Vivi-Mari Carpelan is a Finnish artist now resident in Wales, United Kingdom. In her artistic practice, she has focused on the survival of the individual self in the face of the threatening Other. In this process, she has explored the liminal space where realities meet and mix. In the seam between the outer and inner, the visible and invisible, life and death, change and transformation takes place to form a new idea of self and what it means to be a human being in transition.

I’m a photographer and mixed media artist. Over the course of three decades, I have produced symbolic drawings, collage/mixed media, abstract paintings and photographic prints, all presented on paper. For about a decade, I picked apart material from the collective domain and reassembled it. I completed this phase by transforming appropriating moving images and sounds and transforming them into emotionally charged films and sound collages. At this stage, the investigation was predominantly marked by deconstruction.

The chronic medical conditions Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and fibromyalgia have informed my art. There’s a sense of terror when the physical habitat is unreliable, unstable and feels disgusting inside and out. Yet there’s also additional stress when the social environment threatens one’s self esteem and sense of stability. Using the self as a starting point, I have found art and writing vital in repairing the failing thought constructs and connections that add to a sense of alienation from the body and its environment. One of the main objects of my art has been to vindicate human dignity in the face of demoralisation, and reinvent the self. The process involves investigations into the dichotomies and paradoxes that pervade the fabric of reality.

After the unexpected death of my husband artist Martin Herbert in late 2014 (see gallery), I took a break from the visual arts. My strangely serendipitous work about death from just a few months before my husband’s unexpected death turned into a philosophical investigation into the invisible aspect of reality and the nature of consciousness. During this time, I also accompanied my mother the other side. It allowed me to experience a different process of death. When I was encouraged by new opportunities to create new work, it expressed the reorganisation of my psyche through dreamy imagery of transition and change.

In a series of abstract mixed media works on large Khadi sheets of paper my husband left behind, I continued my investigation into the liminal space where change occurs and new connections are made (see work and essay here). With my iPhone, I found a less strenuous way of working, and was able to do a large part of my work from the comfort of my sofa. Within the framework of this project, I decided to abandon the appropriation of found materials of the collective past and restrict my materials to the vast archive of my own photographic work.

A new synthesis of past experiences was coming to life. I superimposed the photos through filters for double exposure in free photo editing apps on the iPhone. It allowed me to create the impression of an inner realm beyond physical appearances where the undifferentiated transforms and becomes differentiated. Apart from basic ‘dark room work’, I kept the interference of the software to a minimum by not using any other form of generic filters. (Read more here).

The tug of war between the uncompromising perimeters of technology and my personal photographs, offered a metaphor for a deeper process of reconciliation with aspects of life that are beyond my control. This was a way of processing the idea of personal choice and acceptance. I combined architecture, nature, texture and abstract patterns with Instagram type selfies to create a dreamy twilight zone of reconstruction and hope for the future. The process mirrored my belief that it’s possible to transcend the screeching experience of conflict and chaos in favour of a more fluid, interactive and mutually enriching dialogue between self and Other. But for this to occur, the Other has to be understood as an aspect of one’s own self.


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