Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Drawing the line, thinking with the pencil - Iida Kauppinen

'Punos / Vine', pencil on paper. Iida Kauppinen 2015

As for one fiddling with a pen constantly and doodling when time and peace of mind both allow it, it was only natural for me to take a look at the small exhibition that this lady has put up here in Helsinki. For those who have been following this blog, the said lady is a familiar acquaintance, for she has been putting up some exhibitions of her own quite frequently and even had time to make a collaborative exhibition with yours truly a couple of summers ago. Only this time, though, and I do blame her for this a bit, I'll sharpen my pen and give a small insight on the conversations that we've had over the years regarding the act, the purpose and the status of drawing in the art scene.

In essence, we both are artists who are inexplicably passionate about the act of drawing, no matter what the drawing surface is at that moment, and who enjoy experimenting from time to time. On the other hand, it takes more than just the fingers of two hands to count our differences, but that's what makes it all interesting and worth analysing for a moment. Some of you may have already realized that our way to draw and create an image differ quite a lot, for I do envy Iida for reaching such vibrant and organic dynamics in her works, her line twirling, chopping, curling into itself and also flowing quite freely, uninhibited if I may say, on the paper both in her prints as well as in her drawings. As the opposite, my lines tend to go towards the technical drawings, sleek and almost cold with their impression, hard-edged and controlled. This doesn't mean that we wouldn't be able to try out and enhance the drawing styles from one another, but just merely stating the initial differences that our lines have when compared to each other. We enjoy our own drawing gestures as much as we like to try out new things on paper, no matter if it's about a wish to broaden our skills or just doodling away. Both means and goals are necessary when dealing with the drawn lines and furthermore stepping over them.

However, we do have similarities in our ways of working. Iida mentions when writing about her newest works that for her, drawing is a means to stop and think, to slow down and practice the sense of presence in this hectic world of fast, faster and fastest. It is something that many drawing artists note and share with others, as it is also something that becomes apparent in the art of shibari, where the whole situation stops at its best the moment when the rope touches the other person and the first knot is tied. It is the same with drawing the first line (or smudge, or twirl) and then immersing into the flow of hand, the effort put on the work, even the feel of paper against the tip of the pen or the flat of the charcoal. It is the verbalisation of a thought, an actualisation of the inner vision, as Iida, and many others (like Deanna Petherbridge and William Kentridge), have noted. One could argue what with Rudolf Laban's idea of the Möbius ring, where inner and outer tensions have a constant dialogue between them, so does the drawing artist negotiate the outlook of their visions with the chosen methods to draw them visible to others: yet, the very tension is something that travels not only between the pen, the paper and the hand, but throughout the very being of the drawer, starting with the flexing muscles of the hand to the shoulders, the upper body, even the legs (especially when working with the whole body and not just sitting), as well as the shift between the presence of mind both in the reality and the inside of one's mind.

Notes from working with the thesis. The quotation is from Dick McCaw's 'The Laban Sourcebook', 2011.

These occasional revelations are what seem to currently push Iida to express herself with pen and paper, or marker and mylar, as she is seeing the weight that drawing carries as an art form rather than just acting as the means to merely sketch the final product before being put aside when the more 'appropriate' materials are brought into the process.

So, how well has she verbalised herself with her current exhibition, I found myself asking. The display of the works does carry her trademark of not framing the pieces but just hanging them as they are, plain paper in this case, which I'm glad to note working very well. It is always interesting to follow how one's peers develop their skills, pick up new styles, discard old ones and also merge them together in some cases - yet it was very odd to realize that to me, her works didn't articulate themselves as 'final' products of her thoughts and intentions, but more as a focus redefining itself as it shifts through a phase between the figurative and abstract - an equation that she has been working with for quite some time now. The drawings present a nice ensemble on what her line is about right now, but I'm already wishing to see where she is heading with it, what is the direction her pen is taking at this moment. Truth to be told, after seeing so many of her prints and also working next to her evolving 'handwriting' when it comes to art, it was a bit unnerving experience to find myself suddenly lacking the presence of the exact line that I had learned to associate with her works. For that I am pleased, as it means that her pen, along with her thoughts, isn't stopping anytime soon.

Three details from the work called 'Purkaus / Eruption'. Iida Kauppinen 2015

From twilight of associations to clarity of thought - Sirpa Häkli

A brief mention about an exhibition that I went and visited in Galleria G, which functions as a part of the Association of Finnish Printmakers, and saw a rather intriguing abstract painting exhibition by Sirpa Häkli of whom, I'm embarrassed to say, I do not recall hearing about. On the other hand, I may have seen some of her previous works without knowing (or, more possibly, remembering) that they're from the said artist, but I'll put that note aside for now.

