By Curator Michelle Marie Roy
The first reaction I have to Tuija Lindström’s work is visceral, like a punch in the stomach. Yes, this is a good thing! I took some time to ruminate about her work in order to determine the best course for the exhibition. Beyond the discussion of gender representation, the staged photograph, I was interested in the meta-theme that lay beneath.
The idea for the exhibition sprung from her series The Girl’s at Bull’s Pond (1991) and her later works in which elements from nature increasingly come into focus, such as her most recent series Nepenthes Laughing (2010) featuring clinical depictions of the flowering “mouths” of carnivorous plants.
So it was the undercurrent of nature and our relation to it in Tuija’s work that finally won my attention. Tuija and I then agreed upon the title, Paradise Lost, which refers to a famous literary work about the fall of man, namely the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. I love this story. Not that I am religious, but it so simple, and as loaded as an electric charge. It is a story that has become a Western metaphor for our loss of innocence and the emergence of suffering. Essentially it is a coming of age story. We leave the innocence of childhood and the protection of our parents, our “Eden,” and stumble into the world where we encounter heartbreak and our newly found carnality. But to simply “spell it out” as I have just done isn’t interesting. Tuija Lindström’s photographs are not narratives, but points of departure.
Which brings me back to her series, The Girls at Bulls Pond. Here the images of bathing girls are paired with photographs of clothes irons. I can’t help but feel the searing pain of naked flesh against hot metal when I look at them. Conversely, I am also aware of the transformative sensation of the cool lake water in which the girls bathe.
This transformative theme is also evident in Lindström’s Sleeping Bodies (1995) series, where exhausted partygoers slumber in a garden. They leave waking consciousness only to be temporarily swept away in dreams and bodily rejuvenation. In sleep we can oftentimes distance ourselves from the drudgery of life. In fact Tuija informed me that the word nepenthes from her series Nepenthes Laughing literally means, “without sorrow” in Greek. In the Odyssey nepenthes is described as a drug that can make one forget their troubles.
And if tonight my soul may find her peace in sleep, and sink in good oblivion, and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower then I have been dipped again in God, and new-created. – D H Lawrence
Tuija Lindström touches upon the undeniable truth that we are as animal as the rest of the natural world. Nonetheless it is our will and intellectual desire that yearns to overcome our limitations. We are flawed, vulnerable, mortal, and subject to the same laws of nature as all other creatures, however exceptional we may consider ourselves. And yet we seek refuge in the very nature to which we are subject. We seek respite, a return to “Eden” from the stresses of the complex societies we have constructed and the traumas we have endured.
Tuija Lindström: Paradise Lost is on view until May 13th