Critics’ Picks

  • Stiina Saaristo, Seitinohuet (Gossamers), 2021, glazed ceramics, 14 x 20 x 20".

    Stiina Saaristo, Seitinohuet (Gossamers), 2021, glazed ceramics, 14 x 20 x 20".

    Helsinki

    Stiina Saaristo

    Galleria Heino
    Erottajankatu 9 (courtyard)
    April 16–May 16, 2021

    Around twenty years ago, Stiina Saaristo started drawing a woman that looked very much like the artist herself: a blonde with a somewhat square face, blue eyes, and girly braids. The figure was typically depicted alone, surrounded by piles of clutter that suggested something soft and fairy-tale-like and yet, at the same time, vaguely menacing. In the two decades since, Saaristo has created an entire oeuvre of large-scale portraits of her character, rendered in exquisite detail.

    While Saaristo may be best known for her intricate pencil drawings (three of which are included here), this exhibition focuses on a new body of figurative ceramic sculptures that capture the artist’s trademark character at different stages of her life. Saaristo imbues the sculptures with attributes typical of her drawings, mingling female sexuality with kitsch and angst.

    In the exhibition text, Saaristo reveals that the name of the show, “Kinderszenen” (Scenes from Childhood) is borrowed from Robert Schumann’s eponymous series for piano. Schumann’s Kinderszenen offers a romantic, nostalgic trip to the golden age of childhood: a time of innocence, playfulness, and life in small-scale. The atmosphere of Saaristo’s Kinderszenen is starkly different. Nuori naisoletettu (Young Assigned Female, 2021) depicts a defiant girl in a pink-princess bodysuit, a tantrum brewing on her face. The cutesy and the gruesome combine further in In My Secret Garden, 2021, which shows the adult character daydreaming of perverse garden gnomes. As she grows even older, the childhood fairy tale distorts into a sultry coexistence with death; in Seitinohuet (Gossamers, 2021), the blonde, visibly haggard in a blush-pink dress, huddles in a grim symposium with the reaper.