Emma Sarpaniemi’s exhibition Two Ways to Carry a Cauliflower is a performative photography series exploring women’s self-portraiture through play. To free the subject and the gaze from certain patriarchal ideals of femininity, the character depicted in the images is portrayed playfully and tenderly as a woman who behaves, looks, and performs on her terms and rules. Identity, reality, and imagination become blurred in the world created by Sarpaniemi. Often, playfulness can be perceived as naivety when associated with a female artist. However, in this project, Sarpaniemi employs it as a source of power. Through play, she envisions possibilities for new ways of existence and influence.
Sarpaniemi selects the clothes, stages the scenes, photographs and designs the self-portraits herself. The starting point for self-portraits in the project is often an object or clothing found at a flea market, from which the artist begins to construct a photograph. She is interested in using everyday objects in an unpredictable manner to create contradictions and alternative symbolic meanings within the photographs. The photographic series comprises a combination of home-studio portraits and scenes captured in domestic settings. The character is situated in private environments, bringing the viewer closer to the subject’s world and imagination. The photographs present moments of intimacy and play between the character and the viewer.
In the exhibition, viewers are invited to peek into the character’s world. Sarpaniemi’s installation is inspired by the circus and its themes; the colours, playfulness, and diverse frames of the photographs create a delicious and thoughtful ensemble within the gallery space. The circus offers entertainment and a place to meet—clowns are pointing out the absurdity of life. The circus theme is also intertwined with Sarpaniemi’s approach to photographing self-portraits—freedom, play, and a non-standard depiction of womanhood without the boundaries set by others. Sarpaniemi creates realms and utopias of femininity that she would like to see and experience.
Emma Sarpaniemi (b. 1993) is a visual artist based in Helsinki. In her practice, Sarpaniemi investigates definitions of femininity through performative and collaborative self-portraits. Self-portraiture is a playground for Sarpaniemi, where the artist aims to question certain patriarchal ideals of a female and to create a representation without boundaries defined by others. Sarpaniemi graduated with a BA in Photography from the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague in 2019. Her work has been exhibited in Finland and internationally in galleries, museums, and festivals, including Les Rencontres d’Arles festival, European Month of Photography festival in Luxembourg, The Finnish Museum of Photography, Wäinö Aaltonen Museum, Photographic Centre Peri, among others. Her work is included in the collections of the Finnish Museum of Photography, Turku Art Museum, Finnish State Art Deposit Collection, and private collections in Finland and The Netherlands.
The artist’s work has been supported by the Finnish Art Association and the Finnish Cultural Foundation. The exhibition has been supported by Arts Promotion Centre Finland (Taike).
Thanks to Kakola Brewing Company & Perso Soda for sponsoring the opening drinks.
Two Ways to Carry a Cauliflower
Photographic Gallery Hippolyte
Image: Emma Sarpaniemi, Self-portrait as a Lowly Worm, 2022