For Tapio Yli-Viikari, as a first year student at the Helsinki University of Art and Design in 1970, ceramics had not been the first choice. A multi-talented Yli-Viikari was more interested in theatre, staging, architecture and design. However, as he states, “The appeal of the ceramics was strengthened under the guidance of Professor Kyllikki Salmenhaara. She was a defender of the forgotten clay.” The course had equal participation by women and men. During a study trip to Europe, Yli-Viikari was fascinated by Pablo Picasso’s ceramics and after this he felt it was unnecessary for the world of ceramics into be considered somehow as only a women’s field.


After graduating, Yli-Viikari worked at Arabia’s factory as a product designer in 1976-78 and then as director of the art department in 1979-1986. After that, he was appointed as a professor in the ceramic and glass art department at the University of Art and Design, a position he held for three decades until 2017. He has had dozens of solo exhibitions, in Japan, California and in many places in between. He is happy to tell about the exhibitions he has built and curated for other artists – these included, Yli-Viikari has been taking part in over one hundred exhibitions.


He has been particularly keen on researching the history of ceramics and experiencing the ceramic masters working surroundings. It has been essential for concentration on one’s own work.


Asia is close to him. He explains, “Japan, in 1976, was a turning point followed by Korea. The roots of Japanese ceramics are in China – via Korea. One should always go to the original source. You will always find something new and surprising on the way. China has given that to me.”


Asia manifests itself in the works of the Taking a break exhibition: The unpretentious, subtle forms. In a spiral that makes the water move, in the composites of porcelain and cobalt paintings. In pursuit of perfection in the making of celadon glaze. In the ink paintings with nature motifs, with its each brushstroke opening up a whole world of Chinese characters.


Yli-Viikari has returned at the origins of Chinese ceramics during his several journeys and working assignments in China since 1995 – and most recently in 2019. The journey continues and the next trip is being planned.

Photo: Katri Yli-Viikari