Paul Takahashi: At the core of everything is your personal artistic practice

What is your study programme and what year are you on?
I’m at my second year of my master’s programme in the Painting department. I started directly at master’s level in autumn 2014. I’m due to graduate in the spring of 2016.

Where did you study before?
I studied in Lyon, the Lyon School of Fine Arts, at the bachelor’s level for four years. I studied fine arts there.

How did you end up in the Academy of Fine Arts, what drew you here?
I left France because I didn’t graduate, and I was done with studying art or doing any form of art for a while. But I then changed my mind and decided that I wanted to complete my studies, so I applied to Kuva (i.e. Kuvataideakatemia: Academy of Fine Arts) and Taik (Aalto Arts of Aalto University). In hindsight, I feel that compared to Taik, Taideyliopisto (University of the Arts Helsinki) is really about artistic experimentation and artistic practice, so I’m really happy that I got into the Academy.

How did you end up in Finland?
I moved in 2009 to Helsinki. I guess it was through music that got me to Finland, because I like Finnish music. The experimental, underground music scene is quite active here. Eventually, by starting my studies here, I reconnected with the world of art.

Do you have a musical background as well?
No, but music is an important source of inspiration. I tried music myself, but came to the conclusion that I’m better with images. However, I collaborate with music artists. I’ve made some record covers and I find myself to be the happiest in these collaborations: I get musicians to appreciate my work and vice versa.

What has it been like to study at the academy so far?
The core of the teaching is your personal artistic practice and what I really like about this school is this sense that we’re working together, the student and the teacher. The teachers really want to help you. In the master’s studies there is a lot of freedom. I like it that you can basically make a menu of courses.

Another element that I enjoy is a weekly seminar, where a person presents their work and you discuss with both the teachers and students. It’s a freeform discussion where the students’ and teachers’ ideas have equal weight.

Moreover, I think this academy is really outward-oriented. We visit artists’ studios and we have artists and other people outside the academy visiting the school. Also, usually the teachers here are artists themselves.  As such, the line between the institution and the art world is blurred, in a good way. Once you graduate, you already have an understanding of the professional art field.

What is your favourite part about studying painting at the department?
There is this general sense of trust. Once I got in I was really surprised that painters actually paint.  At the core of everything is the individual’s artistic work. As a significant contrast to my experiences in France, here, there is no external agenda imposed upon you and I don’t feel any external pressure about my work.

How have you developed as an artist?
I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned to let go of things, and that’s good, since I’m a bit of a control freak.

What is it like to live in Finland, in Helsinki?
It’s great. Everything works. Based on what I’ve discussed with exchange students in the academy, most enjoy their time here.  Also in terms of the studies, the academy is very accommodating to international students. Even if courses are set to run in Finnish, the language will be switched if there is even one non-Finnish speaker participating. One good thing about Helsinki is there is a lot happening all the time. There are always many music gigs to hear, new exhibitions from many galleries.

What does your future look like?
I have a baby coming soon, right before Kuvan Kevät where I’m also exhibiting. As I graduate I would like to get straight to working, to get work experience, perhaps in teaching, such as drawing classes or giving lectures. Transmission is a fundamental concept to me, and it is the main idea behind my work for Kuvan Kevät this year. Teaching and learning are two aspects of the same thing, namely transmission.

What advice would you give to an aspiring art student or artist?
It’s nice to have a preconceived idea, I mean to have a plan of what you would like to do in school, and then let it go. There are so many courses that you don’t expect to happen or to influence you. When you go through the process of the course and then realize that you’ve been transformed much more than you thought, I think that’s one of the best experiences here.