A former pupil of the celebrated Helsinki School of Art and Design, Finnish photographer Sandra Kantanen (born 1974) presents imagery strongly influenced by traditional Chinese landscape painting. In her works, which are deliberately distorted, blurred and streaked, she investigates and expands the boundaries of the photographic medium.
Sandra Kantanen (born 1974, Helsinki, Finland) trained both at the Helsinki School of Photography and the Central Academy of Art in Beijing. 'I studied Chinese landscape painting and became obsessed with the idea of trying to understand their way of looking at nature. As I found most of the holy mountains they had been depicting for thousands of years were almost destroyed by pollution or otherwise turned into tourist spots, it became for me a search for a landscape that doesn't really exist, an idealised picture'. One senses in her work old values of a slower way of life, her interest in Tibetan Buddhism – yet the hints at chaos with the occasional wash of colour, the blurring, the distortion, the mix of techniques, seem to accept that there are flaws not only in man-made thinking patterns, but in nature itself, and even in her ‘idealised’ vision of it.
"The moths are from Japan, while the landscapes are mainly from Croatia with others even further afield in China. I live in Finland. My most recent work, Landscapes and Moths, has taken some three years to make. I am a slow artist. Even when I have the negative in the camera, it can take years to emerge into the finished article. The negative is raw material: it needs to develop slowly. I make several versions of a work. It is as if I am working through a subject as a painter does in a series. Often there is no outcome.
The landscapes are part of a series I have worked on since I first visited China in 2000. The first visit started a process of combining photography and painting in different ways. I may always search for “the same picture”, but it must have new facets and layers. There needs to be a friction between the photograph, and its painterly trace: it is as if they are recording different presences.
In looking at the image we first see the surface and then perceive what the image portrays. The painting states that everything we see is on the surface. By borrowing the tools of a different tradition of image-making, I hope to talk about another side of photography.
I collected the moths during a residency in northern Japan. The moths came in the evening attracted by the light in our huge studio window in Aomori. In the morning they were all dead. I collected them and scanned them for later use. The depth of the focus supplied by the light of the scanner makes the images surreal. In the spirit of surrealism Moths and Landscapes lead one between different worlds."