“Ocean Forest” (underwater series) investigates intersections between the forests of Finland and the oceans of Australia. These two countries in which I reside, at the far ends of the world, are at once opposite and alike in their landscape and culture. From forests to oceans, lakes to arid land, snow to heat, I deeply love both countries, their people, and their nature.
I grew up in Finland with forests and have had the ocean as part of my daily life for a long time now, forming my great appreciation for both. I used to swim in the ocean almost every day until I had an accident in 1995, only two years after I migrated to Australia. I had stepped on a stingray, a very painful encounter that left me limping for eight years and crippled me with a fear of the ocean. Fear is a real, beautiful and a normal human experience, however I one day hope to overcome my phobia to again enjoy the ocean’s water beyond standing in the shallows. The majestic forests of Finland scare me somewhat too. I have often felt the presence of a large animal, a bear or a moose perhaps. I used to go deep into the forest to collect berries with my family and we would always make lots of noise to scare away possible predators.
Through expressive application of thick acrylic paint, this body of abstract paintings explores my personal experiences as a Finnish migrant in Australia, especially my encounters with the underwater world and landscape, and my appreciation for the beauty of nature.” – Arja Välimäki