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Kati Immonen

December, 2010

Kati Immonen’s latest paintings are an exploration of ‘Finnishness’ via personal and collective feelings about the heroes of Finland’s Winter War.

The series’ title refers not to an actual medical condition but to the spiritual heritage of the War as passed through generations of Finns up to the present era. It is a heritage that is both complex and often contradictory. While the unifying spirit of the Winter War continues to encourage a sense of community and selflessness in Finnish society, it may often also carry an uncritical idealization of the past.

Immonen is particularly interested in what she sees as a basic conflict between individualism and the pressures of a certain role. One way in which this is expressed in her paintings is the way the uniforms act as "roles" and the people’s faces represent "individuals" – thus expressing how Finnishness emerges in part as a conflict between community and individuality. How, for example, did a woman manage to squeeze herself inside the chaste and industrious ideal of a wartime Lotta? Immonen explores exactly this question by painting herself as a Lotta in uniform, commenting: “I wonder how I would have acted as a Lotta. Would I have fully dedicated myself to defending the honor of the fatherland, or would I have been more interested in looking for a husband?”

The idea of the collective passing on of ‘Finnishness’ via the War’s spiritual heritage perhaps appears most explicitly in Immonen’s painting of two Lottas – a mother and daughter. While the mother's character is portrayed accurately and in detail and links with the daughter through a spreading red color, the daughter herself is merely a vague figure, perhaps on the verge of discovering its own shape.

About another Lotta portrait Immonen describes her own process of exploration and discovery:

“…there is a woman dressed in a Lotta uniform. She presses her hands against her chest. The painting is black and white, except at the point where her hands are pressed against her body. There, a blue color spreads and runs towards the woman's eyes, or perhaps vice versa, from eyes to bosom. I tried to find a tone of blue that resembles the Finnish flag, blue sky – and also something lighter. Blue and its relationship to rest of the painting represents my relation to Finnishness: something melancholy, something formless and something I want to squeeze against myself.”

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