Hard to believe that this is my last posting from KulttuuriKauppila – I leave on Wednesday 28 April and travel to Imatra to give a talk at Saimia and then onto Helsinki for the 1st May weekend celebrations which I’m told are a big thing in Finland – hey a bit of city excitement…! After that on 4 May I give a talk at Verkatehdas in Hameenlinna then the following day I leave Finland – a country I have come to know and love but of course I will be back to visit. It has been a remarkable four months and I will miss everyone at KulttuuriKauppila. Their kindness has made the residency very special and given me a sense of home, here in Ii. All that’s left to say is a BIG thank you to KulttuuriKauppila and to everyone who has supported me including all your comments and emails.
Sunday, 25 April 2010
Meidan Talo extended to 10.5.2010
The last two or three weeks have been very busy with putting the show up, showing groups around (including The Head of Finnish Arts Council, Esa Rantanen who was attending Suomen Residenssien Tapaaminen, Osallistujalista – Arts Residency Forum reported by YLE radio). Also had the local newspaper Rantapohja’ come and interview me. Plus a long interview wiith the magazine Meidan Talo. The exhibition has now been extended to coincide with the May edition of Meidan Talo coming out. For me this feature in Meidan Talo completes the art piece Meidan Talo, as it is where the work began. ‘Full circle’ as a friend Fiona observed. The exhibition opening was great with lots of fizz, flowers, cards and presents – I was very touched. It has all been fantastic and I am very pleased with how it’s gone.
The other big event was the 360 seminar Kuvataidepaivat Oulussa about Art and Architecture at Lasaretti Hotelli for Oulu Museum of Art where I gave a talk to a conference of two hundred people. The title of my presentation was ‘Sites of Well Being’ and it was the story of CARAVAN (a previous artwork - see website) and the development of Meidan Talo. The outline of the talk is on the ‘Talks & Courses’ page of this blog.
Wednesday, 7 April 2010
Meidan Talo 17-29.4.2010 at KulttuuriKauppila, Kauppilantie 15, Ii
Opening 16.4 at 18.00
Meidan Talo is an exhibition by artist in residence Veronica Slater who lives and works on the Isle of Mull in Scotland. The title of the exhibition is taken from a popular home making magazine in Finland called Meidan Talo (Our House) that features a range of topics such as interior design, DIY, house sales and prefabricated homes. It is from this magazine that Slater has montaged houses and household goods onto tar and paint fragments which she has formed in the studio.
The tar has enormous significance to the area of Ii and Oulu as it is a natural resource extracted from the trees in surrounding forests. It was used in the construction of wooden ships from the 16th century and exported to all over Europe and beyond. It created wealth and built the grand houses of Oulu whilst creating the municipalities of this part of Finland.
Slater has sealed these tar and paint fragments against enamel surfaces that have spray painted patterns from the lace that adorns many Finnish windows. Through this domestic decorative the viewer enters the great vistas of a strange wilderness that the tar and paint create. Within these ‘fairytale’ islands sit houses that inhabit their own worlds providing a homely refuge from the fears of the unknown.
In Finland ‘Home’ is at the heart of everything in the long dark winter and has a very particular place in the Finnish psyche. Slater’s four month residency witnessed the coldest winter and the most snow for years. In observing the surrounding houses within this frozen wilderness, the artist realised her own restless quest for a state of mind called home that is Meidan Talo.
The artist would like to thank Hanne and all the children who bought her lace, exquisite Finnish wallpaper and a stock of Meidan Talos that all contributed to being part of the work plus to everyone at Kulttuurikauppila for their hard work and kindness in making her residency such a special experience.
The snow is thawing as I write this post and unlike other occasions when I’ve thought spring is not far away and then it snows for three days, I really believe the season is changing now.
I walked with friends; Vanessa and Laura who were visiting, through the old village and melting snow produced a cacophony of sound that accompanied the eerie spectacle of black shovelled mountains on every street corner. For the last few days there has been a white fog that has hung in the air and it is much warmer and damper which perversely feels colder….anyway I’m glad its not sunny as I spend my last week in the studio before the exhibition opens Friday week.
