Inhabited Land / Jan-Erik Lundström, 2014
In a certain manner, nature does not exist in the work of Outi Pieski. In the paintings, collage-works and installations of Pieski, nature is not an Other, nature is not that which exists in opposition to the human world of culture; nature is not something out there to be seen, observed, experienced, viewed, valued or not valued, categorized, evaluated, or, in the end, represented. Nature is, strictly speaking, not even a motif, topic, concern, or proposition, nor subject matter, in the artistic practices of Outi Pieski. For rather than representations of nature, one has to speak of emergences, radiations, emissions of nature. These works of art collapse or eliminate the dualisms articulated in the standard nature/culture divide of modernity; they abolish or dissolve habituated binarisms of Western culture, they explode art history’s constructions of the landscape genre, as they refuse to render the landscape or nature from any outside position, from an external point-of-view. As such, the works of Pieski manage to wed contingency with transparency. As they breathe nature, they give equal weight to inhalation as to exhalation, and they cannot and do not and will not maintain the nature/culture divide.
Given that the majority of the works of Outi Pieski explicitly proposes landscape as a motif, as a topic, as a concern and privileged focus, they nonetheless never treat or enunciate landscapes as objects, as things, even as vistas or views. In fact, here are discursive paintings, installations, which return the concept, the word landscape, to its etymological source meaning “shaped” or cultured land, inhabited land (as the title of this exhibition suggests), i.e land that is always already treated, managed, worked through, inhabited, lived. Landscape is not a noun, an object, a thing, but always a verb, an activity, an event. The landscapes of Outi Pieski are acted, experienced, laboured, literally walked through or physically deciphered. Inhabited, but not domesticated; lived, but not owned; dwelled in but not occupied.
This is also how the artwork of Pieski, in attending to landscapes, in being nature, proposes awe without sentimentality, manages breathless wonder without spectacle, coordinates and embraces intimacy and appreciation without nostalgia or romanticism. And, perhaps, this is also a path towards comprehending the multi-sensory world of these art works, that they are equally visual and tactile, combine hand and eye, body and mind, the carnal and the corporeal with the spiritual and the immaterial. This is, obviously, in the hands of the artist, the blending of painting and craft, of line and volume, of images and objects: The co-presence of the language of painting and the practices of Sámi craft. The tassels of Sámi shawls which frame a painted canvas as in works like Nuvvos Ailegas. The fabric details from a female reindeer-herding hat that interject a configured and reconfigured Northern landscape as in the Named Land series. Or how a door and a window coexist in many works; a door to walk and enter through, a window to look through. In a particular manner, it is thus never sufficient to approach the works of Pieski as solely figurative representations of existing landscapes, as scenes or vistas or views. They do not only render or represent an existing space, they rather create or initiate new, parallel, even if yet linked, spaces. The works of Outi Pieski, landscapes or surroundings, are both seen and imagined, felt and thought.
Yet, given the autonomy and complexity of the canvases and installations of Pieski, one has to acknowledge that the landscape of the North, the lived spaces and the inhabited lands of Sápmi looms large in all of Pieski’s art. Through combinations of memories, narratives from the past and a lived presence, inter-weavings of imagination and document, Pieski manages to combine the quest of the artist with the recognition of a larger context, equally recognizing and affirming individual and collective. But it is exactly this wilderness of the North which, from within the culture of the Sámi, is not wilderness. It is here, so skilfully manifested in the work of Pieski, that nature is not distinguished from culture, that nature is culture and culture is nature. As in Sámi culture where the most remote mountain or vista has a name and a use and a purpose and a non-symbolic or literal existence. The works of Pieski do not represent nature, they are nature. From the inside. While they, at the same time, escape nature since all is nature. Just like how most works of Pieski do not speak of or represent landscapes. Because they are landscapes. As such, in each work of Outi Pieski one is always at home. Since there is no Other.