The name of the exhibition is 'Hämärä ja kirkas' in Finnish, roughly translated as 'The twilight and the brightness (or clarity, perhaps)', and Häkli puts emphasis on the said words by referring to Herakleitos, one of the philosophers of the ancient Greece, who, apparently, viewed the mentioned words as a circle of tension that unites two sides of the same world in a harmonius manner. As for one not having read the said gentleman's ideas on the thought, I reach for another thinker whose thoughts regarding the somewhat same idea were based on Greek thinkers when it comes to his research regarding movement as an endlessly shifting sphere; namely Rudolf Laban, the father of the Laban Movement Analysis (LMA). Basically what intrigued me regarding this exhibition is that the artist herself seemed to have the similar kind of idea on the constant movement between both the inner and the outer tension, which in this case becomes visible through a painting process: the painter's inner intention creates a need to visualize the circling thoughts on canvas, and thus an artwork is made. It is a familiar circle of an idea and an execution that many artists know by heart and constantly keep in touch with during the everyday acts, and which, as Häkli nicely points out, is something resembling wandering through twilight towards the clarity of thoughts, yet at the same time everyone knows that the direction can also go inside an even darker space should one fail to grasp the surfacing thoughts and get a good hold onto them. In this sense, "hold that thought" is a very accurate proverb when it comes to creating a piece.

In her writing about the exhibition, Häkli mentions to be interested in polar opposites, and also she describes her way to work by making many different versions and series out of her works. Through such process she seems to strive for showing the spectator how many paths one thought process can take when changing the viewpoints as well as the material or technique used for creating a solid form for the lingering ideas. All in all it is a nice reminder how many artists are still interested in the balance of tension between the artist and their work, the material and the tools, the general ideas and personal visions, et cetera. Though from a personal point the small works in the exhibition do draw my interest in way better than the big ones and perhaps it would be more meaningful to see this exhibition with the knowledge on what the artist had earlier done concerning the same theme, but still the balance between both the large pieces and the small series is well thought, calming even. Viewing the paintings did give a good push to put some movement back into my own thoughts, so perhaps the artist's intention did succeed, after all.

'Concept of Beauty (II)' 2015. From the series 'Aesthetics and the Artist'. Pencil on the pages of an essay written by Thomas Munro: "Toward Science in Aesthetics", Selected Essays, Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1956. 24 x 31 cm.

'Pareja / Pairs (I)', 2015. Acrylic and ink on paper. 30 x 30 cm.

'Selityksiä / Explanations', 2015. Painting on canvas. 41 x 41 cm.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Kaisaleena Halinen

The autumn and spring have been busy around here, with many changes occurring and new opportunities appearing in sight, so I have a somewhat good reason to keep my silence for a few months. For those wondering, new adventures await this tea-addicted jack-of-all-trades and master-of-everything-and-nothing if all goes well.

But, beside those small news, this post is about a good friend and one of my rather unofficial mentors who I got to know when I started to work as the studio supervisor for the open university a couple of years back. Kaisaleena Halinen, a Finnish sculptor who graduated from Kuvataideakatemia (the present Art University of Helsinki) and who works in my university among a couple of other sculpting teachers for both the degree students and the open university students. Amidst the chaos of teaching the daytime and evening courses, this particular lady has expanded my knowledge on the possibilities of three-dimensional thinking in sculpting, as well as teaching me new skills like how to make proper silicon molds and so on. The elephant cube exhibited at 'The Red Elephant' is one result of those evenings spent over mixing blob A into gloob B and stirring like no tomorrow, and then patiently drilling the basics of casting mechanisms into this blonde head.

In any case, just so that this writing doesn't turn into random ramblings, I give you a small glimpse on what kind of artist are we actually discussing about by focusing on the exhibition that Kaisaleena is currently having in Gallery Ama here in Helsinki. First of all, she is an intriguing mixture of contemporary art philosophy and tradition of sculpting. The impression that is given is that she experiments, tests out her ideas relentlessly, masters materials with enviable perseverence and has a goal of not to invent the wheel for the second time but to make it even better than before. Using space and toying with both the feel and look of the material could be thought to be the main interests in her works, as well as the subtle communicating with the viewer, pushing the one looking taking on different viewing angles and coming up with different ideas instead of serving a menu where every ingredient is sorted out and blatantly exposed. She makes an effort both in thinking of her works as well as creating them, which shows the best in the smallest details.

