March 8th – March 30th, 2019
Galleria Kuvitus, Helsinki
The illustration exhibition Viriö (Shed) by Piia Keto consists of patterns and their dialogue around us. Keto has created a homelike space at Galleria Kuvitus, complete with wallpapers and furniture. The slogan “everyday beauty”, used frequently in the 1950s and 1960s, is also an apt description of Keto’s world. The illustrator draws inspiration from weaving looms, embroidery patterns, pockets, knives, jewellery and woodwork. She has studied old handicraft techniques and modernized them through the means of illustration.
‘My working method has always been materials-based stream of consciousness. For this exhibition, I chose techniques that force me to work calmly.’
Piia Keto’s new works are fresh and modern. Known especially for her black-and-white retro style illustrations for Finnish design brand Arabia, Keto’s use of colour is soft and insightful. The soft brown and neutral tones are accentuated by the powerful blue, the cheery mint green and the warm, gentle apricot yellow in between. The soothing horizontal and vivid vertical lines simultaneously form a plain yet rich surface.
‘The exhibition is a journey of the mind into the world of textiles. I started off with Dora Jung’s damasks and embroidered fill patterns and followed the common thread that twisted and turned, becoming an abstract path into the world of warp yarns. I have approached the Viriö project by examining the collections of museums, treasures found in attics, old tools, photographs and letters, bridal chests and the parts of weaving looms,’ Piia describes.
The exhibition also offers an intriguing glimpse of the hierarchies in contemporary art. Regarded as feminine and homely, textile work began to be held in higher esteem in the art world fairly late. However, now we can already talk about a wave of contemporary artists following in the footsteps of Anni Albers and Lenore Tawney, including the likes of Leonor Antunes and Ann Cathrin November Høibo. The open-minded attitude of Keto towards materials and their natural characteristics also brings to mind the teachings of Bauhaus and the pictorial weavings of Anni Albers, which are designed for viewing.
While Dora Jung called herself first and foremost “an artisan” and only then “an artist”, Piia Keto calls herself a storyteller. Among other themes, she has reflected on the role of women as makers of handicrafts in her work. Keto’s exhibition can also be regarded as part of the haptic resistance against a life spent largely online, a movement that is becoming increasingly common in the art world.
‘I have grown up and studied at a time when new technologies, oozing with modern possibilities, rode roughshod over the old. I myself combine both in my work: the possibilities of modern technology and traditional manual skill. I want to showcase traditional Finnish handicrafts and their manufacturing methods in a new way before the knowledge and skills are lost beyond reach,’ Piia says. ‘My working method has always been materials-based stream of consciousness. For this exhibition, I chose techniques that force me to work calmly. I have punched hundreds, if not thousands of holes in paper to embroider patterns on it. I have sewn rug tuft and fringes and eventually transformed them into surfaces. I have peered on the reverse side of my work and discovered interesting elements there.’
One of Keto’s most recent large pieces is a wool carpet inspired by Finnish author Minna Canth, which is on display in the new Oodi Helsinki Central Library. Viriö continues a series of pieces, which Keto began with ceramic rugs in 2016.
Viriö is supported by Kalevala Jewelry Cultural Foundation and the Finnish Illustration Association.
Written and Photographed by VEERA PEKKINEN
Adapted and edited from the original exhibition text done for Galleria Kuvitus, published on March 7th, 2019.
Piia Keto (b. 1978) is a Helsinki-based illustrator and designer. She holds a Master of Arts (Art and Design) degree from Aalto University. Piia has been working with clients like Arabia, Fazer, Kalevala Jewelry, Paulig, Fazer, Aarrekid and Docendo just to name a few.
For art and illustrator enquiries please contact the illustrator directly.