This week I visited the Designmuseo in the design district of Helsinki. An impressive exhibition “In the Borderlands” covering a long period of discovering textile art trough yarns and weaving by Kuusta Saksi, a multidisciplinary artist and designer. Nowadays he lives in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, but from origin he is Finnish and he grew up near Kouvula.
I am a real admirer of his work so it was a great opportunity to see in real life!
The entire second floor of the Designmuseo is taken up by his imposing works. Two large scaled works hanging from the ceiling and still covering a big part of the floor, approximately 10 m x 4 m each. In another room six works were combined into a series called “Myths and Fractals” as a result of his fascination for fractals, all around us.
Most impressive- I found anyway- one of these large works “A World in Waiting” as a result of gathering people around the theme ‘nature and our world’. It imagines a possible future of a changed new world in the year 4017. But also “Ideal Fall” overwhelmed me completely by the rich colors, by its patterns and the imagination of a generic paradise with lush vegetation, rich flora and a waterfall. In “Forest Boy” Saksi was inspired by a feeling described in a poem ‘Metsämiehen Laulu’ from Aleksis Kivi. One of the main characters, a young boy, sings about being one in the forest. This poem had also been adapted into music by composers like Jean Sibelius.
It is the complete opposite of the fully human-made environment Saksi is living nowadays with his family. The Finnish forest is for him his childhood landscape and a source of strength and well-being. As an outsider I would call this remark typical voor a Finnish person. The video or documentary that comes along with the expo shows a glimpse of this bizarre contrast between Saksi’s youth in Finland and his current living-area in the Netherlands.
At the Designmuseo I really had a nice conversation with another visitor. Actually she was working as a designer at a tapestry plant. This woman knew Saksi already when he was still living in Finland and working as an illustrator and designer. She remembered old posters he made but also designs for Marimekko, Hermès and other fashion houses.
This exhibition is the result of a 12-year research, learning, sampling and experimentation with …… tapestries. In an intense cooperation with the Dutch Textielmuseum Saksi learned and developed a special kind of style, as I would put it.
Next to his regular career as designer Saksi was always developing his artistic way of graphic storytelling in his studio. He wanted to find a way to overcome his fear for the migraines from which he was suffering since he was 7 years old. In jacquard-weaving he found an answer in expressing his feelings by the tactility of silk, mohair, linen, polyester, copper or rubber.
Some of his works have almost hallucinating effects on me as a visitor. The specific colour scheme, very dens colours combined with a kind of amorphe beings in a imaginary world. Saksi uses optical illusions and psychedelic imagery almost like the Surrealists did.
He calls it an ‘organised chaos’. It came all out of his brain and the possibilities that the migraine gave to him. Being with or in the migraine attack, he could see and sense the most incredible forms, lines, beings, creatures he even could imagine. It’s an area that’s called ‘hypnopompic hallucinations’. It occurs in the state between sleeping and awakening in the early morning. Most of the times your own memories of this state-in-between are good and nice or even hopeful. But with people who are suffering from severe migraine the imaginary state looks like a war-zone, with threats, murder and death and they hardly survive. So when they wake up, like Saksi, it really takes a lot of time, to understand and comprehend, that real or normal live is going on as it always did. This might take or demand a lot of energy of the person.
Next to research about the theme Saksi always wants to add a specific element to his sketch: in what way can I give the visitor a glimpse of my emotions that go with it….? It is by choosing the materials that are responding to his inner state when he made the design. Materials like copper which has a sensation of cold, mohair or alpaca that claims to be soften and warm etc. This profound searching for the right combination of all these elements together will bring Saksi at the Dutch Textielmuseum. From there on in this process, he keeps the guidance over the yarns, the effects of experimenting with the weaving on small parts, before the computer controlled weaving machines are translating the original design into the masterpieces hanging now in this exposition.
A result of twelve years of intense study about the material and the images in Saksi’s head that comes along with the everlasting migraine.
Saksi succeeded in an admiring way to integrate his personal state of enduring and living with this generative curse or fate or destiny and integrate it into his artwork. Here’ why I admire his art so much.
People are touched by his work and you have to gain a deeper insight in your self to find the answer to this.