Mythic Journey

Gillian Crabbe
British artist currently living in Finland. Working primarily in drawing and also installation, video.
From 2011-16 I was tutor for the drawing module, Avain Taide Art School, Helsinki.
Since 2015 also working part-time as writer/editor for Finnish National Gallery webzine FNG Research, and also at Royal Academy of Arts, London (RA Magazine)
Selected group exhibitions include:
2014 Koli Environmental Art Festival Koli National Park, North Karelia
2012 Tuohta! Contemporary Birch (Helsinki World Design Capital exhibition) Gallen Kallela Museum, Tarvaspaa, Espoo
2012 Metsa Puhuu: Akasaka ja Nagashila, Galeria Rantakasarmi, Helsinki
2010 Cafe Gallery Summer Exhibition Royal Academy of Arts

I am told that in Finland November is known as the death month. Strange that I came here with a theme of Odysseus and the sirens in mind, as I had recently heard a piece of music composed by Swedish Anders Hillborg on this theme. Here on one of two large rocks: Korppoo and only 800m across to Nauvo.  Here by the deep and narrow channel that allows huge ships to pass through to Turku.

What would this myth hold for me in my time here?

I had returned to AARK after being here in June for a month… midsummer month, long sun-filled days, a quiet contemplative time, seemingly far away from Covid-19…

The summer residency was spacious, meditative, spontaneous - a surprise collaboration with the other resident artist, ‘Before Our Eyes’

Before Our Eyes

In the studio, flowing freely with the ink-drawing videos I was discovering… following the arising and passing of color on paper… creating rituals by the sea and up at the labyrinth in nearby Nauvo…

Now returning to AARK in the darkest month, the ink drawings emerging as light in the darkness…

Arriving on the first night the ark in the garden is joined by a new ship made by Benkku… funnels lit by candles and fairy lights twinkling in the portholes….

A few days later, I make a sound collage of the tale of Odysseus using spoken word and Sirens music… and sharing it with the other artists and Renja and Benkku there follows a discussion on what are today’s sirens… politics, fame, the restless pursuit of ungraspable happiness any which way…

And what are the artist’s sirens?

I have bones with me, reindeer bones found walking in Lapland, milky white and smooth as ivory… strange how I have also come with an injury from Lapland to my knee… my knee keeps locking and is forcing me to be still…

What must die under the spell of the sirens? What are the bones I must relinquish? Odysseus is tied to the mast of the ship so he doesn’t succumb to their song and stop his journey… ahh but he can still listen to their beautiful song… the song of impermanence… the song of transformation…that brings him home to soul…

I decide to take a boat trip… the Fiskö… arrange to join it at 7.30 am… I arrive in the dark… the dock is empty…

No signs of life… I wait… I record sounds of water lapping another boat moored on the second dock… then after a while… the sound of engines… the Fiskö appears out of the gloom…

By the time we set off, a bright sunlit morning is upon us and a flat calm sea… Fiskö weaves its way through the pattern of islands and skerries, stopping at one island to drop off the only car on board and to take on a small tractor on another island, then back to Korppoo. Islands come and go before my eyes… are they moving, or are we? The skerries are so alluring in the sunshine…if only, if only…

Back in the studio, more ink drawings in white on black, emerging from the darkness…

the two other artists in the residence are making prints listening to Peter Grimes… Molly had invited us the day before to join her in returning the artist’s book she had made from algae back to the Baltic. As we tore the pages into bite size pieces and cast them off from the shoreline, it was not long before little fish could be seen nibbling on the fragments…  Towards the end of my stay the weather is turning drizzly in the November gloom, I watch out for mist in the mornings… then the wind starts up… looking out to sea, I hardly can believe my eyes… the wind has whipped up white horses on the wave tops but what’s this? A 20metre high shape made from sea spume racing across the sea’s surface in the distance - running as if on legs, or like some urgent dancer propelled perpetually forward - ephemeral, ghostly, unforgettable.

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Wepbage created by Ubuntu Productions (Korpo)
Most of the pictures by Renja Leino  |  Drone and pictures of the studios by Ubuntu Productions (Korpo)