. It will be demanding and time consuming work in a spirit of Bellmer. Just have to learn many new things about making casts and molds.
My novel is almost ready. I have been writing it for some years, fictional work loaded with nihilistic thoughts, sex and violence. I am also working on couple DIY-zines after a long break.
Several porn and fetish related paintings under work and some new ideas. I had two photo sessions with a couple in New York. Excited from that material!
What else.. I have a plan to make a visit to Aokigahara forest again next summer, do another installation and lot of photographing.
Exhibition – someday, somewhere..
Polaroid from video session with Bizarre Uproar and Elisabeth
TM: Thanks for the interview! Any last words, greetings etc.?
JS: Thank you! Greetings to new friends in New York and old friends in Europe.
For more works by Siikala, including the full-length "Human Porridge" clip and various paintings visit:
JUKKA SIIKALA HOMEPAGE
'Untitled', oil on canvas, 40 x 54 cm, 2012
|Experimental Portrait 4|
|Where are You Now|
JUKKA SIIKALA HOMEPAGE