NO-CHAIR-DESIGN: On Chairs in Paintings with Iidu Tikkanen

Iidu Tikkanen in a painter currently based in Helsinki. During a workshop “Swapping the Practices” organized by Alkovi Gallery, Iidu teamed up with Miina Hujala and reinvented herself as a video-artist. She reanimated a chair using bulky tools, strings and tape.. The video is not online yet but it’s the first piece of video-art we at Ore.e Ref. are interested in purchasing for our Meta- Collection. Iidu is known for her atmospheric paintings which remind me of movie settings. When chatting about the video she made for the workshop, Iidu revealed that chairs are a reoccurring theme in the tradition of painting. Why is that?


Eero: Have you yourself painted chairs? Why?

Iidu: Yes. I’ve made a couple of chair paintings for my exhibition “Bourgeois Daydreams” (info in Finnish) in gallery Jangva last spring 2011. The exhibition was inspired by horror novels, fetishism, beauty and the pursuit of wealth and happiness. I ended up painting pictures of luscious yet decaying empty interiors with only furniture in them. Painting chairs suited the theme well, so I gave it a go.  

Eero: Can you tell more about this work? Which I found on your website.


“Sit down. Stand up” (2010) Photo: Antti Peltokangas

Iidu: This is a kind of close- up piece from the interior paintings. It’s a ghost chair levitating. For some reason people tend to see empty chairs anthropomorphically, like they are reminders or allegories of humanity and loneliness and such. I painted this chair because it happened to be in my studio and suited with the series of paintings. I think most painters in the past painted chairs because it was handy. If you didn’t have a model nearby when inspiration struck, you would’ve had a chair.  

Eero: Can you name other artist working with chairs or famous paintings in which chairs are in a leading role?

Iidu: Van Gogh, Matisse and David Hockney come to mind for a start. I think they painted chairs first as studies, but reformed the still life tradition portraying objects the same way as people. Hmm, maybe this humanizing of chairs is all to do with these guys.. 

Eero: Mmm… Their work is the most cited at least. Which is your favorite chair themed painting and why do you like it?

Iidu: I like all of Edward Hoppers chair paintings. There are always people in the paintings too, but they are equals with the furniture, as quiet and introverted as chairs. Somehow that style appeals to me, and also that that it’s so different from my own painting methods. For example: “Intermission (Intermedio)” (1963)

Eero: How does drawing or painting a chair differ from painting something else.. Is panting a chair more challenging?

Iidu: It doesn’t.

Eero: Spanish painter Diego Velázquez made a painting called “Portrait of Innocent X” which the artist Francis Bacon made a version of it some 300 years later. Your style of working with the brush reminds me of the  paintings Bacon has made.. How would you compare the chairs painted by Velázquez and Bacon?

Iidu: I’m a fan of Bacons of course, I really like the way he placed bits and pieces from art history into his paintings so arrogantly. I’d like to be able to do that too. Velazquez paints the pope on his throne, everything about the chair is sturdy and heavy with authority. The pope sits on the throne relaxed, yet ready for action if needed. In Bacons version the pope and the chair are evaporating nanoseconds after a nuclear blast. The pope clings into the chair as if it was a fighter planes ejection seat. I’ve always found it amusing that the pope is sitting in a boxing ring. Or maybe those ropelike things are just a reference to space. Did you know Eero, that Bacon actually was a interior decorator and furniture designer before he triumphed as a painter? He knew his chairs.


“Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X” (1953) by Francis Bacon

Eero: Ah.. Never knew that! It makes sense.. His paintings show an understanding of space. But why do painters in general paint chairs?

Iidu: Why not? Why paint anything? I’ve asked that question from my self frequently lately, the answer is still controversial.

Eero: Are you gonna present these chair themed painting you have made sometime soon? Do you have some new exhibitions coming up?

Iidu: I showed my chairs in Jangva last spring and I’ve moved on to other themes, for now. I think my next appearance will be in Kuvan Kevät, the degree show of the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts in 2013.

Eero: I’m looking forward to that! Thank you very much for this interview.. Is the chair video online yet? When is it gonna be? What was it’s name?

Iidu: Thank you. The videostuff is still in process, we’ll see!



We which the best of luck for Iidu and hope she keeps on paintings and doing videos too. Look to her webpages for more info on the work she does. My personal favorite is the “Morning After” (2011).