When speaking about her solo exhibition Warmth and Welcome, Fiona Veikkanen refers to the particular ‘something’ that inhabits handmade objects, carried by the indelible mark of their maker. While this is certainly an undercurrent throughout the exhibition, and something I take from any labour-intensive art work, I see Warmth and Welcome as more of an exercise in the use of the ‘familiar’ to prise open our steely public exterior and get us where it hurts.
Whether Veikkanen’s emerging practice is steering towards folk art, feminist art, fine art or some other label of your choice (or whether that matters at all), her ability to appeal to this common core of her audience is immediately apparent. She manipulates commonplace objects via their inescapable symbology and association – exposing and shaking connections deeply rooted in our shared psyche, built from domestic and cultural tradition.
Warmth and Welcome sees textiles rise to the fore of Veikkanen’s sculptural practice, wool being the primary material used. However here a knitted beanie (Five And A Bit Balls Of Wool) is not something to be worn, but a globulous unravelling form, patiently perched, eternally unfinished. The folds of flannelette blankets become a meditation of their simplistic pattern and shape – cutaway portions rendering them otherwise useless. A column heater – that ubiquitous Winter companion – emits no heat but still stands as a powerful gathering point – its iconic figure drawing cold bodies ever closer.
The large scale Wall Wool acts as a figurehead, looming above, threatening to envelop the room and everyone within it. The sprawling patchwork quilt has a disconcertingly exaggerated edge, as if assembled by a manic, feverish hand, or growing of its own accord, multiplying patch after patch of reclaimed woollen textile. Nonetheless its presence is a welcome one, and the experience of the exhibition as a whole rather placating – sound and light dulled and warmed by the wash of soft surfaces. In contrast to a more typical ‘white cube’ gallery interaction the audience feels compelled to handle everything, lean in close, tug a loose string here, adjust a fold there, and to stay all night.
Warmth and Welcome was shown at The Front Cafe and Gallery in Lyneham from July 6-11.
Visit Fiona’s great blog to see more of her work and hear about upcoming shows.
And be sure to stop by The Write Art (aka Annika Harding) for a great write up of Veikkanen’s exhibition and some more images.