SARI KEMPPINENMixed media works 3.9.2011 – 25.9.2011

Purity, 2010
buttons on canvas
200 x 140 cm

Back to the beginning

As I was viewing this exhibition, it occurred to me that the themes it addresses are very similar to those that preoccupied me a decade ago as a fresh graduate: the crafts tradition and its evolution, time and the lack of it, value and the lack of it as well as our habits of consumption. To my delight, I realise that the way crafts are viewed by the public has undergone a huge change in the past ten years. Upcycling has emerged as a favourite new pasttime, there are hundreds of craft blogs, exciting new materials are available in the shops and patterns have been revamped. A new homely aesthetic and sensibility has been ushered in.

I grew up surrounded by crafts. My childhood memories of everyday activities such as knitting and mending socks, creating a homely atmosphere using patchwork quilts, traditional striped rugs and crochet bedspreads gave me the impetus to create my first ever button portrait. For this exhibition, I have increased the size of these portraits, which serves to heighten the physical aspect of the viewing experience.

My portraits are made of thousands of buttons of varying sizes that I source mainly from flea markets. Our habits of consumption are reflected at these types of markets, which have proliferated across the length and breadth of Finland in recent years. Nevertheless, buttons can be difficult to come by. Traditionally, buttons were carefully removed and kept and old clothes turned into raw material for things such as rugs. Today, such practices are rare. It reminds me of how our approach to consumption has changed over the years.

The original photographs and calling cards featured in my portraits are also flea market finds. They act as a reference to the past and their unknowable history brings an added layer to the palimpsest.

My exhibition will also feature monumental crochet. One of the works has been created using parcel string, with the design based on an old table cloth. I am also drawn to the subtle sheen of the material, the evolution of something worthless to something of value and the impression that this play of scale has. Another piece is made up of hundreds of hand crocheted pieces of lace, which create a silhouette-like pattern on the wall. I have sourced or made all the materials myself - magnificently supported by the world´s most amazing assistant, my mother.

Crafts used to be a social activity with thriving sewing clubs and knitting groups while also representing an opportunity to withdraw into your own private world, closed to all others. I, too, am drawn to a slower way of working. I enjoy the meditative, calming effect it has in the midst of our otherwise hectic existence. With crafts you live in the moment. Rooted to a time and place and yet part of a continuum spanning millenia.

Sari Kemppinen


    Pitkä hetki, hidas aika I, 2011
    buttons on canvas
    200 x 159 cm


    Pitkä hetki, hidas aika II, 2011
    buttons on canvas
    190 x 130 cm

  • kemppinen/2011/SARI_KEMPPINEN_PURITY_2010

    Purity, 2010
    buttons on canvas
    200 x 140 cm

  • kemppinen/2011/SARI_KEMPPINEN_AIKA_II_2011

    Time II, 2011
    buttons on canvas
    140 x 98 cm

  • kemppinen/2011/SARI_KEMPPINEN_LABOUR_OF_LOVE_II_2008

    Labour of love II, 2008
    buttons on canvas
    50 x 35 cm

  • kemppinen/2011/SARI_KEMPPINEN_LABOUR_OF_LOVE_III_2008

    Labour of love III, 2008
    buttons on canvas
    50 x 41 cm

  • kemppinen/2011/GalleriaHeino_070911_22

    Pasque flower, 2011
    packaging string
    220 x 220 cm

  • kemppinen/2011/GalleriaHeino_070911_30

    Home, 2011
    hardened lace
    220 x 280 cm