Cups, piles, spoons, boxes, stacks—Kati Rapia’s kaleidoscopic exhibition Melancholia Still Lifes depicts change and the transient nature of everything. Just as the genre of vanitas still life paintings evoke contemplating mortality, the precarity of life, and the perishability of earthly riches—Rapia too examines life’s temporality through the omnipresence of cardboard moving boxes. In her body of work, the shifting of life produces a seemingly banal yet somewhat global activity—packing all you have, one item at a time, into a brown box.
In Rapia’s 12-part, partly autobiographical and documentary series, Melancholia Still Lifes, the elements of the works are slowly transformed, and nothing or anyone ultimately remains the same. The collages are made from photographic fragments—previous prints of memories glued into new narratives. For Rapia, subjectivity and emotional phenomena are lacking from the 17th-century tradition of still life paintings, but in her series on view at Hippolyte Studio, still life images tell their own story in relation to one another. Symbols and metaphors loaded into historical still lifes appear with new results in Rapia’s photographic collages—bearing a more affective response and atmosphere.
In her Still Lifes series, Rapia has long documented random piles, unrecognisable huddles, warehouses, and laundry racks—the ever-present, everyday still life of lay-bys—compositions of humans and their detritus left behind. She ended up using the collage technique after graduating as a photography artist and feeling anxious about the impermeable surface of a photograph. Rapia decided to cut all colour prints she ever made and formulate new arrangements from the segments. Rapia plays with a picture’s dimensions—transforming images piece by piece into colour surfaces and [re]assembled entities. In the images, one can discern simple, incidental, material or clutter. However, layered within are the persistent, continuous, and forever doomed attempts by people to control chaos—a pursuit, to some manner, towards compensating order for the preservation of identity and mastery over life, or the illusion thereof. When the stack collapses, it becomes a heap, chaos, and a rolling life force.
And you don’t always realize it, but you’re always falling.
With each step you fall forward slightly.
And then catch yourself from falling.
Over and over, you’re falling.
And then catching yourself from falling.
And this is how you can be walking and falling
at the same time.
– Laurie Anderson, Walking and falling, 1982
Kati Rapia is a visual artist working and living in Loviisa. She works in a multidisciplinary approach towards several genres—arts, documentary collage, screenwriting, and comics. She is interested in various narratives and methods of visual presentation and often approaches her subjects with intelligible humour. Rapia graduated with a Master of Arts degree from Aalto University in 2003 (TaiK) and has held several solo exhibitions in Finland. Additionally, Rapia has published several books, the most recent being graphic novel Pyrstötähti ja Maailman lopun meininki (2018) co-written with writer Juha Hurme. In 2018, Rapia was awarded the State Prize for Visual Art in the field of comic art.
The Arts Promotion Centre Finland kindly supports the exhibition.
Melacholia Still Lifes
Open: Tue-Fri 12-17, Sat-Sun 12-16
image: Kati Rapia, Melancholia Still Lifes, Cups, 2019