Sini Pelkki (b.1978) works with photography and moving image. In her works, landscapes, figures and objects turn into layered narratives that lead to various paths and ambiguous readings. We discussed her inspirations, her style and her working methods.
Inspirations and work ethics
In her works Pelkki is intrigued by interaction and interpretation. Rhythm, gestures and movement in a space. “I am interested in change, moving forward. Questioning one’s own taste and preferences, in other words, being awake,” she tells us. “All my work derives one way or another from photography, and my interest in the subjectivity of seeing and looking has been constant in my practice, but still every now and then the table must be cleared, and let it be started from the beginning. Or from the side.”
One might pay attention to how seldom Pelkki uses dialogue in her works. “For the time being, dialogue and faces have not been significant in my work, because they take away space from other things,” the artist explains. “Working with a photograph or with moving image is working with outlines and borders that create restrictions, but thus also, opportunities. Above all, I am interested in space, within an image, as well as outside it.”
“With a camera, the basis of working is intuitive, trusting the moment, a combination of conceptual and intuitive,” Pelkki says. She is aware of when to immerse herself into the work, but also when to let go: “Writing about art, and the actual artistic production itself happen both simultaneously and separately. In one moment, you distance yourself from the work, in another, from the text and the words. Eventually all the information and ideas are concurrent.”
“A Replacement (2014) was inspired by Edouard Vuillard’s Figures in an interior (1896) -paintings of rooms, in which the space and the characters blend into one multilayered surface,” Pelkki says. Her work depicts a room, consisting of different elements and objects resonating with each other and the human figure in the room.
“I built an installation into an existing space, in a resided home. The objects contain meanings that shape both the image, and the relationships between them,” the artist recounts. “Silence was very important. The work is mute, which stands out especially when shown as an installation.”
Length (2017) uses repetition and rhythm to build a sense of narrative.
“Length was evolved from the idea of a photograph and its borders. We look at an image that suddenly breaks, and we move outside of it, towards space and details that have been cropped. There’s a change of perspective towards the landscape previously shown,” Pelkki explains. “I am often fascinated by images that haven’t been given a meaning, that are random, or purposeless, or uninteresting.”
Cooperation and interaction
With Sheet No4 (2018) Pelkki wanted to start from another direction. It is based on the partnership of her and four other artists: Emma Hammarén, Johan Jonason, Magnús Logi Kristinsson and Keiko Yamamoto. “Collaborating meant, to the very end, that I couldn’t know what the end result would be like,” she explains. “I moved forward one thought at a time, but always led by the entirety of the project. There was interpretation and interaction in all directions, in many different phases.”
“For example, Emma Hammarén wrote her text ’Collage of Definitions’ as a reaction to my notes for the cinematographer, Pietari Peltola. Keiko Yamamoto’s part was based on improvisation, during a day of filming in Devon, England.”
“The filming in Helsinki with Magnús Logi Kristinsson was choreographed based on pre- planned images. In the work, methods of filming might seem the other way around. There is the building and dismantling of an image, drawing borders and outlines – meanings, that form into a human’s outlines, like skin.”
The name of the work refers to a contact sheet and to Pelkki’s earlier photographic works, Sheet No8 and Sheet No12 (2009), which were named after the frame numbers of the film negatives. The artist compares a contact sheet to a sketch of a photograph, containing suggestions and different options.
Recent and future themes
Having worked with photography for a long time, Pelkki considers the process with moving image and photography to be similar. “The making of a photograph happens in two or three stages. After developing the films and scanning, the photographs are left waiting, often for a long time. A photograph needs time and and space, the act of looking to become ready – the process can’t be sped up,” she contemplates. “In a way, it’s the same with moving image. With different work stages, you need to pause, to wait. Editing can be compared to making selections and decisions with photographs. During editing, the work is made and composed again.”
The film Departing Shadow (2020) takes its name from Pelkki’s earlier photographic work, the diptych Departing Shadow (2013). In the earlier work, she examined a shadow as a thought leaving, or departing. A human figure, a body in the hays. The video work depicts presence, emptiness, and connection, through the concept of looking and seeing: “It is a multifaceted dialogue and communication between two, or one; a monologue, a dialogue, contemplation in space and in a body.”
Departing Shadow is on view in December in Monitoimitila O., located in Herttoniemi district, Helsinki. Monitoimitila O. and the exhibition are open by appointment.
In future works, Pelkki wants to continue with similar themes. “Working with space is important. A space can be a book, an image, or a physical space. I am interested in moving forward, and to the sides does that count as a theme?”