In her material-oriented artworks, textile artist Helena Kaikkonen (1959–) explores time, the northern nature, and the fragility but also the power of life. Change and repetition set the pace for the seasons and the everyday life of human beings. Time passes, things move on, yet nothing is ever final or complete. There is a time for remembering the past, a time for living the present moment, and a time looking into the future. “I like to marvel at the life of the past but also the present generations in the north, to look at that very thin thread that makes life so fragile and fleeting.”
“Where I have found my materials and where they come from, the traces of time that they carry and how delicate they feel are very important to me. I have often said that I think with my hands. The textures of the materials in my fingertips guide my thoughts.” Natural materials, such as leaves, branches, roots and various kinds of found and recycled objects, collected from the beaches and the forests around Oulu and from many different parts of Finland, open spaces for the subconscious and the coincidental. Some of Kaikkonen’s materials come from Pikisaari, where her studio is located, from the island of Varjakka in Oulunsalo, and from Ii, where she spent her youth. “I have put driftwood collected from the shores of Pikisaari and Varjakka together with flax and other fabrics. The appearance and colour of wood soaked and made smooth by the water is surprisingly similar to flax, one of my key materials. When I worked on the pieces in my exhibition I thought about the history of the islands, the horizon, the colours.”
The Horizon of Longing focuses on new installations and material collections born in the intersection of textile art and visual art, and in interaction between them. Many of the works look like plants or unidentified animals, creatures that could be alive. They also evoke subterranean and above-ground secrets of dilapidated, overgrown gardens. In the past few years, Helena Kaikkonen has recycled her stores of materials – threads, fibres, fabrics, papers – and taken apart some of her old works. Her method is based on constant exploration, experimentation and tireless manual work, such as sewing, crocheting, interlacing, folding and dyeing. ”Manual work and its slow routines open space for thoughts and processes that lead to new artworks.”
Helena Kaikkonen studied textile art in Bergen, Norway from 1987 to 1992 (Statens høgskole for kunsthåndverk og design). Since 1992, she has participated in Finnish and international textile art exhibitions and created environmental art in Northern Finland and in Italy. She has also directed community art projects especially in Ii and has produced commissioned artworks in Oulu, Ii, Kempele, Tyrnävä, Ylläs, Levi and Imatra. Since 2016, Kaikkonen has worked at the Old Wool Factory in Pikisaari, Oulu. She is a member of Muu Artists’ Association and the Oulu Artist Association.
Photo above: Helena Kaikkonen, Touching a Delicate Red, 2017. Photo: Timo Heikkala.
Helena Kaikkonen, In the Night, 2018.
Photo: Mika Friman.
Helena Kaikkonen, There Once Was, 2018. Photo: Timo Heikkala.
Helena Kaikkonen, Strange Flower, 2018.
Photo: Mika Friman.