Harriina Räinä: “A goat hair brush with animal glue, a hand” / Photo: Harriina Räinä

The Other as Matter explores the significance of material of animal origin in the process and end results of watercolour woodblock printing. The collection of works is a study of the agencies of animal-based materials and their entanglement with artistry. The exhibition consists of watercolour woodblock prints and polymer photogravure prints.

Woodblock printing is considered the oldest printmaking method in the world. Its roots reach as far back as China two thousand years ago, from where the technique spread to Japan in the 8th century. The technique played a key role in making copies of text, commercial graphics and, ultimately, art. The technique of making watercolour woodblock prints has remained the same for hundreds of years. The woodblocks are carved and printed by hand. In the West, water-based woodblock printing has become popular as a non-toxic and ecological  printmaking technique.

The Other as Matter exhibition examines material of animal origin, which is exceptionally prevalent in watercolour woodblock printing: the technique employs black sumi ink made from animal glue and soot, white pigment made from the shell of the endangered Itabo oyster, print papers glued with animal glue as well as brushes made by hand from horse, goat and deer hair. The collection of works approaches the materials as dynamic meanings and as the force behind the works of art. The exhibition examines the power and responsibility of the artist in terms of other species and the tensions between a technique that is hundreds of years old and the ecological crisis.

The speech related to the exhibition given by the artist at the international Sumi-Fusion watercolour woodblock printmaking conference in Nara, Japan, in 2021 is available for reading in the exhibition space and online.

Harriina Räinä (b. 1989) is an artist working in Helsinki. Her artistic practice is centred around the nature of matter, corporeality, power relations and the question of the animal. Harriina creates diverse works in printed art, sculpture, lens-based media and text. Harriina holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Printmaking subject area in the Academy of Fine Arts, University of the Arts Helsinki (2019). She completed some of her studies in Japan: she participated in a graduate exchange programme at the University of Tsukuba (2017) and completed a practical training in a woodblock printing studio in Kyoto (2018).

The exhibition and the artist have received support from the Kone Foundation and Arts Promotion Centre Finland.

Harriina Räinä: The Other as Matter, 2022 (exhibition view) / Photo: HAM/Kirsi Halkola