As it goes for yours truly, some people have it bad for details. That's why the following photos are focusing on them instead of the space the works were put into or the whole art pieces, as I am hoping that perhaps these pictures tweak your curiosity enough to take a walk on a nice day and stop by in the gallery, feel for yourself how the 'Strange fruit' sends shivers down your spine accompanied with morbid curiosity tempting to touch, or step into the red-luminated circle of 'Sacrifice' and feel the weight of the world for a fleeting moment yet spot the light that may represent hope, or maybe the dimming light of sense in the era of senseless, contemplate over the fisting hands of 'Defiance' and 'Hold (self-portrait)' whether or not they pull or push, resist or play childish games, and how the smallest details make them matter.

How the texture of the used material does, indeed, make a difference.

Uhma / Defiance  2015
betoni, kangas / concrete, fabric

Ote (omakuva) / A Hold (self-portrait)   2015
silikoni, kipsi, kangas / silicone, plaster, fabric

Golden Cave   2015
tuohi, lyöntimetalli, balsapuu

Liputuspäivä / Flag day  2015
betoni, puu, tekohius / concrete, wood, artificial hair

Kaisaleena Halinen 7.2.-1.3.2015
Gallery Ama
Rikhardinkatu 1

Monday, September 15, 2014

William Dennisuk - Hidden Variables

As many have pondered and discovered, when it comes to growing up, the first source for information are the senses with which an individual observes and situates oneself into the surrounding world which does its best to overwhelm our thoughts and bodies with its remarkable diversity of beings and phenomena. Whether the said information is gathered by looking, tasting or touching, or merely by reading, the objective for the act is nearly always the desire to make sense to what it is that the individual is experiencing, satisfying the curiosity that gives the impulse for the aforementioned actions. For teachers, nurturing the innate drive for trying out how things work in the reality that is around us is one of the biggest challenge when it comes to children and teenagers, as the older an individual becomes, the more subdued the curiosity grows to be since the flow of the information narrows down into more accurate, more abstract and more defined by the demand of knowing what is considered important instead of having space for vague understanding, tolerance for blind areas and humility to admit that nothing is certain and invariable when it comes to the bizarre structures we call society, science and culture. For centuries, side by side with the thriving inventions of science, artists have strived to understand and communicate with the said uncertainty of certainty and its many hidden layers, as well as providing new ways to unveil them for the seeing eye..and the gentleman who has become the subject of this post serves a menu that tickles the taste for that.

Twofold, 2014

With his works, William Dennisuk approaches many questions of being and perceiving by creating a space which gives an impulse that ignites the spark of curiosity from the very first step taken over the gallery's threshold. As the artist himself explains, his goal is not to explain comprehensively what his thoughts are regarding the duality of the tactile and the visual experience, but to offer a viewpoint from which the viewers can construct their own connections to the works on display. The large forms that were brought into the gallery are based on objects that the artist had studied with the idea of vessels: objects within objects, layers that are hidden beneath multiple others and sometimes even on plain sight yet unseen in their nakedness and dynamic nature. It is notable that the idea of the vessel can be connected to the flesh of a body, as the terms and the forms soon enough interlace with each other and acquire new meanings, new reflections into which one can get immersed should they choose to. The size and the material of the forms encourages the bodily experience, as one gets drawn closer to see, to feel what it is that is shown and which seems to dodge the sharpness of the gaze, as well as the categorizing mind. Funnily enough, the artist was right in his guess that everyone will be poking and patting his works, as that was exactly what happened with our small band of curious minds, amidst the constant circling around and peeking both through and inside the works.

As for yours truly, the shifts between the blur and sharp visual focus, the momentary deception of the eye as well as the beautiful play of natural light and the living shadows it created were the essence of the experience that gave the understanding on what the artist refers to when he borrows the words of Niels Bohr on how in order to truly speak about atoms, the only choice would be to use the language as in poetry. Delightfully, Dennisuk has embraced the lyrical approach on both the tactile and abstract language, as not only do the works actively persuade the mind to discuss with them, but the titles of the pieces weave the final knots to the web that is left for the curious to unravel.

