A sneak peek at the work I created at the Arteles artist residency 2016: Human.Nature
The story of our universe begins with a singularity. Due to some inconceivable force, space expanded and matter formed. The stars, the earth, oceans, animals and even our bodies, are all made up from this matter that existed since the beginning of time. The Oxford Dictionary has a term for this collective: NATURE.
Human.Nature considers humanity and our relationship with nature: both the external environment as well as our inner biology. It reflects upon both matter (creation, the body) and form (consciousness, the soul). It is about a return to nature. The city-dweller reconnecting with the earth. Soft moss under bare feet. Cold air against warm body. The body that will eventually return to the soil to give life anew.
Through my work I wish to celebrate the cycle of life, and alleviate the fear of death. As such I worked with a colour palette that evoked a mood of twilight, the transition between day and night.
For as surely as day follows night, it stands to reason that life should follow death.
Home away from Home at the Arteles artist residency
The Arteles Creative Center is set in the countryside in the vicinity of Hämeenkyrö, Western Finland. The center has two log-houses painted blue and yellow, and I was staying in the latter. From my window I had an incredible view of “Parilanjarvi”, the nearest lake. I believe this to be the best view at Arteles! On retouching days I could still enjoy the nature from within. There were only three others staying in the Yellow House, and Sung Eun Chin, Kathy Moss and I were soon dubbed “The Yellow House Bitchez”! In comparison to our cosy quarters, the blue house offered accommodation to another nine residents. As well as studio space for artists and a lounge area where we would have our weekly meetings, Saturday movie nights and even a Halloween Party.
Finding Inspiration for my project Human.Nature
Foraging in the Forest
The first thing I noticed when walking out into the forest was the smell of wet earth under fallen leaves. Each step released fresh scents underfoot. I stop to breathe it in… and out… and in… I was simultaneously lost and found.
But the forest provided more than just inspiration and a location for my work. I foraged for lingon- and billberries to add to my breakfasts. And collected samples of fungi, lichens and more to study and photograph as stock. I also did some foraging in the attic at Arteles where I found animal skins and antlers to work with.
Working in a foreign environment, it was important to me to draw inspiration from the Finnish landscape and culture. Several images from the series are imbued with narratives from Finnish folklore surrounding concepts of the soul and the transmigration thereof. During my visit to the National Library in Helsinki I came across an interesting volume on Finno-Ugric mythologies by Uno Holmsberg. Further research resulted in me downloading the work from archives for further study.
The Kalevala is a 19th-century work of epic poetry compiled by Elias Lönnrot from Karelian and Finnish oral folklore and mythology. I spent my evenings reading the strange and fascinating tale of creation based around the character of “old” and “sturdy” Väinämöinen.
There is value in keeping a journal of inspirational artists, one’s musings and ideas. Recording your train of thought creates an interlinking web of ideas from which to draw inspiration. It is an integral part of the my process, allowing me to consider various perspectives on my subject matter.
I would like to thank my sponsors at Fotacs who provide me with Vanguard and Photon gear! I was able to travel light and make the most of this experience because of your generosity. The entire project was photographed from my favourite tripod: the Vanguard Abeo Pro! Using the intervalometer on my Nikon D810 I was able to play in front of the camera while capturing my frames. The images are lit with two Nikon SB900 flashes (sadly my Photon gear did not fit into the weight constraints of travel). The final images were processed with the Asus G751JL with the help of the Wacom Intous 5.
I would like to thank everyone who supported my campaign and made this experience possible! With special thanks to the following people and business for their more-than-generous contributions.
Working in Finland has re-ignited my passion for my art. While the forest gave me a safe playground for my self-portraits, the homestead offered a quiet space to think and create in. It provided me with an opportunity to experiment and play with new techniques and concepts. Attending the Arteles artist residency has had a major impact on my art and person.
Thank you to Teemu Räsänen, Reetta Pekkanen and Ida Mantere at the Arteles artist residency for sharing your space and knowledge! It was an amazing experience!