“We need to learn to see not just with Western eyes but with Islamic eyes and Inuit eyes, not just with human eyes but with golden-cheeked warbler eyes, coho salmon eyes, and polar bear eyes, and not even just with eyes at all but with the wild, barely articulate being of clouds and seas and rocks and trees and stars.”
– Roy Scranton
The artists Karoline Hjorth (born in Norway in 1980) and Riitta Ikonen (born in Finland in 1981) use the words of the American poet Roy Scranton above to explain the core of “About Eyes as Big as Plates”, their joint photographic project. With an aesthetic that engages in dialogue with Nordic folktales, myths and legends – with imagination and narrative – the two artists seek to expand our vision and demonstrate the potential to adopt multiple and unexpected perspectives. In the portraits, humans are woven into nature, which we all come from, which we live off and to which we shall return. Hjorth and Ikonen’s work is a prayer for healing in relations between mankind and nature.
An elderly woman wears a crown of twigs, an old man disappears into a stony landscape, several of the people portrayed wear superhero capes made of different kinds of vegetation: rhubarb leaves, ferns, grass. It is as if the subjects have grown out of the landscape or as if the landscape has grown up around them. The works are created in collaboration with these old people, for example, retired farmers, fishermen, opera singers, housewives, artists, academics. Ikonen and Hjorth have chosen to work with old people to stress their importance for our societies. The artists came into contact with them in all kinds of places, through friends and family, via newspaper ads; they have met them in hardware stores, in noodle bars, at swimming pools or senior centres. The photographs have been taken in the Nordic countries as well as in France, Britain, the USA, Japan, South Korea and the Czech Republic.
The series has been a success, attracting considerable attention. At present “About Eyes as Big as Plates” is touring with the Norwegian National Museum, and the pictures have been shown in prestigious exhibition venues in cities all over the world, for example, in New York, Bogota and Reykjavik. The pictures have also appeared frequently in international media; for instance, newspapers and magazines like The Huffington Post, Helsinki Times and Life Magazine (Hong Kong), have covered the series.
Hjorth and Ikonen work together from the start to the finish of the process that each photograph takes. Ikonen makes the portable sculptures and Hjorth takes the photographs. The project has been running since 2011, and up to now the duo have produced 60 portraits, partly financed by crowdfunding. “About Eyes as Big as Plates” can be found on Kickstarter.
Karoline Hjorth has degrees in art and journalism from the University of Westminster in London, she has received the Deloitte Award at the National Portrait Gallery in London and she exhibits and publishes