Interview by Heli Mäenpää | Artworks Kreetta Järvenpää | English editor Julie Uusinarkaus

Kreetta Järvenpää loves flowers, more than people who say they love flowers. She collects flowers in different shapes, sizes and colors, and then lets them wilt in peace before she gets back to them with her camera.

Define yourself as an artist. What kind of work you do as an artist?

My method is to work by intuition after thinking through something that truly interests me. I’m passionate about storytelling, colors, textures and building different atmospheres. I love to create something that doesn’t feel like coming from this world that we are living in but from another world that could invite us in – a surreal one. I’ve noticed that I seek to create a certain kind of “place” in my works. I try to create strong emotions or evoke memories or feelings in people. We all have soft spots, areas or things that we just want to keep for ourselves. That’s the right place for my art. It’s made for everybody to see but it belongs to only someone.

My main medium is photography, especially flower photography. I build flower arrangements and installations, which I then photograph and organize workshops around the same theme. I also paint with acrylics and make ceramics – at the moment I’m into making weird flower vases. So everything I do somehow revolves around a floral theme.

I only use natural light. I don’t use image manipulation. At the moment I work with a painted dark background and a shallow depth of field. My visual inspiration comes from the Dutch Golden Age, when it was all about skills and how close to reality an artist can get through painting. In a way I take the opposite direction: my goal is to fade the reality of photography and create painting-like works. My camera is a paint brush.

Kreetta Järvenpää, Apple flower, 2018, Giclée print, 32cm x 40cm.

Where does your passion for, or perhaps it could be called addiction to flowers, originate from?

I’m sure it’s in my genes. My mother loved flowers and gardening, and we kids had to help her with weeding and such. She paid us, but I still built a resistance to it. It wasn’t until 2015 when I began to work with flowers again, and the final awakening happened in 2016 when my mother passed suddenly. My first flower work was her funeral flowers, a gigantic arrangement of all kinds of flowers and colors. And of course roses, her favorites. I haven’t worked with roses since, to me they appear too romantic or maybe they just belong to my mother.

I realized then that I’ve always loved flowers but somehow felt that they don’t belong to me but to someone else. After her death I made a decision to make flowers a crucial part of my work, at least for now. Flowers keep me close to her but have grown to be the center of my art.

Kreetta Järvenpää, I disappear, 2017, Giclée print, 70cm x 90cm.
Kreetta Järvenpää, Narcissus, 2018, Giclée print, 37cm x 52cm.

Why are flowers linked with femininity? And do you consider yourself as a female artist working with feminine motifs?

I’ve never thought of flowers as being feminine or masculine. I don’t like that kind of categorizing, to me they are flowers. There is a plenty of categorizing going on with flowers, but then you could also ask if art is feminine or masculine? I don’t understand the need to define things in a gender-related way. Flowers bring beauty that we can all enjoy, just like art. Flowers are essential to mankind. Flowers and bees. And plenty of flower species have both sexes too!

I think linking women and flowers together has had a lot to do with beauty defined by man. All that beauty women behold, it all comes with patriarchal rules, obligation, suppression etc. And naming a woman with a flower’s name (Iris, Lily, Rose, Violet, Daisy, Daphne etc.) is an honor until it witholds an attitude.

I think the art is born within an artist, and if the artist is a woman you should not erase that or if the artist is man – you should not erase that either. First of all, we all are individuals, and that should be respected too. Womanhood has so many different dimensions that I believe as a female artist I can find many things worthy of art when I start to think them through. Men have their own dimensions too. In general artists of course interpret the world through their own senses and experiences.

Kreetta Järvenpää, Cabbage, 2018, Giclée print, 32cm x 40cm.
Kreetta Järvenpää, Wild and wilted, 2018, Giclée print, 32cm x 40cm.

Your current exhibition at Bang Bang Gallery is named Prime, but in your photographs it seems like the flowers have already passed their prime?

Names are always difficult. I did not have words to describe the work I had done, that happens quite often, I have a feeling but I don’t have a name. Believe it or not, even though I’m a flower artist, I’m not a friend of the romantic, and I see a flower’s prime differently. A flower can be beautiful both before and after the perfect bloom, and actually it is often even more beautiful after. There’s something magical about the way they change their character. For me a wilted flower has an intriguing shape and texture, a muted color, and it’s not just pretty anymore. It’s also beautiful and mysterious, even bold, but not just pretty or sweet.

We consumers aren’t yet fully conscious about the negative sides of the cut-flower industry, could you please enlighten us?

Low-rated wages, pesticides, the use of water, pollution. There are a lot of women working in the fields, and they suffer from pesticides and get sick, and when they get pregnant, they lose their job. Transporting flowers from Africa has an unbearably big carbon footprint. The flower industry has very similar issues to many other industries. So we don’t have a problem only with flowers – we have a problem with the way of living in this world of ours. But things are changing, and the entire flower industry isn’t bad. There are movements such as the sustainable production of flowers and fair trade. And a good example of this development is the floral designers who grow their own cut flowers. A great example of this is Erin Benzakein from Floret Flower, who also shares her knowledge freely.

Kreetta Järvenpää, Coral crush, 2017, Giclée print, 32cm x 40cm.

How should a single consumer act as a flower lover, where can one get them?

I wish I could say buy local but obviously we only have a small cut-flower industry in Finland, and it offers only a narrow selection, mainly from spring to autumn. Of course there are some individual providers, and I’m hoping to see more in the future. At the moment you can choose fair trade flowers, but you can also go to the nearest flower shop instead of buying cheap bouquets at the supermarket. Price is a good indicator in flowers. If you get a bunch of flowers for five euros, that can’t be a good sign. The question “who did not get paid” is always relevant when it is too cheap. I try to grow as many flowers as I can during the summer. And I know Finnish wholesale companies would love to buy Finnish cut flowers.

Here’s my tip: I create flower art photography so that you can have flowers on your wall all year round. Just like hundreds of years ago in Holland during the Golden Age.

Kreetta Järvenpää, self portrait.

 

You are warmly welcome to meet the artist at Open House 12.12. 17-19 pm.

At Aalto EE’s premises at Aalto University School of Business, Runeberginkatu 14-16, 2nd floor.

Also open by appointment, please contact heli@bangbang.fi

www.kreettajarvenpaa.com