Aura Saarikoski’s exhibition works result from events that took place after a party three summers ago. On her way home, the artist wept in the embrace of a consoler. Staining the area over the heart, on the consoler’s shirt, were the remains of black mascara and tears. When no one washed the garment, it started to acquire new meanings. Saarikoski has used the stain on the shirt as a negative—reproducing it in the exhibition’s works and duplicating them onto purchasable t-shirts. Elsewhere in the gallery, hand-dyed t-shirts in different shades of grey carry texts from two narrators who alternate in illuminating the events from their perspectives. An intimate discussion starts to revolve around the stain, about the construction of a work of autofiction, its ethics, and a narrator’s influence throughout an evolving story.
In her work, Saarikoski reflects on; the sites of autobiographical work, whose voice is heard, whose role is to be a supporting character, and who is allowed to be the protagonist. Memories of events become blurred over time, and the story develops a life of its own, depending on who tells it. The exhibition conveys the subjective nature of narration, as any attempt to retell a meaningful experience is inevitably confined to a singular point of view. Behind Grey Mélange is a personal experience of grief, but just as central is the theme of consolation for the artist. The pieces make one consider how deeply meaningful it is to be able to lean on someone in the midst of sorrow. The stain on the shirt is a testimony of grief, comfort, care, and intimacy. But what happens when the personal is made public in the form of an artwork and is reproduced onto pieces of clothing that anyone can wear?
Also on display is a light leak on black and white film, printed on silk like a landscape passing through shades of black and white. Combining elements familiar to her—autobiography, photography, and shades of grey—Aura Saarikoski forms connections with her previous works, in which she e.g. searches for the densest point of the fog. Materials related to the analogue photographic process appear in the exhibition. A traditional photographer’s tool, the Grey Card, which is used to neutralise the shades of a photograph to match the tonal world of a shooting situation, is magnified into a four-meter canvas print, which drapes unruly onto the floor of the gallery. However, the card, which the artist received from her father, has lost its reliability over time and is no longer a functional measuring instrument. In the context of the exhibition, its scale of greys reflect the many shades of grief.
Aura Saarikoski is a visual artist and writer from Helsinki. She graduated from the Turku Academy of Arts with a bachelor’s degree in photography in 2012 and from Aalto University with a master’s degree in photographic art in 2017. Currently, she is a doctoral student at Aalto University while also studying creative writing at Kriittinen Korkeakoulu (engl. The Critical College) in Helsinki. Saarikoski has held several solo exhibitions and participated in various group exhibitions. Saarikoski’s debut book Gray Days (Parvs 2020), which combines photography with essay writing, was awarded the Finnish Art Association’s Edvard Richter prize in 2020. Saarikoski’s essay on autofictional photographs will be published in a collection of essays on photography in April 2022 (ed. Hanna Weselius, publisher S&S). Aura Saarikoski previously held a solo exhibition at Hippolyte Studio in 2015.
The exhibition has been supported by Art Promotion Center Finland and the artist’s work by the Alfred Kordelin Foundation and the Linnamo Foundation.
Photographic Gallery Hippolyte
7–30 January 2022
image: Aura Saarikoski