Seasonal Essay #1
Hello, and welcome back to A-Z Journal. I’ve been thinking about stirring up my creative side recently and I am determined to make more time for myself and the things I enjoy in 2020. One of the ways I’ll be doing that is by returning to blogging. And my blog will be taking a bit of a different direction this year.
In 2019, each post of A-Z Journal focussed on a different element behind the exhibition “Marika Maijala | Maria Herreros“, and the components of the story were presented in alphabetical order. There wasn’t any traditional introduction available in the exhibition space, but a list, ‘The A-Z of Curator’, to arouse interest and curiosity. More information could be found here at azjournal.fi if wished. The narrative was fragmented and non-linear, like exhibition-making often is. I wanted to challenge the reader to piece together the story to make sense of it. The posts could help navigate the presentation but at the same time I wanted to give the visitor of the exhibition, or the site, a possibility to choose. I know my example inspired many people and even some organizations such as Nordisk Kulturkontakt, who’ve already sent me their own alphabets.
I got some really heartwarming feedback from both exhibition and site visitors, saying that they had enjoyed the project and found it important. But making of the exhibition also challenged my thinking and raised new questions such as: Should I do something similar again? With whom and where? Why? What’s the significance of it all? Little by little the experiment at Mattsson & Mattsson helped me realize that I don’t want to develop a new repeating formula, because I already have one. Instead of developing things outside the ‘white box’ gallery formula, I needed to turn my focus back inside.
Installation view of the exhibition, “Laura Laine – Works on Paper.” Photograph by Salla Keskinen, 2018.
The illustration art gallery Galleria Kuvitus was founded in Helsinki in 2018 to fill a gap. It is an ambitious, creative space runned by a nonprofit organization, with a mission to make the best of Finnish contemporary illustration available to a broad public and new clients. My daily work at the gallery crosses between working as a ‘Coordinator’, ‘Curator’ and ‘Cultural Producer’. I am responsible for Galleria Kuvitus’ exhibition program production and communications. I also take care of the curatorial processes, including the artist relations, exhibition development and programming – and in some exhibitions, the deeper curatorial work understood as a practice centered on longer-term, less object-orientated, discursive-educational thinking.
I feel so lucky to be able to say “I love my job” from the bottom of my heart, but in my effort to keep the gallery fresh and attractive I still sometimes lose my way. Especially when life gets hectic and stressful. By this I mean losing sight of one’s core purpose, a sensation accompanied by emptiness and lack of strength and (good) ideas. It may require you to get quiet to listen to the stillness within that knows your next move. To get out of this gloomy state, setting a clear and positive intention to “find Zen” in the chaos of everyday life may be also helpful. I often find my daily Zen at the antiquarian bookshops.
Last month I visited the illustrator Liisa Kallio‘s studio and on my walk back home, I dropped into a second-hand bookshop and bought a beautiful book with cyan blue covers, called Paris´Hemliga Tecken, which made me remember the last year’s exhibition Marika Maijala | Maria Herreros. In addition to presenting two talented illustrators, the exhibition was an ode to the City of Paris. The book written by Göran Schildt in Paris in 1952, is illustrated by Roland Kempe. While browsing through the book with 50s illustrations and clip art, that looked surprisingly modern and trendy, I felt that it was a perfect ending for a long process. My thoughts were suddenly very clear.
I believe that art has the ability to challenge, inspire and heal people and society, and illustration art is not an exception. That is why the gallery has supported the illustration field since its inception, providing exhibiting illustrators with the opportunity to show works they mostly can’t show anywhere else. Specializing in Finnish illustration art, Galleria Kuvitus’ two first years included works by Laura Laine, Daniel Stolle and Milena Huhta, just to mention a few. However, the gallery is still not yet automatically on the art-lover’s to-do lists.
To me, the text is the link between the curator and the public, but I believe that in one way or another, the voice of the illustrator should also be included. For a gallery, it’s sometimes a challenge to motivate people to really read the texts. With our diverse and innovative means of communication, we’ve already created an abundance of texts and therefore any text feels just a drop in a wide, vast field of written words. I am interested in interviews, but I don’t find it reasonable to create another archive of written conversations.
To keep this short: At the moment, I find it important to develop these elements of exhibition-making.
- A possibility to choose
- Alternative introduction methods
- Online gallery presence
- Humor / Play – because we tend to take ourselves far too serious.
As a result, I’m proud to announce a new chapter in our non-profit business—Galleria Kuvitus Podcast—to devote more time to steadily gaining the reputation and to give you all, despite the distance, a sense of the exhibitions without having to see them in person. I want to invite you to experience the Finnish illustrators’ commitment, ambition and creativity, and I would love to see the gallery become a testing ground for new methods of display. And of course, I wish that listening to the podcast will make you want to visit the gallery in the future. For now, the language of the podcast is Finnish.
Installation view of the exhibition, “Tunto.” Photograph by Salla Keskinen, 2020.
This spring, I’ve been devoting considerable time to exploring, planning and drafting the exhibition development – delving especially into the subject of Liisa Kallio‘s solo show, Tunto (Sensation). No one could ever have imagined that by the time of the exhibition opening, we’d have to close our doors for the indefinite future, just like most art institutions in Helsinki. Liisa herself was ready to postpone or cancel the whole exhibition, but I felt the urgency to act right now. As our minds all of a sudden became filled with sadness, fear and anxiety, I felt like showing the artworks filled with comfort and joy of life was the best we could do. Luckily I had recorded the first podcast episode well before mid-March so that on the opening day, the exhibition could be opened as an online exhibition. Due to the limited time and budget, it is more of a do-it-yourself online art exhibition than a fancy virtual tour. But it doesn’t matter. It is preoccupied with a very important and topical question of sensation – and what it might mean in the context of virtual gallery. As the artist Pete Jiadong Qiang says, “Online exhibitions will have their place in the future, and the epidemic accelerated the process.” Our Gallerys’ 24th exhibition runs until 30th April.
This week, I was going to travel to Copenhagen for Karoliina Hellberg‘s exhibition at Galleri Kant, and escape for a day to Turku to hold my grandma‘s hand.
But then one day the world changed.
Cain, Abigail: How the White Cube Came to Dominate the Art World? Artsy.net. Jan 23, 2017.
Pogrepin, Robin: Art Galleries Respond to Virus Outbreak With Online Viewing Rooms. The New York Times. Mar 16, 2020.
COVER IMAGE: Liisa Kallio, Yoga Series, Charcoal on Paper, 2019. Photographed by Salla Keskinen.
COVER IMAGE 2: Liisa Kallio, Yoga Series, Warrior One, Charcoal on Paper, 2019.