During the month of June four artists Hattori Eiko, Louisa Gifford, Martina Kändler and Chris Sperandio spent their time in the AiR program discovering the white nights of the summer in Kristinestad on the West coast of Finland. Kristinestad is a charming small town with colorful and old wooden housing and narrow streets. It has a maritime past and is a member of the Città Slow network and as such makes a fantastic setting for artists to dwell in and to dwell on.
This summer Finland has had a record dry and hot weather and we were lucky to start early in June before the heat wave attacked this corner of Europe. We were all rather busy either in town or out in the woods most of the month. On top of that on the menu there were exhibitions, the annual Open Gates and Gardens event that attracts thousands of people from the region, workshops for natural dyes or how to make comics, encounters with people curious about art, amazing collaborations with local cultural actors and associations.. you name it!
Martina kept herself busy also during nights as her project had a focus on the color of the sky. What better way to study the white nights! Her other project took her to visit numerous summer houses and their interiors and this project might bring her back to Kristinestad again in 2019. Fingers crossed! To an average Finn a summer house is something rather ordinary that has a lot of rituals to go by – everyone has memories of summer houses and it was usually a sign of growing up when all of a sudden you no longer wanted to spend your summer in the bush with your parents, no matter how picturesque the place! Louisa spent a lot of her time in the print workshop. Eiko, who works with fibers and geometrical shapes and patterns, experimented with natural dyes from nettles, flowers, bark, lichen and what not. My ambitious plan was to experiment with her on local plants for anthotype photography but circumstances were a little against me and I have to postpone these experiments until later. I even had spotted some delicious poppies in one garden.. next year then!
What’s the story with the piano? If you ever wondered how to get your head around the narrative when creating graphic novels, Chris had some very interesting tools to help you with. He taught a two-day workshop for anyone interested in how to make comics – according to him anybody can do it and he should know as his experience in teaching comics extends to decades. So, why is that piano on a desert island? Start your story with such an image and work your way backwards to the every beginning – it makes sense!
Looking back at Kristinestad I am just impressed by the welcoming attitude of the locals and how they helped each and every artist in their projects… to the point where we all were at times so busy that one month was barely enough to finish what we started. We also owe a very humble thank you to the local cultural secretary for making our program so easy to run, together with the local artists association Spectra. Based on such a positive experience we may want to run a new programme on both ends of the short Finnish summer in 2019 in June and in August.
At the time of writing this my batteries are again charged to the full and I am back in hot and humid Saint-Louis. It is now time to roll up my sleeves and get busy with some of my own projects before hosting new artists. On top of my photography and writing projects I will try to be a real blogger for once in the coming two or three months and come back with more frequent updates – no promises but I’ll do my best!