Laura Ukkonen: Tentative strokes

Artist Laura Ukkonen’s exhibition “Tentative Strokes” will be on display until the end of June 2019 at Café Puhuri, located in the Lauttasaari Manor courtyard. Ukkonen worked on the works on display during her residency in the winter of 2014.

The landscape is all fog and water. The people living in the rooms next door hold me up. I feel safe.

I walk. I sleep. The sky is a huge grey mass flooding over me. I’ve seen this before – in someone’s paintings. The trees are all curled up, hundreds of years old. Ravished by the wind.

Doors, tiled stoves, wallpaper. Furniture Eva inherited. Cupboards. Women who used the left side of the house when viewed from the main door.

Travelling to get supplies, sitting down for a coffee and a doughnut, buying groceries. I follow a different rhythm to the others, yet I want to spend time with them.

It’s snowing! Red ink.

I spent two months at the Saari Residence in the winter of 2014. It was dark and there was very little snow. I drew and wrote. While drawing, I made myself a part of the space I was inhabiting without leaving its margins. Chatelaines, maids, lady’s maids, wet nurses. Did the women who had lived in the manor over the centuries have anything in common with me, my grandmothers and great-aunts? Perhaps we were all enchanted (irrespective of our status) by the trees around us, whose black and wet branches grew gradually redder and redder in my drawings. The alternating brightness and gloominess in the pictures sequence my train of thoughts, bouncing from one era to another, and my emotions and memories. That’s what artistic work is often all about, and wandering around the beautiful landscape intensified this.

My days followed a rhythm built around sleeping, waking up, mealtimes, making a shopping list and walking. To me, the study next to my apartment and the other residents and employees in the community were a luxurious experience. We had coffee breaks and meals together whenever we felt like it. I worked in peace by myself, yet I was never lonely. That is something I am truly grateful for.

It’s a pleasure to display my works at the Kone Foundation’s art and science café Puhuri in Lauttasaari. I sometimes thought about the district of Lauttasaari during my residency. While drawing the trees of the Saari Residence, I remembered my great-aunt who was a domestic worker and lived in Lauttasaari. The beautiful spiral staircase of the apartment building she lived in when I was a child helped me make up my mind to move to the city as soon as I had grown up. The Saari Residence opened up a new path for me to see the chains of women passing through generations and social classes.

You can read in Finnish what I wrote in my journal during my residency in the book Saari näkyvissä! Saaren kartanon taiteilija- ja tutkijaresidenssi 10 vuotta.


Laura Ukkonen

Laura Ukkonen (born 1977) is an artist from Helsinki whose works include drawings, writing and moving images. Her works – landscapes, portraits and interiors – are based on drawings and journal texts ranging from her everyday surroundings to art history, with a focus on gender research. What kind of echoes of the past do our feelings carry? Laura Ukkonen graduated as a Master of Arts from the Aalto University in 2012 and has also studied art history at the University of Turku (bachelor’s degree). She is currently studying art education at Aalto University.