1.6. — 24.6.2018

Päivikki Kallio:
Detached

My exhibition, Detached, deals with the themes of interruption, disappearance, impermanence, and grief. These ideas are also connected with contemplations of materiality and its potential, of the material’s own thinking, and of the working processes which, in their specific form, merge with my artistic expression. The exhibition consists of four collections of works: Viipuri 1941, Königsberg 1960, and Detached are based on found photographic material, whereas the Hyvinkää 2013 series consists of my own pictures.

My way of working and thinking is characterised by a melancholic undercurrent. My work is linked with printed art, where a change of state takes place through the transfer from the matrix to a print. I have noticed that in the viewer, encountering the transfer often awakens a sense of strangeness, an obstacle to the immediate experience, and a feeling of detachment.

That situation resembles my own feelings when I first looked at the photographs which form the foundation of the Detached exhibition. They clearly dealt with the lives of people belonging to my family, but I was not familiar with the stories behind the photographs. To me, the photographs appeared like prints without their original matrix. I started to wonder how these events I was not familiar with had shaped the lives of people who were very close to me. Encountering this sense of strangeness opened the photographs to a more general interpretation. It allowed me to use the photographs of my family in a way that is similar to the found footage technique employed in experimental cinema – looking for new uses for the old photos detached from their original context.

Over the last three years, I have developed my own version of the digital transfer technique. I transfer the image, which has been rasterized and printed on film, to a background made of plasterboard, recycled cardboard, modelling paste, or fabric. To detach and transfer the pigment, I use various binding agents such as lacquer, gesso, or acrylic binders. The transfer of image is accomplished either by stroking with a soft spatula or by rubbing, as if one was printing a woodcut.

As the pigment of the printed photograph is slowly detached from the film by the binding agent, floats for a moment on its surface, and finally settles on the new material, the resulting image can be said to scan the target surface rather than just being copied onto it. The result is a layer which cannot be transferred back to produce the original image. It is indeed my view that printed art is not two-dimensional but rather a result of a projection-like graphic operation. As the floating pigment meets the surface of the material, the meaning of the information that it contains changes. The release of the image from its original surface, its taking a material form, separates it from the original reference of the photograph.

In the Detached installation, the new surface wipes away some of the original pigment, and an originally happy photograph can turn mysterious, or even aggressive. In the Viipuri 1941 collection, the pigment has been transferred onto industrial plasterboards, whose surface layers have been partially removed so that the white plaster is visible in places. The technique is reminiscent of the 16th century chiaroscuro woodcuts. They employed a process with two printing blocks: one would print the dark areas while the other would print midtones with only the highlights cut out.