Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Tying up some loose ends, loosening old knots anew

Well. It seems that it takes a few months to finally understand that one has opened up new paths after pulling through seven years of studies - and then to realize that studying is both addictive and also helps to unwind after such stressful months of writing the thesis. Hence, I've found myself studying, again. Although not as a degree student, but in an open university course that focuses on drama education and therefore supports the goal to have a second-ish degree (or, well, adequate qualifications) to work as a drama teacher in schools. Or at least develope a new way to approach teaching visual arts, at least, since as many know, art consists of way more things than what the two-dimensional surface can offer in the traditional sense.

In any case. This post is more about just putting out lot of pictures on things that I have participated in or what has been going on in the past months when I've been chained to the laptop most of my time. Some of them are old and some are new to some. So, without further chit-chat, here's a small insight on what kind of situations I've been getting into.

Learned to do silkscreen when learning the ropes of working as the workshop master. I love my job.
Accidentally found that doodling geometric forms is a good way to relax when typing the thesis. Still doodling occasionally.

As I said, started to study drama education, and this image tells my progress in a nutshell: tea, notes, doodles, and the obligatory hermeneutic circle.

All of the following photographs I took with the rope artist Tinttu Henttonen, who is also my shibari teacher here in Helsinki. Our collaboration for my MA work has already sprung several other collaborative projects, of which I may reveal something sometime as things progress. The top photos depict the first moments when I got rigged from the ceiling, and then the one in the middle isn't from the actual thesis but a constructed illustration of three very important aspects that I had in one particular chapter which focused on the Laban's Movement Analysis (LMA) and how it affects my work as an educator. The last one is also an illustration on a picture couple that I wanted in one of the chapters that was dubbed as 'Treat me like the page of a book' which is said in Peter Greenaway's movie The Pillow Book, a movie that I highly recommend for everyone to watch if you haven't already.

Tinttu also featured in my work herself, as I interviewed her for one chapter that focused on shibari, the way we worked with it and how its future is currently being redefined by many artists and rope masters, as that was one key element in my whole work when I pondered about the social structures and the idea of living on a stage with different (mostly given) masks when working as a teacher in the Finnish school system. Shibari gave me the context against which it was fairly easy for me to reflect some of my thoughts or the theories I read, among many other keypoints that I had to focus on.

As a sidenote, getting rigged from the ceiling, moreover with the ability to move, is one hell of a way to release stress and gain a high that lasts for two days. It was detrimental to my writing flow in the days, but I didn't honestly care at that point if my files just burst into flames or external hard drive started chatting back at me - needless to say, I have been hooked since then, and constantly seek out excuses to get back up there to twist, twirl and swing like no tomorrow.

(c) Tinttu Henttonen, Pia Parjanen-Aaltonen
(c) Tinttu Henttonen, Pia Parjanen-Aaltonen

Tinttu is also a photographer by profession, and as we worked together for my thesis, we also realized that we share many ideas and ideologies on how we function in the society and what we could do for it in ways of 'creating a better future', for a lack of better phrasing for it. Hence, we have started making shots with issues that are very important topics in politics, using ropes or some other visual elements in them regarding the subject that we're picturing in the image. For Tinttu, mixing politics with her art is very important, which is why she is also very keen on selecting what type of collaborative projects she does with different artists and cultural institutes. In a sense, like shibari gave a context to my MA work, so do politics, cultural mixing and revealing the hidden structures and strings that pull us as citizens give Tinttu the drive to continue working with the rope and photographs.

(c) Tinttu Henttonen

Sunday, October 11, 2015

New paths, new situations to get into

Last spring marked one important waypoint on the path of professional growth; the degree of Master of Arts has been now obtained by yours truly, something that still felt so far away in last January. I now officially have the paper saying that I am in my right mind and body for seeking out work that mainly consists of damage control and both maintaining and preventing the chaos that is a classroom full of teen spirit. Though, as irony has it, I currently do not find myself surrounded by artistically challenged or oriented and gifted teenagers, but adult students that both know precisely what they're doing and on the other hand guess half of it and figure it out as they go - which isn't really much different from working with a few years younger generation. In other words, I may have gotten out of my degree program with most of my dignity intact, but not managed to leave the building itself.

Where I did end up is three floors upstairs from where my major subject was taught, and, I must say, that learning the ropes of being a workshop master for the printmaking and the general art studies has been, by far, hitting closest to the feeling of finding your own skin and putting it on.

Not to worry, though, this blog isn't turning into a day-to-day reporting on what the art students are up to in the studios, as I still continue working as the jack-of-all-trades for different artists when needed and also now have a bit more time to focus on my own goals and interests as an artist, since getting a pedagogical degree doesn't mean that I couldn't still hold a pen, a paper, a roller or a blob of clay in my hand and go creative when feeling like it. Besides, it would be a waste not to use the studios whenever there aren't courses in them, right?

Getting to re-learn lithograph as learning all the techniques for the profession; updating the knowledge frequently and obtaining new information is always good when dealing with printmaking stuff.

A silkscreen screen made by yours truly when learning the technique. A detail of a shisha pipe that has Spike Spiegel's Swordfish -plane's cockpit (Cowboy Bebop) as one part of the structure. The pic is sideways, though.

A proof print of my sister's ukiyo-e print called 'Tomodachi'. I'm really interested to see where she'll en up in art scene.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Drawing the line, thinking with the pencil - Iida Valkonen

'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