Opening June 13: Meeting Aili – Lena Ylipä and Aili Kangas

15.06—15.09 2024

June 13–September 15, 2024

A significant portion of Aili Kangas’ body of work comprises delicate still life paintings in muted tones, featuring themes from the Torne Valley and other areas of Norrbotten County. Kangas’s distinct visual language can be observed in her tender interpretations of everyday objects from the family home in Kiruna, a theme she began developing already as a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm between 1952–57. One might consider her the “Morandi of Norrbotten County.” She would have turned 100 this year, and Kin Museum of Contemporary Art celebrates this by inviting the Lainio-based artist Lena Ylipää to an artistic “meeting” with Kangas. Around fifty works by Aili Kangas will be presented alongside new and older work by Lena Ylipää in an exhibition that lifts their shared Torne Valley background.

At the core of Kangas’ rich artistry is the depiction of everyday objects that tend to go forgotten. In her work, traditional Sámi drinking cups and wooden boxes, vases, rag carpets, and wooden chairs come together with lingonberries, cloudberries, angelica, and other plants from the region. The objects are painted using diluted watercolour or oil paints and are associated with the culture of the Torne Valley and the Lantalais-people, who come from the area surrounding Kiruna. Kangas also painted landscapes, although with her gaze turned towards the ground. This resulted in close-up landscapes with no horizon. Her work is both matter of fact and intimate, and it comes from the heart, displaying elements of naïve styles of art. In Svenska Dagbladet in 1959, art critic Stig Johansson wrote that she works with a “fine poetic veil.” The same year, Birgit Rausing wrote in Kvällsposten about a “moving kind of awkwardness.”

Similiarly to Aili Kangas, Lena Ylipää’s work shines a light on daily life in Norrbotten Country. Her drawings display all sorts of motifs, from mosquito repellent and traditional shawls to societal structures and perceptions of what counts as peripheral. Other themes in her work include the inheritance of forests and how to reclaim one’s mother tongue, in her case Meänkieli. The work Elmina, Eugenia and Brita-Kajsa, is a kind of portrait of women from former generations living the Torne Valley: the grandmothers Elmina and Euguenia, and her grandfather’s sister Brita-Kajsa. In this exhibition, she meets her ancestor’s contemporary compatriot Ailia Kangas in a “conversation” that transcends generational boundaries.

Meeting Aili — Lena Ylipää and Aili Kangas is a part of Kin’s ongoing thematic thread Women in the North.