Dual, 2014

William Dennisuk - Hidden Variables
Gallery Sculptor
From 12th to 28th of September
Tue-Fri 11-17
Sat-Sun 12-16

Friday, September 12, 2014

View on what has been and is yet to be said

KIM SIMONSSON: 'The golden lying dear' (ceramics, glass, gold), 'The Invisible Hand' (photograph)

Along the Fall many things occur, such as the continuation of the thesis, starting the evening works and furthermore, most importantly, getting into situations and places that are popping up as the nights begin to darken again. This post gives a small view on the exhibitions yours truly bumped into, all of them sadly being in the past already when this text is typed, but what are still considered worthy of mentioning despite the unfortunate fact. First of all, the autumn season in the gallery Sculptor has begun and during the Helsinki Festival Weeks the audience was presented with an exhibition by Kim Simonsson, a renowned Finnish sculptor whose somewhat of a trademark are frail-looking, still figures of children, with defined gender or not. The materials he uses are ceramics, glass, metal and a plethora of different paints and glazes, only to mention a few, and the characteristics of said figures do remind the viewer of Asian pop culture, especially manga and the sleek, highly visualized images of industrialized celebrities. On the other hand, beneath the cold, white and polished surfaces, they do refer to the macabre absurdity of what is nowadays culture and society.

The next mentionable exhibition caught the eye by accident and turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Jussi Twoseven is an artist who's not overly familiar but who seems like worth knowing better, and who provided a good overview on what one can do with stencils when they have discovered their way of making a mark, and whose works made me yet again ponder on my own thoughts regarding the juxtaposition of public and private, legal and illegal, visual and tactile. Street art, as one could say as the definition of this certain genre, has always been somewhat puzzling to myself when seeing it used in a gallery, as the ones I've encountered are either photographs depicting and commenting certain things happening in the city, or massive paintings done with the same methods that are used on the streets, or, when lucky, works that are really commenting the provided space itself. In a sense I have never quite understood why the transformation of a graffiti suddenly into a painting that is available for purchase makes me unease, why the change of environment affects me so.

JUSSI TWOSEVEN: ROar27, spraypaint and acryl on mdf, 310X270 cm

It could be that being a rather site-specifically inclined person myself, seeing something surrounded by a clean and profit-inclined ambiance rather than spotting the thing amidst a place that is full of both visible and audible cacophony and sometimes takes a moment to see makes the whole object seem a bit out-of-place. This doesn't mean that the gallery space is ill-suited for graffiti and such, on the contrary the contradictions and such are always welcome to appear and happen. As it is, the art scene always takes the ideas in both ways, from the institutionalized art scenes to the borderline illegal works that happen in the public space that is more or less controlled and restricted in the sense of who it is designed for, so seeing graffiti in a gallery isn't really worth of wasting the breath on a superficial personal dilemma. For instance the gallery called Make your mark has a valuable place within the art scene, as they combine anarchy and creativity with the always delightful question of what is and isn't appropriate and legal by enhancing the gallery space in their use. In any case, the exhibition causing this tiny ramble did actually manage to erase some of the lurking scepticism concerning graffiti-turned-into-painting, and maybe even assure me that there's no danger of street art losing its edgy and sharp-minded character in the world of art markets, no matter how much only certain artists get the praise that all of them rightfully deserve. Plus the perhaps unintended reference towards Rorschach tests did make a smirk appear onto this lady's face.

The third party of this passed trio was, actually, the one that made my day. A spatial, tactile and prosaic experience was created as Ilona Valkonen, Tinttu Henttonen and Marjo Niemi combined their creative skills and took over Forum Box during the Helsinki Festival Weeks. I've always enjoyed seeing the exhibitions in Forum Box, as the space itself is just amazing to enter, the high walls and subtle light both expanding and enclosing around oneself, and I was more than happy to note that the said artists had indeed embraced the space with their works. Not to mention getting one's quota on ropes and knots was the best bit for yours truly, as it gave pleasure I didn't even know I had craved for for the past hectic months. The way the paintings were presented did also press all the right buttons within me, as the structures of the paintings were made visible and put to use, but also how they had put thought into the lumination of the works. The shifts between floating and being tightly tied down, almost as if both preventing and protecting, the ways how the gaze was directed from one point to another, one could find themselves immersing into their world and feeling reluctant to let go, not to touch the canvas, the subtle colors, the ropes, the words that poured from Marjo's pen as she stepped inside the lines, in between the lines and even throwing them to the reader with her poetic prose, walking right on the heels and making one see the unseeable.

ILONA VALKONEN: To Gabriele Basilico: Can I leave my bike in front of your Beirut?

Ropes by Tinttu Henttonen.


ILONA VALKONEN, TINTTU HENTTONEN: part of a larger installation.
ILONA VALKONEN, TINTTU HENTTONEN: parts of a larger installation.

But, as Monthy Python would put it, the next post is something completely different.