Artist Statement

Saara in the forest

Saara Alhopuro

Finnish land artist, photographer and diplomat. I use several techniques and styles of art, but always passionately.

I am best known for my mushroom art, naivistic and colourful installations, which I create in the forest and leave there – on a moss bed, lichen mattress or a piece of rock – for passers-by to find. The pieces themselves wither, but before they do, I record them and give them a new life through photography.

In my art I am especially interested in people’s complex and controversial relationship with nature. Forests are often described as “the church of the Finns”, but how many really see them purely without thinking about gaining something from them? Forest owners are often preoccupied with how fast they will be able to sell the timber, but even mushroom foragers and berry-pickers tend to think of how much they can benefit.

For me the forest is a temple, studio and gallery. As a former dive instructor I enter the forest like I would dive down to a coral reef. I walk there slowly, paying attention to all the fairytale-like colours and shapes. The colour palette found in our forests is much wider, and more exotic, than many realise. Collecting it takes a bit of time though, so I often spend several hours picking up my “paint” before being able to make art.

I want to wake up others to experience forests through art, as well. I am fascinated by the thought that anyone can accidentally find my pieces in their original gallery. Sometimes, when I have created an installation close to a popular nature path, I have stayed close-by and observed the people who find it to see their reactions. It has seemed clear that my art has brought a bit of mystery and sense of magic to their day.

On the other hand you can also see darker tones in my art. I have often created skeleton shapes out of mushrooms, for example, along with other imagery of death. It is both an expression of concern towards the declining diversity in nature, as well as a study of nature’s eternity. In land art, as in nature itself, everything disappears, and nothing will disappear permanently. When I leave my mushroom art in the forest, it lives on as part of the eternal circle of life.

Like Andy Goldsworthy, Richard Shilling and Walter Mason, I also use other materials I find in nature to create both abstract and descriptive art. As well as by these land artists I have been inspired by indigenous people, whom I’ve worked with in Latin America. Land art as a modern art movement is often said to have emerged in the 1960s, but in reality I believe it to be the most original art form of them all. We can only guess what kind of art people have created to their surroundings thousands of years ago. I am just a temporary part of this long thread.

Saara Auringossa