Maarit Makela, ceramic artist and art researcher, works in the realm of practice-driven research. An instructor in design, holding a PhD from the University of Art and Design Helsinki in Finland, she explores issues of femininity and culturally defined roles of womanhood through her work in theory and art. In addition to her research, Makela interacts with contemporary artists to pursue the questions of how practice-driven art and design research affect current ideas in art. Through the venues of exhibitions, publications, conferences and collaborative art-making and research inquiries, Makela and her peers in the Finnish and international art community are advancing the role of art making and research in our understanding of design today.
With a range of single objects, innovative installations, and collaborative works, Maarit Makela, explores expressions of a personal nature. Through her experience as a female artist, she divulges the insights into the roles, memory, and active cultural persona of women. Utilizing photographs and video of family, icons and celebrity figures who are women, Makela translates female experience into intimate insights on ceramic. In addition to making individual works, Makela’s art functions in bodies of work and is designed for exhibition and exhibit series. This author was introduced to Makela’s work by the piece Small Wound, serigraphs on reindeer bone porcelain, hung with string from a ring and fitted with tiny lights to create unique shadows and interact with air currents.
Small Wound, detail, taken at SOFA 2009, Gallerie Norsu booth. Photo by J. Kronika
Small Wound in space, silkscreen to reindeerbone porcelain, diameter 40 cm., in situ at Gallery AMA, Helsinki, Finland, 2007. Photo by Rauno Träskelin.
This work was part of Makela’s three part exhibition series Mirrorplay. Involving a series of individual works based on family photos, diary entries, and feedback from women. This series of exhibits was the culminating presentation of her doctoral work.
Exhibit view, Mirrorplay III (Peililikki), at Gallery Laterna Magica, Helsinki. Chandeliers in gallery (2000). Photo: Rauno Träskelin.
Supporting her explorations into the medium with well reasoned theoretical discussions, Makela is a consummate practitioner in the realm of art and design practice-driven research. Beginning with works like her doctoral dissertation, Saveen piirtyviä muistoja. Subjektiivisen luomisprosessin ja sukuopuolen representaatioita” [Memories on clay: representations of subjective creation process and gender] (University of Art and Design Helsinki 2003), she has contributed to the understanding of process as starting point for arts research.
Developing sound questions to drive her art making process is but one part of the endeavor. These questions revolve around the issues of feminism, body consciousness, and culturally defined roles for women. From this starting point she delves into the intuitive and creative art making. Producing artefacts which symbolize the resolutions, Makela then pursues how these physical objects answer the initial questions. The follow up of theoretical writing and discussion allows the artefacts contained knowledge to be unpacked and made available to viewers and readers of her publications.
Working with the links between artefact and contextual realization, Makela has written numerous articles including: “The Art of Research. Research Practices in Art and Design” (University of Art and Design Helsinki 2006), “Artist as Researcher. In Between Art and Research” (University of Art and Design Helsinki 2007), “Minä ja Marilyn. Taiteilija tulkitsijana” [Me and Marilyn. Artist as Interpreter] (in “Dimensions of Authorship”, University of Jyväslylä 2008), and “The Place and The Product(s) of Making in Practice-Led Research (in “Reflections and Connections: On the relationship between creative practices, knowledge and academic research”, University of Art and Design Helsinki 2009). These documents continue the dialogue. Makela has written articles alone and with peer researchers, like her collaborator Routarinne Sara.
Makela’s work has also incorporated iconic symbols of femininity like the Madonna in her work Mute… Celebrity figures like Marylin Monroe, as presented in her works Mirrorplay and Monthly Bleeding. She included these works in a presentation, Memories on Clay, at the recent Interrogations convention at Loughborough University, UK, for which she was an organizer.
Mute, 1995, silkscreen and painting on Finnish earthenware. Photo by Rauno Träskelin.
Mirrorplay, 1995, silkscreen and painting on Finnish earthenware. Photo by Rauno Träskelin.
Monthly bleeding, 1995, silkscreen and painting on Finnish earthenware. Photo by Rauno Träskelin.
From the works with flat and mixed media assemblages, Makela has transitioned to work with dishforms, oncorporating scoring and glazes to embellish them with female figures.
This work was inspired by a trip to the city of Fuping in the province of Shaanxi, China and exposure to the famous Celadon glazes. Her month long symposium there took her away from the familiar process of silkscreening and into a new method.
Pond-serie (2008), painting on ceramics. Photo: Flicam archive, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, Japan.
Upcoming exhibits, and dialogues include the show Power of Everyday, scheduled for February fifth through May thirtieth, of 2010 at Gallen-Kallela Museum, for which Makela invited a number of women artists to create work in process-research dynamic with the art of builder Akseli Gallen-Kallela and his wife, Mary Gallen-Kallela’s contributions as homemaker. For this exhibit, Makela is producing ceramic boxes and collaborating with Jussi Mikkonen, an engineer at University, to create an installation which diffuses mist from the boxes.
Box in situ at studio, silkscreen and painting on Finnish earthenware. Photo by Rauno Träskelin.
For more information:
Maarit Makela: http://188.8.131.52/blogs/anmakela/
SOFA 2009: http://www.sofaexpo.com/chicago/2009/exhibitor/norsu/index.htm
Gallerie Norsu: http://www.norsu.info/eng_exhibitions.html
Gallery AMA, Helsinki, Finland: http://www.amagallery.net/e_frames/home.htm
Gallery Laterna Magica, Helsinki, Finland: http://www.laterna.net/
Makela’s work as displayed at Gallery Laterna Magica: http://184.108.40.206/blogs/anmakela/?p=23
University of Art and Design Helsinki: http://www.taik.fi/en/
Loughborough University, UK: http://www.lboro.ac.uk/
Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, Japan: http://www.pref.kyoto.jp/visitkyoto/en/theme/sites/museums/municipal/
The upcoming Power of Everyday exhibit at Gallen-Kallela Museum: http://www.gallen-kallela.fi/upcoming.htm