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We’re heading to Finland to meet up with the maestro of positive energy and rhythm. Clap your hands for the artist Sami Korkiakoski.

8 min read

Working mostly with large scale paintings, Sami Korkiakoski explores rhythm, feeling, energy and movement. He then blends them all together into one ecstatic dance on canvas. 

Sami holds a dual masters degree from the University of Art and Design Helsinki and the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts Helsinki and has since become an esteemed name on the contemporary art scene, most notably in Finland and the U.S. We caught up with Sami to get an insight into the mind of the genuine and kind Swedish-Finnish painter.

Hi Sami! It's great to see you! What are you working on right now? 

Right now I’m making very happy paintings with smiley faces and lots of color. I’m also continuing some of my older pieces that I started years ago, which is something that’s typical for my process. I can continue with a painting years later when I realize that I’m not satisfied with the picture and that’s how I can get so many layers which is something that’s very important in my art. 

I’m also doing lots of collages, both small and large ones. When I make these collages I’m using different canvas pieces that I then glue together and overpaint. I have a bunch of pieces spread out on my studio floor as we speak. 

And what are you learning right now? 

Well I'm always learning something new about myself! Right now I feel very refreshed because I'm in the middle of something new. My pieces have typically been quite dramatic and serious, but now I’ve transitioned into making more happy art. So right now I’m using lots of yellow, orange and spring-like colors, and I use lots and lots of material and they look very street-stylish. 

I call them happy paintings, but they still have a certain roughness to them. I want to keep the roughness and I don't want the pieces to be too beautiful. I want to make ugly paintings that still contain beauty. So I quite often talk about the aesthetic of ugliness and that ugly can also be very beautiful. 

The artist's newest aesthetic - Happy Paintings

We're curious - where do you find your inspiration? 

I'm inspired by layers on the streets such as tags, layered flyers, marks, gestures, Berlin graffiti areas, abandoned places and houses, children's drawings, pictures that come straight from the heart, and crazy and bold art pieces.

Which other artists inspire you?

There are so many artists that I love and that I’m very inspired about, and I like many different kinds of stuff. I like busy paintings and sculptures but also very minimalistic pieces, for example a David Ostrovsky painting when there’s only one line. When people talk about my art they often mention similarities to Jackson Pollock for example, and that’s an artist with a busier expression that I really like.. But I also enjoy very minimalistic art such as Ostrovsky’s. But there’s of course tens of idols...I like older ones as well such as Matisse for example. 

Korkiakoski in front of his large scale paintings

What is your favorite song right now?

I’m listening to a lot of eurodance music from the 90s right now. I'm a 90s lover. I was a young high school student back then, so it’s very nostalgic to me. Usually I listen to quite a lot of heavy metal music but now it’s all eurodance. Other than that I also listen to Finish soft ballad music because I make my own music as well and that’s the kind of songs I make myself.

You make your own music as well, that’s interesting!

Yes it’s a very nice hobby to have! But it comes and goes. When I have a period where I paint a lot then I can't make any music at all. But then I enter periods where I distance myself from painting and then I make music instead. I think that It’s very important to be able to alternate between the two… it’s important for my painting that I take some breaks.

Where do you go when you need to think and reflect? 

I love to go abroad but right now that’s very difficult of course. But I would probably go to the forest or out of the studio at least, maybe to some other town in Finland. It usually helps when I get out of my hometown. 

Inside Korkiakoski's studio

What are the three coolest personality traits one can have?

Being open, reliable, and loving. 

Where were you two years ago?

Let’s see, two years ago I had a different studio and was in a different town. I was solving the same painting problems, doing the same work, making the same songs as I do now. So I was just doing the same things as I do now... But, oh that’s right! I was also in L.A and had a show there. Actually that was exactly two years ago. I had my show and I was enjoying the sun. It was very nice and fun to travel, I miss that. 

Where will you be two years from now?

Maybe New York - I've had three shows there and it's my favorite city. Or maybe L.A as well, I had a show there in 2019 and loved it there too. I’m actually going to join a group show in Miami next month with 6 pieces, but sadly it’s only my pieces that are travelling, not me. But Hopefully in two years from now I’m in the U.S again!


What makes you smile?

Except eurodance music? Haha. Well, the sun makes me smile, and love makes me smile. Good movies and good friends also make me smile. 

What do you think art will look like in 100 years from now?

I hope that painting is still alive and that things aren’t too digital… But I do trust in painting and I think that it will always be around. I don’t think it’s going to change too much. Artists have always dealt and worked with the same feelings and problems, and I don’t think that people will change that much in 100 years. 

Korkiakoski and beautiful chaos

If a movie was made about you, what genre would it be and which actor would play you?  

Well the genre would be something between a comedy and a thriller. A combination of the two. In one painting there can be both thriller and comedy. I would be played by either Jim Carrey or Stephen Hopkins. 

You are 65 years old and retired, where are you and what are you doing? 

I will be painting, that’s for sure. If I am physically able then I will be painting. I will spend my winters in a warm place and spend my summers in Finland. I simply want to paint and enjoy life. 

What is the biggest challenge as an artist?

One of the biggest challenges are to constantly refresh your work and keep people interested. You constantly need to make something new and change the way you work and express yourself because it’s very boring if you are doing the same art again and again.

What is the best with being an artist? 

It’s having fun! Painting is a very fun thing to do, I really enjoy it a lot. Even though it can be quite difficult at times and take up all of your power as you give everything to your art, it’s still very fun and it’s a way to express your feelings. 


If you could go back in time, which era would you visit and why?

I would visit the 1980s. It was a very rough, busy and expressionistic era when it comes to art, and those types of painting were very appreciated back then. Also I love 80s music!

What do you have on your “bucket list” as an artist? 

I would love to have my next solo show in the U.S. In a beautiful gallery. That’s the number one on my bucket list. 

If you could spend one year wherever you want in the world, where would it be?

In Miami I think. I love warm weather and I love America because they love my art. My way to paint is very American and many of my idols are from there. The roots of my art go to New York and it would be fun to spend a year there as well. But I’ll go with Miami because the weather is much better, and you know as a scandianivan that’s very important. 

See more of Sami's works here.