Monday, April 29, 2013


Vivi-Mari Carpelan: "A Measure of Normality",
handmade mixed media collage with photographs,
copyright 2013

I thought I wasn't going to do bigger pictures but there you go, I couldn't help myself. I was struggling a bit as I had to spend most of my time on the floor.

This collage started with a Chinese newspaper and the photos of myself. As I was checking out this newspaper, I realised how many cultural cross references there were. In one single paper, there were discussions about Windows 8, Google, Ipad and brands such as Toyota, Opel and Roche. I speak a little bit of Chinese but I don't understand the characters. Nonetheless, I found it quite easy to guess what the articles were about simply on the basis of all the Western names, but also the images and the typography. The editorial is suggested with the image of a scribbling pen, the dating site has bold characters and a cheesy Western couple in the picture. A meditating monk is clearly not real, but a movie character, as he's surrounded by a romanticised candle lit environment. An article about UFO's is accompanied by a photo of all sorts of paraphernalia to do with UFO's and the belief therein. An image of a couple sleeping on top of their luggage on the floor clearly speaks of delays in transport. Nostalgia for the past is expressed in traditional imagery and pictures of Asian food, and a love of modernity expressed in the extensive article on computers. All in all, though the details escape me (for instance, what caused the delay and whose football scores are we talking about here?), it's clear that globalisation and information technology is making it easier for people to understand each other. 

The downside is the homogenisation. While humans have always attempted to "fit in" and not upset the general concensus about normality, the extensive relocations that are taking place cause more pertinent conflicts in the individuals and in their new surroundings. To what degree should you try and blend in and to what degree should you preserve your cultural heritage? How do you strike a balance so that everyone has a reason to be content - personally, and collectively? Society may be more tolerant of difference than it used to be, but we are still far from living harmoniously side by side. On the pages of this newspaper, which incidentally is aimed at Asians living in Europe, I have scribbled my own little notes the way you do - phone numbers that are relevant to my existance but also reminders of little idiosyncracies such as the format in which the British and the Finnish  express time (9 pm being 21.00 hrs, for instance), and issues related to differences in the use of the phone. For instance, I was in for a shock when I found that calling a UK service number from my mobile phone was expensive - this isn't the case in Finland, were landlines are largely abandoned.

There are also peculiarly English expressions that I learn as I seek counterparts to expressions in my own language, and ones that I'm thinking of in order to use them in my projects. My dad used to always circle the programs he thought we should watch in the TV guide with a red marker - the marker being a typical association with newspapers. Is paper on its way out, well we'd all like to know that, of course! Many people are starting to hold onto the slow consumption of the written text on real paper, rather than suck up lots of short stories on the internet.

You want to express your individuality - well I'm assuming in this time and age most of us do in one way or another - and society certainly encourages people to do so up to a point. How much room for individuality is there really? As soon as a belief system runs counter to the rules and regulations created by the government, there is trouble... The paradoxical message is, you can be different, as long as you fit in. I have wanted to express this idea through the use of the photos of myself, that could be passport photographs if it wasn't for the unusual set up (I'm possibly naked, with a bowler hat on my head - and of course in Magritte's famous world, the bowler hat stands for conformity). I also point to the idea that most of us want to be noticed in some way or another, as well as express our individual selves... we silently question the idea, whether there is really room for us too in an over populated world that is much governed by the collective consciousness.

Then there is the grid, that much loved symbol within modern and contemporary art... To me, it merely suggests that we are really all stuck inside of the grid, or the matrix of society. Perhaps in the end it's not so much a matter of getting unstuck and "living off grid", as loosening the rigid grid so that we can all breathe with greater ease.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Vivi-Mari Carpelan: "Elsewhere, and the Stars Above",
handmade mixed media collage
copyright 2013

After a lot of video editing, I decided I should try and work with some physical media again. I didn't have any specific idea but this is what I came up with this time. Encouraged by the fact that Outside In has invited two of my "Project X" pieces (and very blatant they are too!) to Outside In West in Somerset House, Taunton (July-September), I have decided to try and persevere with Project X and the ideas surrounding invisible illness and fatigue in particular.

You may not have "real" mental issues, and your illness may not be "all in the head", but sooner or later, the issues with a chronically decripit body will get to your psyche. This image is meant to describe the sense that life goes on somewhere else, while the disabled person is a prisoner in a decripit body that they feel less than proud of. And of course, it's not just about what the body looks like (personally, I'm a master of camouflage), but what it feels like to the person in question. The old suite is the emblem of poor body image - can you guess what it originally was? As usual in my art, wallpaper  signifies the idea of covering something up. Red stands for blood (life, energy) and stars for hope and dreams... and where the seat of the life force should be, there's a black hole.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


The following are some brief examples as to how one can read my artwork, these are mainly social, political and psychological commentaries and most of them won't be in the show. (They are all handmade collages). 

XPULSION (Part of 'Project X')
Foliage - the garden - suggests the cycles of life, and "the eternal return" of certain deeply imbedded patterns in life. This image is mainly about not having energy, and what may be there isn't compatible with external demands, or isn't where one might hope to find it... energy is all about growth and renewal but not really feeling able to be part of it. Of course, the death of certain elements in life is essential for renewal in many areas of life.

This image is about the feeling of being connected to life in this world and the passage of time in both a negative and positive sense. It's about feeling that one has no great control over certain aspects of one's destiny such as a chronic conditions and other debilitating challenges that life throws at us - thus the sensation of drifting. The main figure is vulnerable, unassuming and fairly unaware of her destiny, but driven by a higher consciousness that knows where she is supposed to be going. In the end, it's all the way it's supposed to be.
WHY? The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl
Starting with a photo of myself as a child, this is a young mind questioning the absurdity of life as she experiences a loss of physical strength and parental support. 

The image of the girl is myself at age 4. The comb represents the sorting out of mess. Hair on the other hand symbolizes empowerement, so the loss of hair (e.g. due to stress) is an image of disempowerement. The page about Shakespeare represents the idea of life as a stage on which drama is enacted. The bottle indicates change in an esoteric alchemical sense, as in the growth of the soul.

This depicts a host of impressions of America and society today. It's about vulnerability and conformity in a society that rewards those who are fit enough to survive the social competitions.

Although in some ways women have been "dismembered" and heavily stereotyped by society, there is great strength and mystery in the feminine. With its many aspects including birth and death, shallowness and depth, emotional intelligence and excellency teamed with the ability to gossip and manipulate, femininity is indeed very complex. 

In the background, employment for women in Sweden 1942 in a women's magazine - mostly maids of all sorts... E.g "ensam jungfru" means "lonely virgin", an old way of indicating an unmarried woman who needs employment. "Troende flicka" means "Christian Girl". "Obemärkt flicka" means 'Unnoticable girl" and"Frisk flicka" means 'Healthy Girl". Femininity symbolizes fertility but also death and rebirth... What will the true emancipation of women be like...? I feel women are well equipped to help dig out the skeletons from the closets ;-). When will women be considered whole people and not cut to form to fit a social agenda?

This symbolic collage is about emotional development, and specifically about the ambivalence of sexuality. While somewhat threatened, the female figure also expresses excitement and expectancy. It's paradox and part of the dualism of life as well as cycles of existence. Water is a frequent symbol in my work which depicts various emotional states. Here, the volcano in the background expresses suppressed feeling, maybe on the verge of eruption. The camera stands for the ambivalent experience of being observed and objectified.

Those who are willing to grow as individuals often find that various fears that hold us back are illusory - often laughed at later as foolish ideas. What appears dark, is often a blessing in disguise.