A-Z JOURNAL
Towards Humanity

Towards Humanity

We are well aware that extreme gender stereotypes are harmful because they don’t allow people to fully express themselves and their emotions. We know that it’s harmful to masculine folks to feel that they’re not allowed to cry or express sensitive emotions. And it’s harmful to feminine folks to feel that they’re not allowed to be independent, smart or assertive. Breaking down gender stereotypes allows everyone to be their best selves. The question is how we can implement it in our daily lives?

Lots of times we still find ourselves scrolling on social media, looking at how perfect everyone else’s life is. No one wants to be incomplete, insecure, or needy. It’s hard to understand that self-compassion is only possible when you realize everyone shares the same human condition and suffers just the same as you. When we understand that others suffer like us, we become more self-compassionate. At the same time, compassion outwards then become effortless. Only then, we are able to show compassion and caring for others and be genuinely humane. This spring is definitely the time of great insecurity, but luckily it’s also a time for relief and forgiveness, when everyone is allowed to be weak and look messy.

The new works by Liisa Kallio deal with our roles and our longing to be touched. She handles these topics with great kindness, sympathy and warmth. “Touching, love and humanity, this is what it’s about. Men have been stripped of their machismo and women come in all shapes and sizes. The roles that culture creates have been removed from around us.” She’s so right.

 

Liisa Kallio, Lonely Men, 2020.

Installation view of the exhibition, “Liisa Kallio: Tunto” (Sensation) at Galleria Kuvitus. Photograph by Salla Keskinen.

 

In hectic digital life, the medium of drawing is surprisingly powerful. For Liisa, it is a way to depict intimate, even fierce situations without them becoming flat or gross. As I prefer to think of it, she’s like an ambassador of humanity; retaining and sharing tenderness. Her characters are not embellished yet they are truly engaging because of their shameless honesty.

 

Liisa Kallio, Making Love, 2020.

Liisa Kallio, Conjoined, 2020.

Liisa Kallio, Passion, 2020.

 

The inspiration is not just a desirable thing, but an integral part of the curatorial process. And sometimes, it can come from the unlikeliest sources. As an alternative reading list for the week, I will share with you the books that have inspired me this spring, while making of Liisa’s exhibition “Tunto” — some of them obvious, some of them less so. The list of books is very diverse and will make for some great and wild reading. If you normally read just a couple of your favorite authors, why not try branching out into something totally different this week, such as children’s books or books with odd titles and unexpected authors. You just might find new inspiration!

 

 

On his death in 1916, Henryk Sienkiewicz, author of panoramic historical novels, enjoyed a towering reputation; he is still the most celebrated Polish novelist. The three novellas in this selection, less well-known than his novels, nevertheless display their author at his best: his narrative mastery, engaging irony, and brilliance at bringing history to life. I found the book Hiilipiirroksia (Charcoal Drawings) in Kampintorin Antikvariaatti and gave it to Liisa as a symbolic gift just before the opening of her online exhibition Tunto.

 

 

Petteri Cederberg‘s book Mikä laulaen tulee se piirtäen menee (Easy Come, Easy Draw) collects the Finnish visual artist´s works from over the years. It is preceded by a Foreword from Juha-Heikki Tihinen. “…The charm of a book of art is aways based on the same criterion as my love for anecdotes. An anecdote says something about the person who is telling it, and slips casually between longer stories. An anecdote can entertain or terrorize, but above all, generate leads and weave a variety of structures within which the public – or the person telling the story, for that matter – can become entangled. Cederberg’s works share a similar logic, in which the reference or allusion directs the attention simultaneously in multiple directions.”

 

 

Onni Oja‘s Piirtämisen taito (The Skill of Drawing) is a classic textbook and exercise book for anyone interested in drawing. An old fashioned but charming collection of drawing guidelines and theory.

 

 

Sketchbooks provides a revealing glimpse into the inner workings and private inspiration of creatives from the worlds of advertising, design, graphic design, fashion design, art, street art, and illustration. Intimate and often unseen, Sketchbooks document the sources of inspiration as well as the journey to final execution. They showcase ideas and how these evolve and change into accomplished works.  The material is complemented by interviews in which artists explain how they use their sketchbooks and how they relate to finished works. Fresh and spontaneous, their style connects directly with current illustration trends.

A signed book is a wonderful addition to any book collection. For the book’s owner, an author’s signature can instantly transform a mass-produced item into a personal treasure. Sometimes the signature of a famous illustrator can be as important as that of the author. Quentin Blake has illustrated and signed many of Roald Dahl‘s books, as has Hunter S. Thompson‘s illustrator Ralph Steadman. A book signed by both the author and illustrator is especially prized. My copy of Sketchbooks carries a hilarious signature of the illustrator Isidro Ferrer.

 

 

Mindfulness teaches us how to stay calm, soothe our emotions, and appreciate the world around us. Whether we’re watching tiny colored fish darting in the water or exploring the leaves, branches, and roots of a towering tree, the thoughtful words and the lovely art of Breathe and Be picture book by Kate Coombs and Anna Emilia Laitinen remind us how much joy we can find by simply living with awareness and inner peace. These days, I would certainly want to be “a calm umbrella”, wouldn’t you?

 

 

Further reading:

 

Bookthirsty.com: Superb Antiquarian Bookshop in Helsinki – Kampintorin Antikvariaatti. Nov 29, 2017.

Brereton, Richard: Sketchbooks: The Hidden Art of Designers, Illustrators, and Creatives. 2012.

Cederberg, Petteri: Mikä laulaen tulee se piirtäen menee. 2013.

Coombs, Kate, author. | Laitinen, Anna Emilia, illustrator: Breathe and be: A Book of Mindfulness Poems. Sounds True Inc., 2017.

Germer, Christopher: The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion. 2009.

Lyon, Jr. Harold C.: Tenderness is Strength: From Machismo to Manhood. 1977.

Oja, Onni: Piirtämisen taito. WSOY. 1957.

Sienkiewicz, Henryk: Hiilipiirroksia. Otava. 1901.