The artist Ulla Jokisalo cuts, masks, embroiders and perforates image fragments. With needles, pins and thread she attaches and binds together parts of reality, creating her own surrealistic universe. Jokisalo is an architect of images, who through the use of cutouts, highlights opposites and contradictions. In her newest works, the artist mainly uses found and ready made image material, which she combines to create transformational stories about human life.
Strong ties to the history of photography, as well as a keen interest in the photograph as a material, have been essential all through Jokisalo’s almost 40 year career. The artist takes advantage of- and questions- the qualities of the medium; its ability to create an illusion, its function as evidence and as a creator of reality. Jokisalo´s work Noema (Me and My Mother This Year 2013)refers to the term used by Roland Barthes*, who states that the meaning of an image, its noema, rests upon the confirmation of ordinary reality – “This has been”. Noema (2013) is a portrait of a mother and a daughter whose eyes Jokisalo has replaced with her mother’s and her own. These works, of which there are three variations, derive from a work from the 19th century and while the portrait stays the same in all three versions, the viewer encounters the gazes from the time. The pins on the background and on the daughter’s blouse try to fix time in its place - a moment and memory unchanged. However, the change of the eyes, a symbol of soul and perception, refers to the constant movement of time. A movement we cannot stop, not even with pins or photographs.
Through surrealistic exploration, Jokisalo is interested in the different layers of the psychological idea of man, unconsciousness and the innumerable possibilities of our imagination. According to the artist there is no reality free from make-believe and fantasy and the real palpable world is perceived through these. In Jokisalo’s surreal world, fairytale figures, antique fables, exotic creatures as well as fashion models of the 50s and 60s all face each other. Referring to the historical tradition of using animals and metamorphoses as symbols of identity, in Jokisalo´s newest series “Collection of Headless women” the animals take over. The beholder doesn´t meet the eye of the posing model, but instead under the cape of the Little Red Riding Hood glimmers the gaze of the beast. Nature takes hold of the situation and invites the viewer to see humanity through the other, with distant outlines, with different appearances, with the gaze of the other.
Jokisalo plays with both images and words. The Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926) has greatly inspired Jokisalo’s mystical poetic language. Not only are multifaceted wordplays often lying hidden in the titles, but her oeuvre is also structured around its own alphabet, including scissors, eyes, threads, needles and pins, embroidery, hair, hands, scraps, shoes, clothing and fabrics.
The materiality of Jokisalo´s works transcend the haptic and bodily experience, with the materials embodying memories and associations. From the pictorial surface rise three-dimensional images, not only reflecting the fragmental ideas of man but also visualizing the endless possibilities of a dreamlike world, in where small and vulnerable feet try to reach the sky. In fairytales everything is possible. In Jokisalo’s works, as in black and white photography, light and shadow form the core of possibilities. The artist is reflecting on how the absent can seem present, how to be human with an animal mind, how to be weak and still strong, small and enough – How to be both.