10 Questions: Kirsti Kotilainen

Kirsti Kotilainen

Finnish visual artist living in Ireland


  1. When did you know that you wanted to become an artist?

I still don’t really know that I really want to be an artist. It’s certainly difficult to support yourself doing that. The compulsion to make or paint something just happens from time to time and you just go with it.

  1. You have recently completed your first year teaching arts in Tallaght, Dublin. What kind of experience was it?

Challenging, it’s not easy being a newly qualified teacher anywhere, but a school in a disadvantaged area throws up a few extra challenges. The workload is heavy. I did enjoy the madness of it all though, we had a few good laughs in the classroom and some excellent art was made too, which makes it all worthwhile.

  1. How does the lifestyle in Dublin differ from that in Finland?

In Dublin, the working day is longer, the daily commute is longer, we get fewer holidays, more rain, more pubs, but more laughs too.

  1. As your art has been displayed in several exhibitions and you have an impressive portfolio, how have you cultivated a collector base?

I trained as a teacher so I wouldn’t have to deal with the pressure of having to do things like cultivating a collector base. Having a reliable source of income gives me the freedom to make the art that I want to make, and not the art that funding committees or commercial collectors think is worthy. Making art with that calculation in your head leads to bad art anyway, for me anyway. But I am glad all the same when the work finds a home that appreciates it, so maybe I should be doing more in that regard.

  1. What have been the most rewarding or exciting aspects of your career to date?

It has to be the kids, even if you have a one student that gets it and is inspired to make good work and manages to express something they might find difficult to articulate otherwise, it’s worth it.

  1. Are there any particular emotions you want your viewers to feel when looking at your works?

There’s always emotion in them, hopefully some of it communicates.  For example, Tallaght Classroom was a moment of stillness and satisfaction after a crazy day, – I hope some of that comes across.

  1. What are your other interests away from the studio?

Reading, my cats and my garden. Music too, I love a good festival. I went to Glastonbury last summer, and this year’s festival line-up consists of Mad Cool in Madrid and a new Irish one, All Together Now. I am also obsessed with Pokemon Go. (Yes, people still play that, it’s still huge. My local Pokemon group is very active. The game seems to bring together a really varied bunch of people from teenagers to pensioners. I’m level 38.)

  1. What is a creative space for you? Where you feel inspired?

Anywhere and everywhere really, but often it’s the more mundane urban landscapes or objects. I think growing up with Aki Kaurismäki’s aesthetics has a lot to do with that.

  1. What is the thing you miss the most about Finland whilst living abroad?

Picking bilberries in the forest and jumping into a cool lake from a hot sauna.

  1. Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

Wrinkly. I think I’ll be a good bit more wrinkled than now. Hopefully I’ll have finally reached level 40 (the maximum) in Pokemon Go too.

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