Finnish Muses - Outi Heiskanen

Hello and welcome to the second post of the last Trio! This time I'm sharing three Finnish Muses, three female artists from 19th to 21st century. Yesterday I drew inspiration from Ellen Thesleff and today I'm sharing something about Outi Heiskanen. Tomorrow, on Christmas Eve I'm then sharing the last piece of this Trio and take a leap of faith with a self portrait.

But what are Trios? Trios are posts that I started while I was a member of the Seth Apter Creative Team. I enjoyed making a series of three posts so much, that I decided to continue them at least for a while. If you want to see the older Seth Trios, you can find them under this label (link). The Trio posts usually had a topic, or a product, to which I concentrated, like Izink ICE (link). Or I could challenge myself with limited supplies (link) or use one source of inspiration for three pieces, like I did with "Mothers of Kalevala" (link). In a way they are extended versions of the "Inspired By" posts we used to make together with Marsha Valk. You can explore those posts under this label (link).

I wasn't previously that familiar with the works of Outi Heiskanen, but chose her to represent the 20th century as there's a big exhibition of her works in the Ateneum right now. She's a masterful print maker and also a pioneer of environmental art in Finland. The retrospective exhibition is co-curated by Outi's long time friend, PhD Tuula Karjalainen. An interesting detail in the exhibition was that Tuula speaks of her friend in the past tense, while Outi is still alive. It's because of the dementia Outi has, in her friend's eyes she's not herself anymore, her feisty spirit has departed already while her body is still here. 

What binds the two ladies together, Outi and Ellen, in my mind, is their attitude. Both broke the norms of the day in their art and also the typical norm for women of the time. Ellen was head strong, never married and wore her hair short in a time when all of those were very much not trades for women. Outi on the other hand married and had two children but she continued pushing for her career and let her husband take care of home and children. In one paragraph in the exhibition she pondered why staying home with the kids never even came to her head.

Before the show I knew the style Heiskanen uses in her prints. They are masterfully made, dream like and have great line work. The line was referred as branch-like and lively line in the exhibition. I remember how my teachers back in polytechnic had different views about this type of line. The others advised against it while others encouraged to use such a line, going over the shape several times. But what really struck me was the way Outi had made some of her works, combining different printing plates together. Like there was a print with an animal-headed person on its own and in a bigger piece the same plate had been printed along several others transforming it to something different just by juxtaposing it to different other prints! Absolutely mind-blowingly brilliant! And also breaking the rules as printing plates are usually destroyed after a series is printed.

You can see a couple of pieces by Outi in the first photo, a couple of postcards with her prints. On top there's "Maiden Voyage" from 1979 and below "The Dream" from 1974. You can see more works here (link) at Ateneum exhibition site and here (link) at Finnish National Gallery's page. I didn't base my piece into any particular piece this time but more of Outi's way to combine animals and humans. And while she did make sketches, installations, performances and used different approaches in her art, I consider her mostly a print maker with etching as her main technique. I have done one etching some odd twenty years ago along with one drypoint, but I wasn't going to get into that at home so I thought about a way to trying to capture the drawn line of the prints with mediums I had home.

I knew a brush stroke would be just way too thick to mimic the fine etched lines, so instead I chose to draw directly to my gel printing plate. By looking through Outi's sketches, I knew she was a masterful drawer as well, so before I grabbed my paint marker, I did warm my hand with some sketching with just a pencil. That way I had some ideas already what to draw when I pulled out my plate. I know in the video it looks quite scary as the black lines don't lift off completely from the plate, but after I had the prints done, I cleaned the plate with some baby oil and it looked like a new one again. 

Most of the prints in the exhibition were just black and white etchings. The ones that had a little color were aqua tints with the lines etched. The most colorful pieces were from Outi's alter ego Immi Piilo. I wanted to add a touch of color to my project, but not much. I kind of tried to mimic aqua tint with the solid, one color. But I have to be honest - when making the background I started to think about a print we had at home that's by my great aunt. It's an etching and aqua tint, too, depicting fields of oat. As I wanted the character to be the focal point, I used a pencil to the background leaving the black lines just to the character.

The fun thing about this project is that I now have some characters I can use later! I also enjoyed the technique of drawing to the plate very much. 

Thank you for stopping by today! I understand if you don't stop by tomorrow to see the last post as it's Christmas Eve. But it's here when you then have the time!

Materials: GelliArts, Posca, PaperArtsy

1 comment:

enkulin käsityöt said...

Ihanaa Joulun Aikaa.

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