Maritta Nurmi, a visual artist born in Finland, has been based in Hanoi, Vietnam, since 1994. Her artistic practice includes painting and installation. Maritta's background both in Art and in Natural Sciences together with her long term stay in Asia all give a multilayered and multicultural influence into her art. Maritta has also been active as cross-cultural link between the Finnish and Vietnamese cultures.


I grow of change, my art grows of change, challenge is crucial

The two big changes in my work and life were the change from natural science (chemistry and biology) into art and then moving from Finland to Hanoi , Vietnam . Challenges in art have shifted from the surface of painting first to room and space; 3- dimensionality and installation followed with community and public art.

After settling to Asia , step by step the colors in my work were covered with metal. In the end silver, aluminum or copper occupied the whole surface. The reflection of metal gave a good allegory for the possibility of a dialogue between the cultures of West and East in ones life: it was like looking into a mirror without getting anything in return. Metal also represented the spirit world and the moon, the ideas given for East. My original focus was in finding a fruitful combination of chemistry and art. This resulted in experimenting, using chemicals in addition to the natural humid and hot weather conditions of Hanoi for getting the metals oxidized and alive.

Experiments with metals, living in the midst of and learning about eastern philosophies led me to compare the science and philosophy of Alchemy to Buddhism. This resulted in a big body of work where I proposed not a duality of life and death, but an endless cycle of life, death, and rebirth. I organized the basic sentence of Alchemical change (‘to grow, to become, to change oneself') to be depicted in three successive rooms. Each room represented one of the 3 colors and metals of Alchemy (black, white and red alleging the process of lead changing to silver and gold) and also a consequential phase in the life/death/life – circle. The installation was built up of ready-made objects and paintings.

A step further towards the installation and community based working came along with an installation consisting of 5 double beds separated from each others with pink mosquito nets which are used by Vietnamese during a most significant happening in their life, the wedding night. I served ‘Breakfast in Bed' for the audience and participants, they enjoyed coffee and croissants on my paintings (top of the tray is my painting).

This led me to make research on Vietnamese tea ceremony and to a new project which still is waiting to be realized: a huge installation of my ready-made tables is placed in a circus tent. The installation will be a work of art but will also be used for public tea ceremonies. Tea tables are made in Hanoi by me together with the local handicraft people.

The challenge of physicality in my art will be met in Hanoi next year. The drafting and fulfilling a 60 square meters of a ceramic mosaic mural on an outdoors concrete wall in Hanoi is part of a public and permanent art work. The project includes many kinds of community based projects and might as well be for me a natural step towards sculpting.