As a part of Heidi Kilpeläinen’s exhibition House & Garden Photographic Gallery Hippolyte transforms into an artist’s work and living space as Kilpeläinen moves her artistic practice from London to Helsinki.
At the core of the exhibition lies Kilpeläinen’s ongoing research into the life of Daniel Cajanus, also know as “The Finnish Giant”. She became interested in his story after a genealogy revealed a family connection. Cajanus, who was 247,5 cm tall, made his living by exhibiting himself; he appeared in many European countries and attracted the interest of scientists, laypeople and royalty. Cajanus managed to accumulate a sizeable fortune that he used generously to support charities.
Heidi Kilpeläinen’s research got a new twist when she, by an amazing coincidence, met a woman in London whose father owns a life size study of the portrait of Cajanus, painted in 1734 by a Polish portrait painter Enoch Seeman. The final version of the portrait is a part of the Finnish National Gallery’s collection.
Heidi Kilpeläinen became known both in the fields of music and visual arts through her HK119 project. In Cajanus she feels she has found someone to identify with, as their life stories share many similarities. They have both found their way from Finland to London and performed in front of all sorts of audiences, assuming a role they have created for themselves. During his day, Cajanus fled war and the Swedish army service, whereas Kilpeläinen is facing the consequences of the Brexit referendum result. Place that has felt familiar, safe and welcoming suddenly feels different.
In addition to Heidi Kilpeläinen’s recent video works Implicated (2016), which comments on the social ills and inequalities of our time, and : D (2016) which examines humour – another way to express frustration – the artist will be working in the gallery on Cajanus-themed paintings during the length of the exhibition. The artist’s ‘sleeping area’ is decorated with a needlework titled Home Tweet #ome (2016) and a blueberry watercolour Oma Soti Mullan Allis (2016). The titles are based on old Finnish, and also internationally used, proverbs and sayings often embroidered on tableaux, and reflect on how the familiar is often seen as safe, even though the strange and unknown has its allure. With these two pieces Kilpeläinen wants to refer to the sudden estrangement she has felt in her country of residence, as well as to the current wave of migration into Europe, which has resulted in intolerance and protectionism securing even stronger foothold globally.
The photograph, House & Garden (2016) in Hippolyte Studio lends its title to the whole exhibition. It functions as a focal point to the exhibition where Kilpeläinen examines the themes of origin, home, otherness, strangeness, insecurity and displacement. The piece features the cover of a British interior decoration and gardening magazine from 1988. In the image, a young girl wearing a school uniform, sits on a staircase of a stately house. Behind her we can see a large painting portraying a tall man dressed in a Polish soldier’s uniform in front of a gloomy landscape. The life-sized painting depicts Daniel Cajanus, the object of Kilpeläinen’s study. Since 1976 the portrait has been in the ownership of the girl’s father in France. Alongside the photographic piece featuring the portrait of Cajanus, Hippolyte Studio hosts a sculpture based on a measuring tape, which the viewers can use to compare their own height to the formidable size of Daniel Cajanus.
On the opening night, Jan 4th 2017, Heidi Kilpeläinen performs a new piece which tells the story of the life and travels of “The Finnish giant”, Daniel Cajanus (1703–1749). Starting from Thursday Jan 5th the viewers have a possibility to feed the artist while she works in the gallery, as a part of the Feed the Artist project, which examines the status and profession of artist in our society, as well as the global politics of food. Performance events; Tango Therapy: Independence 100 and Let’s Drink Blueberry Soup – Together welcome visitors between 2 – 3 p.m. on saturdays January 14th and 28th.
London based Heidi Kilpeläinen, graduated with an MA from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in 2004. Kilpeläinen has widely exhibited and performed in galleries and prestigious institutions, with a rich record of participations in shows and festivals, such as Beaconsfield Gallery, London (Solo Exhibition 2016) and Huuto Gallery, Helsinki (Solo Exhibition 2015). Recent group exhibitions and events include; Camden Arts Centre, London (2016), Nunnery Gallery, London (2016), Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, Los Angeles (2016), Supermarket – Independent Art Fair, Stockholm (2016) Performa 07, New York (2007), Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki (2005) and New Contemporaries, UK (2004).
Kilpeläinen has also taken part in residencies at Beaconsfield Gallery in London (2015) and Helsinki International Artist Programme (HIAP) in Helsinki (2016). She has performed Tango Therapy Performance at the refugee centres in Helsinki (2015–2016) and at homes of war invalids and their widows in Sotkamo, Finland 2016. She has also released 3 albums under the title HK119 after she was chosen by Björk as her favourite artist 2005 (One Little Indian Records). Kilpeläinen has performed her music internationally in various venues, galleries and museums such as Tate Britain, Victoria & Albert Museum, Institute of Contemporary Art, Casa da Musica, Provinssirock and Kiasma.
text: Kati Kivinen, art historian, curator
5 – 29 January 2017
House & Garden
Photographic Gallery Hippolyte & Hippolyte Studio
Yrjönkatu 8–10 courtyard, 00120 Helsinki, +358 9 612 33 44, www.hippolyte.fi
Opening hours: Tue–Fri 12–5 pm, Sat–Sun 12–4 pm, Closed 6 Jan 2017
(images: Heidi Kilpeläinen)