For my last morning in Helsinki I decided to visit Kiasma, the city’s Modern Art Museum. I particularly wanted to see the exhibition of works by Grayson Perry that had recently opened.
The building was designed by the American architect, Steve Holl. Construction started in 1996 and it opened two years later in May 1998. It’s located in the city centre and with the Music Centre and Finlandia Hall forms a cultural axis leading towards Töölönlahti.
The Grayson Perry exhibition occupied the top floor, so on arriving I made my way up the stairs to the top of the building. The exhibition is a good survey of the artist’s work and includes examples of his tapestries, pottery, cast iron sculptures, sketches and other items – including a motorbike!
Perry is a very astute observer of society and this is reflected in many of his works which are commentaries on various aspects of contemporary British life and society.
This is particularly true of Comfort Blanket, a large patchwork quilt of “things we love, and love to hate”. Lots of the visitors seemed fascinated by this work.
In his tapestry Death of a Working Hero which portrays a miner and a fighter, with a young boy caught between them, and the pot Shadow Boxing, Perry is commenting on contemporary masculinity, how the younger generations are encouraged to emulate the masculine stereotypes. However, unemployment and the social situation in many traditional working class areas make it difficult for them to live up to these expectations leading to a high rate of mental illness and suicides amongst men who are unable to talk about their feelings.
Two cast iron sculptures – Our Father and Our Mother – are also comments on the roles of the sexes
Our Father is a “monumental utility man”, like the men of his father’s generation who worked in industry and had manual skills. The man carries a medley of items from religious artefacts and books to digital devices.
“Our Mother is all of us on our journey through life, but she is also a universal refugee. She carries a great load of religious, cultural, domestic and parental baggage,”
The exhibition included the six-part tapestry cycle The Vanity of Small Differences (2012) which we’d seen in Manchester in January 2014. The cycle updates William Hogarth’s Rake’s Progress (1733) with the story of the rise and fall of Tom Rakewell, a computer software millionaire.
Matching Pair are two pots about the Brexit referendum. One representing the views and values of pro-Brexit voters, and the other those of anti-Brexit voters.
The Kiasma website tells us that
Perry travelled to meet people in the regions of Britain that were most adamantly for or against Britain leaving the EU. He also asked for contributions on Facebook and Twitter.
“I asked for self-portrait photographs, pictures of things people loved about Britain, their preferred colour, favourite brands and who represented their values.”
factions. “The two pots have come out looking remarkably similar, which is a good result, for we all have much more in common than that which separates us,” says Perry.
Grayson Perry is well known for his transvestism and there was a selection of his dresses on show
There were also examples of his sketchbooks which illustrate how his ideas evolve
All in all a good retrospective of his work.