The work has a momentum of its own now as I realise what its about and where its going. It seems so glaringly obvious but hindsight is a great thing and often you can’t grasp what is so immediate in the present. Meidan Talo encapsulates an intense frozen moment of a need for ‘home’ a constant place where I am safe. When I was growing up home was never calm or predictable and perhaps this is the truth of the matter; I had to make a home in my head. I took refuge through absorbing myself in worlds created in drawings and paintings - this is what I still do years on. Meidan Talo (Our House) has perhaps materialised a realisation, as my friend Lee so astutely observed when seeing the work, that home is a state of mind.
Arranging and re-arranging Meidan Talo combinations will pre-occupy me for the next few days as I work out which pieces fit together. The wallpaper, household objects, lace, tar and paint all connect in their various forms and its like a puzzle that never has any one outcome.
It seems to me that sentimentality and nostalgia are a currency of the domestic decorative which provides a fantasy of a familial condition we can’t let go of. Maybe this is why so much household detritus feeds through my current work. The wallpapered CARAVAN was a transient space that absorbed paint and ornaments. It created another world that I could inhabit and in the last shot of its home movie is the open door with ‘home’ scrawled across it. Why I should be so surprised at these crystal clear connections is perhaps an indication of what is often staring you in the face, is the reality you can’t see. This may seem a terrible admission for an artist to make but I think Daniel Richter’s quote "Beauty through confusion and truth through collision" describes the haphazard state of discovery.
Sunday, 14 March 2010
Saturday, 13 March 2010
Further work from the studio that has followed the direction of the previous small ones but perhaps has a more focused content. It feels realized and slowly there is a glimpse of a lucid narrative. Using the lace (that decorates many Finnish houses) as a stencil, I spray paint the patterns onto enamel surfaces. These then have ‘tar pieces’ montaged with Finnish houses from a popular home making magazine Meidan Talo meaning ‘Our House’.
Art is such a strange business you never quite know where you are with it. You make it and you have the excitement or frustration and then you are completely bemused by it all – what on earth is going on ? You kind of know because as you work you are submerged into an inner world which has its own logic and set of references which you negotiate by instinct, experience, critical sensibility etc but when you come out of that world and someone asks what is it about – I can only stare at them blankly – like its trying to describe the impossible. It’s that verbalising of the visual and it’s a real struggle. So when it takes half a morning to draft a readable paragraph on what your art practice is about, it reveals a gap that’s always there between these two realities. Obviously as time goes on you can achieve an objectivity and then you can consider whether the work is successful in what you intended. However this can change as the work might suggest a different direction and set of possibilities. There's another gap that I’m currently trying to unravel as I explore sentimentality and fear. The sentimentality in the domestic decorative and what it shields us from – the incomprehensible – the wilderness that is at the source of our fears.
Of course I cannot ignore the wilderness on my doorstep. The frozen landscape is beginning to thaw and I feel quite melancholic. It has been fascinating to watch snow and ice in all its different states. I should be glad to hear the birds and see colour again and I am but somehow a world that has held me spellbound is going to disappear. How fragile a state of nature is and yet we cant seem to help ourselves on this exquisitely beautiful earth. If only we could all feel that ‘molecular’ experience of the Apollo astronaut whilst seeing the sun, moon and earth simultaneously, maybe then we’d realise how interconnected we are with all around us.
When exploring the supermarket I encountered little plastic animals in bags for children. I bought a bag and these animals have been my ‘studio ornaments’ as they sit on ledges next to work. They have now entered the paintings and Zoo is emerging with similar ideas and approaches to Meidan Talo.
Time to stop and thank everyone who has left me a comment – I really appreciate your positive feedback - it makes the blog alive ! Whilst my postings are not regular they are only made when thoughts flow and work is progressed.....
Favourite Finnish windows
The photos below are of the last snowfall from about a week ago and I have also been filming whilst taking many of the photos that you see on this blog. However I wish I could have filmed my experiences of walking back home across the frozen river at night after dinner and sauna with friends.
One time there was a snowstorm that lit up the night in a luminous yellow from the full moon. The last instance was dark and just as I was reaching the edge I sunk into snow and water upto the top of my thighs. It was scary and alarming as I ploughed through this thick, heavy, cold soup, which had formed on top of the ice. It was explained to me later that when holes are made in the ice for fishing, water finds its way between the snow and ice hence my adventure… one where I was never so pleased as to reach the river bank and pull myself up and sprint to my warm, safe studio.
fishing on the frozen river