Riitta Päiväläinen is a Finnish artist based in Helsinki, a place that I imagine to be very cold. I don’t know what I would have to wear to be warm there but I imagine it would be a lot more than the shorts and sweater usually donned in Southern California: Finland is a long way climatically from where I am. Her makes this known very clearly as she studies clothing placed against stark, clear snowy backdrops. They are photographed and always appear frozen, stiff and caught in limbo between falling and flying: they are transitional. The objects in the image represent former wearers and the way she presents them emphasize said lost pasts. Who knew freezing clothes could mean so much?
Her work all came from finding a black velvet dress in a thrift store and becoming infatuated with its unknowable history. It appeared handmade, from the twenties, and was apparently found in Paris by the storeowner: who was it that lived in this dress for nearly a century before her? She’ll never know. “I am interested in old garments, because they carry silent, unknown stories and histories,” she says in her statement.
The landscape serves as a neutral zone for her clothing to inhabit as this is where she studies them: if she is the microscope in which they are analyzed, they are the glass that holds the items in place. While examinations of history and fashion, they are also beautiful items to encounter. They are abstract and surreal and feel like they are group photos of vampires, whose images disappear once the photos are developed. The snowy settings add a great deal of mystery to them and, as a whole, she never strays too far from ominous surroundings.
Päiväläinen photographs are very beautiful and relate to so many other disciplines. They dip into fashion and feel like installations while also having a bit of a sculptural element in form, not too dissimilar from the work of Hadley Anne Johnson. It is quite stunning work: see more of her work here.