Interview with Finnish artist | Isabella Chydenius

Isabella Chydenius (b.1988) is a Finnish interdisciplinary artist working on female and gender issues regarding taboos and societal norms. Her work combines painting, installation, sculpture, text, video and performance, and focuses on exploring societal structures of gender, sexuality, the body and mind. She is curious about the behavioral social constructs behind the feminine and the masculine in present society, while often revisiting the past to be able to get perspective of the journey ahead.

The interesting thing about the way Chydenius works during the process of the installation practise, is that she’ll often physically break found objects and take them apart to be able to look at them again to recreate new understandings and ideas from them. This method can also be seen in her sculptures as she combines molds of body parts with contrasting materials; together the materials and final pieces reflect current global socio-political situations and acknowledge the historically oppressed.

Chydenius’ practice includes documenting and observing the process by video, drawing, text and photography, which has developed into reworking some ideas into abstract and some to figurative or conceptual.

“I start a project with research – always research; talking to women or people identifying themselves as femmes or men who have a clue. Then material tests and visual tests. This is installations and performance. The paintings are done very intuitively. And I write and sketch at all stages and in between and always, even when I’m not working on something. So I guess I am kind of always working. I’m most efficient in my studio, when I have a new idea I work most efficiently whether it be early morning, day or night. But a while into each project, I work best in the nights when other people are asleep.”

How has your signature style, and you as artist developed over time?

Short version? Hahah ok, I’ve been brought up by a environmentally and politically aware grandmother as well as observing my own and other female and males growing up’s, the struggles and questioning we go through because of the set norms on feminine and masculine in society. I don’t know if I have a signature style, but signature characteristics are definitely boobs, the body and the colour silk lilac.

Tell about some of your most challenging projects, and your thoughts during the process?

My most challenging projects are either ones that take a lot of physical heavy work and make me want to give up OR projects such as my latest performance piece I did in London with STOMACH Lnd. The performance itself went very well and I’m most happy that not only women, but also men came to talk about the piece afterwards. That makes me happy, when men engage about things that can seem foreign to them.

What is most challenging with a piece like that though, is when I start talking and posting about it on social media and my posts get reported by people who, I don’t know if they are bitter or upset or why it upsets them to talk about empowering women? Dealing with that part is the most challenging and staying strong through it.

What are you currently working on? 

I just finished the performance piece as well as a body of work for my solo currently on at Silence is Accurate gallery in Woodstock, Cape Town. It’s called “Burnt down before you even get there”. The performance piece visualizes menstruation and the social construct of “virginity”, the shame of bleeding, how it’s “gross” when actually it is natural. The discussion of “virginity”, “loosing your virginity” and women having sex and the shame of “still being a virgin” as well as shaming women who enjoy sex.

“I’m inspired by strong women and people identifying themselves as femmes. People who have the courage to be themselves and fight for not only their own rights but other peoples too.”

What would you like to encourage men and women with?

To call out on bullshit and sexist (and racist and other oppressing) stuff when they hear it on the streets or shops or within their friendship groups. When someone says “BUT I didn’t mean it like that..” – NO: Just because you didn’t mean anything harmful, doesn’t mean it’s not harmful or oppressing towards someone.

Remember that, that person is speaking from a position of privilege and most likely ignorance too if they feel comfortable saying it. We need to realize sexism and racism is ingrained in our manners and languages, if someone points out that something was hurtful, we need to listen to them and take it in, accept it and don’t make it about yourself. I’m not perfect and you’re not perfect but we can choose to learn and therefor have a chance to become better people.

If your art were a flavor which one would it be?

Turmeric almond latte with black pepper. Also one of my favourite cold day drinks 😉

Stay up to date for upcoming projects and exhibitions at :  @iamchydenius

Image courtesy of Isabella Chydenius.