Critics’ Picks

Outi Pieski, Golle-eana / Gold / Land of Gold, 2013, acrylic on canvas, thread, 33 1/2 x 25 1/2”.

Outi Pieski, Golle-eana / Gold / Land of Gold, 2013, acrylic on canvas, thread, 33 1/2 x 25 1/2”.


Outi Pieski

EMMA Espoo Museum of Modern Art
Exhibition Centre, Ahertajantie 5
September 12, 2018–January 6, 2019

The most eye-grabbing work in Outi Pieski’s current exhibition—and perhaps the most thematically grounding—hangs from the ceiling. It is made up of dozens of the V-shaped fringes found on the vibrant scarves worn by the Sámi women of the Sápmi regions of northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia’s Kola Peninsula. The Sámi word in the work’s title, Falling Shawls / Čohkiideapmi, 2017, means “gathering,” and indeed, Pieski, who has recently begun to make her art collaboratively, gathered twelve seasoned craftswomen to create the installation. Historically, the Sámi have been nomadic people for whom craft means more than just decoration. As a contemporary artist and activist, Pieski wants her output to be rooted in her own culture and its traditions, which have almost disappeared as a result of long, oppressive colonization by the dominant Nordic and Russian cultures.

Pieski’s paintings, which fill the show’s main room, refer directly to nature, including specific hills and rivers important to the Sámi. But these works are not landscapes; Pieski has discarded that Western tradition, which she sees as a colonialist wedge between people and nature. By combining extreme detail with monumental scale, she achieves something that seems to breathe, to embrace the viewer like a night sky in winter. In works such as Golle-eana / Gold / Land of Gold, 2013—which pictures a brumal plateau whose horizon is ablaze with amber—tassels hanging from the canvas seem to symbolize the gravity of environmental respect and the equilibrium between humanity and the natural world. For the Sámi, Pieski’s work suggests, such questions do not so much require answers as demand to be lived.