Kerttu Horila

Kerttu Horila
About us women and a bit about men
Rauma Art Museum
15.6.-15.9.2013

Finnish artist Kerttu Horila has been living and working in Rauma since 1970's. Her amazing ceramic sculptures are touching, realistic and humorous at the same time. In her works Horila depicts humanity - us women, but also men - with an awareness of her subject, an acute gaze and skilled hands, with power, warmth and insight, while also preserving the mysteries. Exhibition About us women and a bit about men is a retrospective exhibition gathering together Horila's feminine terracotta army from time of all her career. Kerttu Horila's retrospective exhibition is arranged by Rauma Art Museum and Rauma Art Society.

Kerttu Horila (b. 1946) studied in the department of ceramic art at the Institute of Applied Arts in Helsinki, Finland. The artist's path has taken her from wheel-throwing and casting of ceramic pots to being an artist of the large scale. She makes ceramic sculptures, paintings and drawings, and stages installations. Her art has also performative features.

In her works Horila frequently depicts people - women, but also men. She herself has described the works as being as large as life. This definition is significant, since it is both broad-minded and open-ended. One fundamental feature of her people is their lifelikeness. Nevertheless, these works do not mirror humanity solely through their realism and figurativeness. When depicting people, Horila looks, reads expressions and gestures, and consigns to memory, just as if she were absorbing, assimilating and then showing what she sees and feels in us. Reality is frequently given wings, and the image also contains mysteries that arouse our interest: What is happening in this work? What is being shown here?

Horila combines observations of the present moment and of her surrounding reality with the history of art. She reshapes art history - drawing on Antiquity, the Renaissance, the Baroque, Impressionism - setting in motion a process in which art's internal dialogue and commentary are an essential feature. The resultant works are neither pastiches nor parodies, but freshly, openly and clearly wrought new ways of seeing. Her subjects portraying human life flow in time, as part of a great continuum, they are rooted in the present day, and touch the viewer. Through this intertextual approach, Horila acknowledges her own place. Rather than accentuating the artist's role as the creator of something purely new and original, she situates herself as part of tradition and of a vast network of connections.

Horila's works are in many respects topical, and mirror the major changes that have taken place in art in recent decades: the increasing influence of women's viewpoints, the freeing up of visual art's conceptions of material, and the breakdown of the traditional boundaries or value systems in art and design. Her works are also highly accessible. They get close to people through their life-size-ness or location, but also through their participatory aspects, and speak to us on an experiential level. The viewer's experience can even be confusing. Am I a part of this? Who am I? The questions are the same as when we look at one of art history's most enigmatic paintings, Diego Velasquez's Las Meninas. As in Velasquez's work, with Horila, too, the mirror has been a central element, both a concrete and a conceptual one. The mirror brought interactivity into Horila's works and added a new dimension; we can look backwards and forwards, at the same time. Motion, time and spatial depth all became possible within the works. Viewers suddenly discover themselves inside the work. Nevertheless, the relationship that is constructed between the mirroring component of the work and the mirror image is a dominant element. Viewers are left feeling they are on the outside - their gazes weaker than the work's inner gaze.

Jacques Lacan's theory of the mirror stage, which deals with the construction of a complete, integrated self-image, centres on the formation of the child's sense of self via the self-portrait experience, and via behaviour that observes and mirrors others. Right from the start, the individual's self is constructed via an alienating mirroring: I am an other. One crucial feature of Horila's works is sharing an experience of the power of our urge and desire to hold onto an image of our own selfhood, via our own self-portrait and those of others. The mirror can be frightening, but it allows a breaking down of boundaries, experiment, play and theatre.

Together with exhibition is published a large catalogue of Horila's working. About us women and a bit about men exhibition and book bring together Horila's eloquent ladies' room mirror gazers, theatre divas, circus artists and many other engaging figures. The book also sheds light on events from the artist's career and background - her experiences, achievements and everyday life. The book is published by Jussi Tiainen's Parvs. (linkki). Book is available in Rauma Art Museum shop or can be ordered. Price 35 euros.

Exhibition is curated by Henna Paunu.

Photo and video Documentation of Kerttu Horila 's Ars Rauma 2013 exhibition (by Gerardo Montes de Oca)

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