HELSINKI—Finnish visual artist Stiina Saaristo has taken her intricate pencil drawings, often depicting a cherubic young, blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl surrounded by the nostalgic minutiae of childhood and adolescence, has traversed to the z-plane in her latest exhibition Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood) at Galleria Heino (16 April –16 May, 2021). As Artforum writes, Saaristo imbues her figurative ceramic sculptures “with attributes typical of her drawings, mingling female sexuality with kitsch and angst.” The artist even goes so far as to ensure the skin of her characters carries with it the weight of each’s experience.
Saaristo says she’s always built her themes around around narratives which usually play out as she works through her process often taking months to reach a finalized project.
“Kinderszenen is a collection of ceramic sculptures and drawings related to childhood, childhood fairy tales and stories, and the difficult nature of being human. The title refers to Robert Schumann’s set of pieces for piano of the same name, which look at childhood from the nostalgic perspective of an adult.” — Saarista
Saaristo explains her work in clay was born from attempts to draw three-dimensional shapes. The artist has just under two years of experience working in the medium. Even so, her vision and execution is exquisite, and grounded in her two-dimensional work.
“I hand sculpt my clay works as if I were drawing. I make approximate figures; cut out their limbs and details; reshape, engrave and hollow them and then reattach them to create an entity. When I draw I use a mirror, and I do the same when I work with clay, but the biggest difference between the two techniques is that my sculptures are mainly based on visions and I’m no longer limited to referencing a real model. I avoid using photographs in my drawing, which is why it’s a very time-consuming process for me; when I sculpt my visions, my method allows for mistakes and brings joy and pure creativity to my art-making.” — Saaristo
Stiina Saaristo (b. 1976) graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki in 2005. She is one of the most original visual artists of her generation. Saaristo paints and makes charcoal and pencil drawings and has also started making sculptures from porcelain paper clay. She makes her works alone at her studio. Creating a sculpture involves several phases, first shaping it without moulds, followed by several rounds of firing with surface stains and glazing. Saaristo’s drawings and sculptures manifest the meticulous method that is so characteristic of her. One might say that her sculptures are a continuation of her drawings. She has used herself as a caricature model in works of both types and addressed themes related to womanhood.
One thought on "Exhibition | Stiina Saaristo: Kinderszenen, Scenes from Childhood"
I am really drawn to Saaristo’s work for the texture of the characters and the details. I personally find the sculptures slightly unsettling, especially the one with the girl and the dog. The uncanniness of the pieces really ads to the piece. These are not standard porcelain dolls with smooth skin. There is an almost grotesque quality to the work that really resonates with me. Being able to see the skin in exaggerated detail somehow amplifies the humanness of each sculpture where smooth porcelain skin on a doll feels scary because it is eerie, this work is grotesque but almost feels comforting. And I’m here for it. I also find the level of detail so compelling such as the curls in the woman’s hair in “Kiss” (and the hair for most of the sculptures as well) or the teddy bear in “Young Assigned Female.” The texture really adds a depth and volume to the works that is extremely stylistic to Saaristo. Especially the sculptures that go into anatomy, the level of detail on the skeletons and muscles of the characters look very realistic, and when juxtaposed with the characters’ outward appearance really makes a nice effect. Overall, I really enjoy this piece.