Ceramics Monthly: How does your sculptural work combine folktales, myths, and other stories with your concerns for the environment and observations about changing times as well as everyday life?
Sakari Kannosto: To me, stoneware is a paramount material and medium. Since the beginning of time, people have marked and molded the most important information on clay. According to ancient traditions, clay has functioned as the carrier of wishes and dreams for fertility, harvest, and prey. Ceramics is also a tool for creativity, play, humor, and storytelling. I am interested in clay as a conveyor of strong narrative expression and as a performer of provocative forms. I investigate the possibilities of clay acting as a light- and gravity-challenging medium of expression, instead of its traditional nature as a heavy, earthy material. Combining clay with other materials, such as glass and steel, has potential in bringing out new, airy dimensions in its use.
I use the coiling technique to build works of all sizes. They are influenced by art history, folk tales, and popular culture. I often combine elements from my everyday life into my art. I strive for a clear and representational language of form that still maintains expressiveness and improvisation with a rugged appearance. I move in a wide range of subjects in my works, and I try to find something new and significant for myself with every new topic. I hope that my works and hand print will still remain recognizable through different exhibitions and changes in subject matter, methods, glazes, and materials.
I often let intuition guide my work. I just start molding and let my feeling and the clay lead the way. Sometimes the most imaginative relationships, shapes, and entities emerge that I couldn’t have seen at the beginning.
Environmental themes and our challenge as humanity to find sustainable development in our everyday life have been significant elements of my storytelling recently. I want to combine several different levels of meaning with my sculptures, and I strive to find a new kind of narrative created in the field of ceramic art. In Finnish and Scandinavian mythology, the spirits of seas, lakes, and nature have always had an important part and place. When working on the “Children of the Flood” exhibition, I wanted to combine parts of various myths: the sinking of ancient civilizations and birth theories. In my story, nature and man come together in a maritime play. It’s kind of a reverse evolution, with a hope to find harmony in a new, difficult situation. The narrators in the exhibition are imaginative hybrids between humans and sea animals. They act also as messengers and intermediaries between different worlds.
At the moment, the declining faith in science has created a wave of fake news. Belief in rumors, predictions, and conspiracy theories surpasses proven facts. In the exhibition, oracles, seers, soothsayers, and clairvoyants appear, symbolizing the faith in fate, lottery, and omens on the edge of the inevitable. Who do we ask for advice when the worst has already happened and there is no direction left?
References to museums, artifacts, and collections of ancient cultures can also be seen in the exhibition. This body of work mainly consists of figures glazed in white and highlighted with platinum. Colorlessness clarifies the subject matter and creates space for imagination and the language of form.
My figurative works also criticize patriarchal assumptions and predictable gender roles—what a mermaid or a water creature should look like. There have always been sensitive yet strong, multidimensional people in my life and family, and they have influenced my figures. My works do not necessarily have traditional gender roles although there are descendants and parents.
The faces of my figures often have a symbolic diving helmet or their eyes are covered as if by glasses or mirroring surfaces. I use this to describe speed blindness and a narrow field of vision in a situation where, as humanity, we would need more clarity, equality, broad visions of the future, and self reflection.
Ceramics is a way to ask questions and to grow. It also helps me grow as a person, as an artist, and as a visual-arts educator.
Photo: Chikako Harada.