Pekka Salminen

Hämeenlinna (1957)

When he was 17, Pekka Salminen stopped at the window of the traditional Wetterhoff crafts and design shop in Hämeenlinna. This experience inspired the handy young man to design and weave his first ryijy rug. And it wasn’t the only one: years later, he weaved ryijys for his children as wedding presents. In the meantime, Salminen became a bricklayer and worked in the trade for decades.

Studies in arts and crafts later in life introduced Salminen to various other techniques and materials. He did not become an artisan but found inspiration in art-making and embroidery, the technique that suited him the best.

Pekka Salminen uses traditional techniques and stitches with precise expressiveness in his embroidery works. The embroidery style blackwork, which originated in Tudor England five hundred years ago, evokes memories of the familiar Karelian embroidery but creates a completely unique graphic expression when combined with colourful cross-stitches. The fabrics are filled edge to edge, and decorative frames also play an important role.

The themes of Salminen’s works range from the banal to fantasy. His thought-provoking series of self-portraits describes a journey from dusk to light. Salminen’s top hat-wearing alter ego is a grey man, but when the colours return, the character also returns from the gloomy gardens of his mind to his daily routine: playing pétanque with his friends, going to the beach with his family and attending local sports events. A later series describes the life and family of an East African tribal chief – perhaps another alter ego? – through multifaceted portraits, some of which have a distinct tongue-in-cheek quality.

Pekka Salminen creates his works in an armchair in his flat. A shoebox of colourful embroidery threads serves as an artist’s palette and toolbox. Salminen challenges the conventional role of an ITE artist with his works. Art tends to fill the space it is given, and it is possible to create fantastic worlds even in a small urban dwelling.

Text: Paula Susitaival. Images: Juho Haavisto.