Text and photos: Laura Iisalo
Visual artist Essi Orpana is just starting off her career, which has already entailed many new realisations and turning points. The camera has always been an essential tool for her but in the past year or so Orpana has expanded her work from photographs and videos to new materials and ways of working.
Orpana’s artistic thesis for the master’s programme in photography at Aalto University, Such is the Silence, spreads to the surrounding space through wallpaper, garments, and old objects. Photographs taken in abandoned houses feature Miss Silence, Orpana wearing an old dress.
The artworks were exhibited in the Kunsthalle Turku at the end of the year 2020, and they were part of the Copenhagen Photo Festival programme during the summer of 2021. The Finnish State Art Commission acquired three pieces for its collections.
– When I was putting together Such is the Silence, I realised for the first time how I can combine different elements with photography and video. Since then I’ve been even more interested in creating spatial ambiances, and in the dialogue between the objects, Orpana says.
Residency provides an opportunity to experiment
Orpana is currently finalising her master’s thesis, which is based on her her artistic work, and the house it features. She says it was only during the writing process that she understood how much her childhood, and her grandparents’ country home have influenced the creation of the Such is the Silence artworks.
– When my sister and I were kids, we used to dress up in my grandmother’s clothes, and she told us about the various characters that were living on the farm. I have just now recognised how much my childhood, and the forming of an identity – and finding where I belong – relate to the way I work. I have been processing these subjects without realising it.
"If I can provoke thoughts, questions, or feelings in the observer, then I have achieved something."
Orpana believes that art is always personal, yet themes such as identity and mortality as an inseparable part of living are part of the human existence. That’s why they are so easy to relate to.
– It feels like current society and social media culture alienate us from real life and nature, where the biological cycle is beautiful and more present. I think about these things a lot. If I can provoke thoughts, questions, or feelings in the observer, then I have achieved something, she says.
In December next year Orpana will spend three months in Fabrikken in Copenhagen as part of an artist in residence programme funded by the Finnish Cultural Foundation. The main objective of the work residency is the opportunity to experiment, which will hopefully evolve into new artworks. Orpana would like to exhibit those in Helsinki, where she hasn’t had a solo show so far.
– I want to test new ways of combining digital photographs and videos with different materials. The artist residency is a perfect opportunity to develop my work further and to immerse in new ideas, she says.
Visual artist Essi Maaria Orpana received a grant which allows her to work for three months at the Fabrikken residency in Denmark in 2022.