Gallery

Ritva Voutila


Art is too consuming to do other than art. It takes every cell of your body to be an artist. At times I feel that the compulsion to create crushes me, - creative work is sweat and blood. But I would not want to live any other life.

Issue 16 (2/2006) • may 31, 2006 • wersja polska »»


Ritva Voutila

Australian artist Ritva Voutila was born and grew up in Finland, in a small industrial town.

In her childhood days the name of that town meant nothing, or very little, to people outside her native country. Today it's - literally - on half the world's lips: Nokia.

In the hindsight, Ritva ponders, for an artist-to-be, Nokia was perhaps an ideal place to grow up: it had the earthiness of a small town and its people who were living under the long shadows of factory chimneys. Ritva laughs and says: When the wind blew from north it smelled of bread and freshly baked biscuits. If the wind blew from south, it smelled of rubber and cellulose. But importantly for her, Nokia in the 50s was not only soot-spewing factories and the sound of factory sirens at 4 pm every workday to remind the home-staying wives, like my mother, to put dinner on the table for their home-returning husbands.

Like everywhere in Finland, lakes and rivers were never far. Neither were the woods. I lived with my nose always plowing the ground, Ritva recalls. I loved to explore the fields and woods. There wasn't a single plant or a rock or a bug that would have escaped my curiosity.

She still hasn't lost any of that curiosity or sense of wonder in the surrounding world and its people. I would be dead as an artist, if I did. I would be dead as a person, if I did, she says. Water and woods; factories and people; morning and afternoon rush hours; the four seasons of the year; sight, sound and smell. They were all firmly pressed against the developing brain of the artist. Add to this the imaginary worlds Ritva absorbed from many books, performing arts, music, and later from her visits to many different countries and from living among different cultures - life lived to its fullest - and you'll have the ingredients for a rich fabric of imagination every creative person cherishes and draws upon to create their own art.

I always wanted to do art, Ritva says. But from early on I was also very much aware that even the most free spirited artists need to eat. Therefore I made up my mind: in order to secure my financial future I wanted to study to become an art teacher or a commercial artist, rather than independent fine artist. As soon as she had finished her high school in Nokia, she moved to Helsinki, and enrolled in the evening classes at the University of Art and Design. To support herself, she held a daytime job at a nearby office.

Two years went by. Then Ritva decided to put her art studies on hold, because her urge to explore the wider world became too irresistible. After travelling around the world one and a half times, and living in Canary Islands for ten years, she finally settled down in Australia in 1981. She first worked in an office in Sydney, but found time to study and practice her art during her free time. In a couple of years she felt confident enough to earn her living from art alone. It was a brave decision, to give up her day job, but she hasn't regretted it once. Art is too consuming to do other than art, Ritva says. It takes every cell of your body to be an artist. At times I feel that the compulsion to create crushes me, - creative work is sweat and blood. But I would not want to live any other life.

In the course of her artistic career, she has worked in many different areas of art: from jewellry design and sculpture, to graphic design and illustration, as an art teacher and lecturer, and as a performer. She has illustrated several books for children (see complete list on her website), and her illustrations have appeared in many advertising campaigns and magazines in Australia and overseas. Today, however, she is keen to dedicate most of her time to fine art, encouraged by the sellout success of her first solo exhibition in Gallery Lane, Leura, in 2003. Since then her paintings have been in constant demand among collectors.

Whenever she can, she prefers to use oils. Why? Because they are the most versatile paints that allow me to achieve the fine gradations, subtle hues, and glowing colours, which I cannot achieve in any other way, Ritva says. They also allow textures. I like mixing areas of rough impasto with absolutely smooth passages on my paintings. She laughs as she explains: I could not decide which I liked most, so I put both of them on one painting. Why not?

The only drawback with oils, Ritva thinks, is that they dry so slowly, especially when using impasto. Some artists can work on several paintings simultaneously. But Ritva says: I have tried that, but as soon as one painting starts to have life of its own I have an urge to finish it.

She has tried alkyds, but she thinks that alkyds don't seem to have quite the same buttery texture and covering power as conventional oils. And they still do not dry as quickly as I would like, she says.

I have also tried the heat-set oils and my first reaction was, no, they are not the same, not as good as traditional oils. But she adds: However, I persisted, and I am now liking them more and more. In fact I love them. For illustration work especially, they are ideal. I realized that once you accept that they require a technique of their own, something you have to learn through trial and error, you can do wonders. To me the main advantage is, - since they dry as soon as you want them to dry -, that you can finish the painting before your eyes get too accustomed to it. Once you lose your fresh eye, it's near impossible to get it back.

Ritva now lives in the World Heritage listed Blue Mountains, 100 km west of Sydney with her American husband, Richard. The City of the Blue Mountains is often dubbed as the Arts Capital of Australia for being the home for many practicing artists, who want the best of both worlds: to live close enough to the big smoke and its vibrant cultural life, yet close to nature at the same time, where the closest neighbours are colourful parrots, laughing kookaburras, and possums on the rooftops.


Ritva Voutila online:


Chasing pictures


Ritva Voutila


My head makes pictures that I chase, with pencils, brushes and coloured paints. But if I do not concentrate, the parade of pictures quickly fades.

Fine Art

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Illustrations

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The Day the Dreaming Died

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Ritva Voutila


  • Born: 1946 in Nokia, Finland
  • Education: University of Art and Design, Helsinki (evening), 1966-1968; Paddington Art School, Sydney, 1983; Julian Ashton School of Fine Arts, Sydney, 1992; BA in Philosophy from Macquarie University, Sydney, 1994; Postgraduate studies in Urban Design, University of Sydney 1996
  • Exhibitions: 1995-1998 Participated in a number of group exhibitions; 2003 Solo exhibition at Gallery Lane, Leura, Australia
  • Represented by: Stop Laughing This Is Serious Gallery, Blackheath, Australia
  • Lives in: The Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia

© Ritva Voutila