Ilona Valkonen: Kuvataideakatemian Galleria
"The bottle of water in the plant pot–does that really work?" asks a passer-by dropping in to ask about the plants in the gallery window. Other visitors come in to share tips on gardening. Having transformed the Kuvataideakatemian Galleria into a gardening workshop, Ilona Valkonen has fashioned a place where mental landscapes materialize in the forms of plants and miniature vistas modeled out of paper, postcards, and newspaper clippings. In "Garden for One with No Land," everyday material and imagery gains new currency by embodying the unspoken desires of each participant’s relationship with nature.
Valkonen’s community garden prompted viewers to reflect on the ideas and meanings attached to parks and the solitary houseplant alike. A garden is a microcosm, a model bridging external and internal realities for individuals and groups. From Persian garden carpets to botanical collections, gardens have always represented culturally and historically specific worldviews. They are places for contemplation yet, simultaneously, they demonstrate the skills of the gardener and the generations of experts that came before him. To the unfamiliar, the idyllic state of natural harmony says nothing of the hours of labor, calculated strategies, and horticultural weaponry from toxic chemicals to irrigation systems needed to create this effect.
Here, the processes of construction are laid bare. The three-week dialogue between the artist and visitors resulted in sprawling miniature scenery, an organically proliferating world that could be explored in its container through peepholes. Like her previous projects, Valkonen lures viewers into a zone encompassing the real and the imaginary. In earlier exhibitions, such as "Solitudegardens" (2004), she created solitary spaces in the form of matchboxes. And in "Dream of Heaven" (2004), visitors stepped onto the threshold between individual and collective dreams. Inviting them one at a time to her tiny studio apartment, each spent a moment using the room’s mundane objects to recreate the exotic scene pictured in a jigsaw puzzle. In the spaces of contemplation offered by Valkonen’s works, she mobilizes, playfully yet with a critical edge, personal expression vis-a-vis an intricate invented landscape.