Athanasía Aarniosuo (b. 1981) is an artist, curator, and art journalist, currently living and working in Vantaa, Finland. She holds an MA in art history from the University of Helsinki and a BA (Hons) in fine art printmaking from Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen, Scotland. She is currently studying at Aalto University’s MA programme Visual Cultures, Curating and Contemporary Art.
Aarniosuo’s work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions in Finland, Scotland, Greece, Estonia, Canada, Lithuania, Bulgaria, and the United States. She has worked at artist residencies in Estonia, Greece, Lithuania, Finland, and Canada between 2010–2019.
As her most recent curatorial project, Decadence 4ever, Aarniosuo is compiling an art publication in which various artists present their memories of the now closed Club Decadence in Athens.
In addition, Aarniosuo has worked in several museums, galleries, and art organisations with managing, production, communications, and coordinating responsibilities since 2003. She has written extensively for magazines and art organisations. In January 2019, she founded the culture communications and printmaking tradename Bucolic Press.
Aarniosuo is a member and, since November 2020, a board representative of the Association of Finnish Printmakers, and a member of Grafia (the association of visual communication designers in Finland), Vantaa Artists’ Association, and the Finnish Society for Curators SKY ry.
My artistic and curatorial practice appreciates the beauty of human experience through creating and sharing subjective stories.
In my own artistic practice, I work in a variety of media, always telling and re-telling stories. Works on paper illustrate the often unrealistic beauty of each shared experience, while a textual approach investigates the narrative that I wish to create for myself and for others. The places and events I portray are factual as well as fictional, combining memories with dreams, representation, and interpretation. In my recent art, I use nostalgic memories of my youth in Athens in the 1990s. The memories are entangled with teenage emotions, music, bands, and the streets and clubs of the city.
In my curatorial work, I focus on working together and experiencing collaboratively, collecting and combining reactions to and interpretations of shared memories. I fall in love with every person I meet who shares with me a part of their story. With every chance meeting, with every connection, with every secret told, more stories are created.
The stories I share and collect are personal and emotional. I am overly dramatic and much too sensitive. I sometimes try to hide this part of my personality, but I believe it shouldn’t have to be this way – for me or for anyone. We should change the patriarchal way of separating emotions from the public sphere. These strong emotions are what is most valuable in life and, thus, too important to be hidden.
January 2021 marked the tenth month spent in isolation. Almost a year earlier mass lectures in Otaniemi had been replaced by virtual meetings, coffee dates replaced by the occasional text message, trips to Greece turned into solitary time spent jogging or skiing. When one of those skiing trips went wrong, sending me to the hospital for weeks, not able to use my left arm, I had to find alternative methods of reaching out to people. Unable to meet people face to face, and now unable to share stories through images on paper, I turned to writing, and specifically to writing letters to a classmate.
The correspondence between myself and Ronya Hirsma turned into a collaborative project titled The Waiting Room (Practising Building a Nest). In an insecure and lonely time, reaching out to another human with my fears and hopes became intensely important. On Monday, the 12th of April 2021, I invited Ronya to visit me (socially distanced and safely outdoors, of course) at my newly acquired studio space in Kuninkaala, Vantaa. After months of exchanging letters and text messages, having a live conversation felt wildly exhilarating. We sat on opposite benches and talked. I told Ronya about my grandfather, and my childhood in Athens, about the olive tree that grows outside my house.
The memories I shared (both with Ronya that day and also within this project description) are specific to one particular tree, one particular bench, and one particular Ronya. Yet, at the same time they are not – if I lied to you about the location of the tree in question, you wouldn’t notice. The particular tree, bench, and Ronya that I am referring to are, actually, the ones inside my mind. Living in Finland, I wouldn’t even know if the original tree were to be cut down. The importance of the details is specific to me, and the location on this map represents my subjective viewpoint.
Teenage Dream House
The massive olive tree is older than me. Not quite in our yard, but very much wanting to be, always pushing branches and leaves onto our side. Once a year παππούς would put a bedsheet under it and get all the neighbourhood kids to climb up and shake down the olives. He did it for the kids, not so much for the olives, it was fun, and he indulged us.
One spring, παππούς put up a treehouse onto that same olive tree. He didn’t tell us first, one day the house was just there. He was always spontaneous like that, crafting makeshift furniture and makeshift treehouses out of old scraps of wood. More fun for my siblings he probably thought, as they were much younger than me and enjoyed playing Tarzan and Jane, jumping from the balcony onto the treehouse using an old towel for a liana. If only our mother knew! A broken shin and a few loose teeth revealed their secret, but the treehouse stayed up. Times were different then, and bones were meant to be broken.
I loved the treehouse, too, in my teenage way, full of angst and happiness and nights spent outdoors, in a house in an olive tree, with my friends, smoking my first cigarette, fuck it, my first spliff too, παππούς smelled it but never told my parents.
As the years passed, one by one me and my siblings moved away from home, and other kids camped in our treehouse, and shared secrets and first cigarettes and first kisses.
One year I went back home for spring break to find that the City Council had remodeled the park outside our house and cut down the olive tree, treehouse and all. A year later, παππούς passed away. My family thought it strange how much I missed him and still do. There was something about him not unlike that treehouse: uncomplicated, forgiving, and fun. When he was angry, everyone knew; when he was happy, his deep laughter would echo around the block. When the weather was rich and humid, the olive tree would shower us with stink bugs.
The olive tree didn’t give up albeit the Council’s efforts to tame it, and is, once again, almost reaching our balcony.