Hanna Viitala

Pori (1976)

After studying TV production, Hanna Viitala ended up in the fast and glamorous television world of London, and then in the advertising business in Helsinki. In 2010, an ad about a crafts tutor course in the Kankaanpää institute attracted Viitala’s attention. At that moment she realised that her life values and the demands of her career were in severe conflict, and she decided to quit.

Viitala went through several changes and crises over a very short period of time that affected her sense of self: from advertising to learning craft techniques, from an independent woman to the wife of a farmer, from a career woman to housewife. Is there another way to break through the glass ceiling? “I started to rebuild myself, something was broken into pieces, but turned into something new. Since then I haven’t needed a crowd or sought prestige.”

The crucial moment was taking part in art therapy, in which we talked about Women Who Run with the Wolves by analyst Clarissa Pinkola Estés. The book discusses womanhood and the female psyche through stories and archetypes. Viitala realised that women’s way of thinking, based on instinct and intuition, has been suppressed for centuries. A treasure chest of stories had opened, and with it, the door to Viitala’s creativity. Myths demanded to become visible, and Viitala dressed her life crises as symbols.

The exhibition organised during the 2017 Lavia Week was a dream come true for Hanna Viitala. There was a huge audience, and conversations with visitors led her to think about her being an artist. “Am I an artist?” Until that moment, being an artist had seemed unachievable. Viitala thought that only those who can draw can become artists. She remembered the drawings of beauty contests that she drew as a child, a memory that was anything but encouraging.

Her works are inspired by stories and images and surge from the subconscious and the unconscious through free association. “After that, I sit, symbolically, by the fire; a story emerges and the work comes to life”. Viitala puts herself together, piece by piece, during the process. She says that the feeling is empowering. Eternal myths have not disappeared, but they can be rediscovered and used as milestones to achieving peace and happiness.

Viitala’s works are not made on a conveyor belt, but their creation is cyclical. “There comes a moment and a feeling that the time is right, then the works force themselves into existence”. It was even frightening at first. That is why the artist does not like her works to have price tags and finds the idea of being a professional artist alien. She describes herself as an assistant, mediator and midwife, like a visionary artist would. “You can’t overthink when faced by a mystery, or else the magic disappears.”

Text: Elina Vuorimies. Editor: Lauri Oino. Images: Veli Granö.
A longer artist bio has been published in the book ITE Satakunnassa.