Kustaa Saksi: In the Borderlands
Finnish textile artist Kustaa Saksi presents a decade of his hypnotic, intricate and beautiful jacquard weavings, along with two new special commissions, at the Design Museum, Helsinki through October 15, 2023.
As part of its ongoing celebration of 150 years since its founding in 1873, the Design Museum in Helsinki presents a mid-career survey of textiles by Finnish artist and designer, Kustaa Saksi. ‘In the Borderlands’ will feature a selection of his jacquard weavings made between 2013-2023, as well as two specially commissioned pieces: Forest Boy and Ideal Fall. The title of the exhibition is a metaphor for operating around in-between states: between the imagined and the real, sleep and wakefulness, madness and sanity, art and design, themes which have consumed the artist for over ten years.
Saksi has explored themes around his personal experiences with migraines, as with his series, First Symptoms, and universal experiences of dreams and hallucinatory visions, and mythical narratives, as seen in the series Hypnopompic. He has long been intrigued by the human brain and its capacity to process sensory information differently and unexpectedly. Through it all, Saksi is a storyteller, literally weaving in images, shapes, and forms with underlying connections and meanings. “My style is a combination of organic forms found in nature and recurring structures appearing in the world. The fractal, a shape replicating its own form, is one of my favourite motifs. The reiterative logic of the fractal can be seen for example in the shape of a snowflake or the floret of a cauliflower. The fractal is a powerful pictorial motif since it offers a cosmic and microscopic scale, extending into infinity. It reminds us of nature’s ability to create. In my recent series Mythology (2021), which consists of 13 works, I’ve drawn parallels between fractals and mythological tales. The myth is another self-copying structure, spreading through the world of language and its meanings.”
Saksi begain experimenting with jacquard weaving twelve years ago, excited by the endless possibilities and the challenges of working with yarns to convey his stories. He notes: “the qualities of different yarn and the structure of the weave can communicate somatic, tactile impressions: the coldness of metal, the softness of mohair, or the smoothness of silk.” He has enjoyed a fruitful collaboration with the Textile Museum’s TextielLab, in Eindhoven since the beginning and it continues today.
The two specially commissioned works, Ideal Fall and Forest Boy, dominate the main hall of the museum. They reflect his exploration of large-scale jacquard weaves and his fascination with fractal forms. Ideal Fall also dives into the world of AI, and could not be a timelier example of what this technology can do. Saksi asked AI Software to generate ideas for an ideal scenery for a dream like forest or an archetype of nature. Saksi picked the ideas he connected with the most, whereby images of lush flora and vegetation merge with images of Japanese style gardens and waterfalls. Forest Boy is inspired by a feeling that he experienced in a Finnish poem, Song of Woodsman (translation), by Aleksis Kivi.
Throughout his work, Saksi channels the intangible though his weaving, revealing emotions, dreams, pain or fantasy into a very tactile and typically functional form. It is a contrast that makes his work even more layered and engaging.
Saksi notes, “I’m proud to be able to exhibit my work as one of the main exhibitions during the 150th year anniversary of the Design Museum. This exhibition looks back at an important chapter in my career – my textile art, made between 2013–2023. In my tapestries, I want to take the viewer on a journey through transitional, eerie spaces that emerge between the imagined and the real, sleep and wakefulness, madness and sanity.”
‘In the Borderlands’ will be on view at the Design Museum, Helsinki through October 15, 2023.