Tubers and Mandalas

Endings and Beginnings


Working on the tubers was a slow and multi-phased process which began in 2008 when I was expecting my second child. I painted faces on quickly-wilting potatoes that were sprouting. I hunted down extant family photographs, and started painting my ancestry on the potatoes.

My studio, located almost entirely underground, was where I painted and photographed the potatoes and followed their metamorphoses. After the potatoes died back and sprouted, I buried them into soil. Soon enough, sprouts emerged. Their stems were covered in downy hair; not unlike lanugo that sometimes covers the skin of newborn babies.

The tubers were ready in February 2010. I tracked down their distant relatives and discovered the massive Potato Portraits by Ginou Choueiri as well as works of the old South American cultures. I’d figured out a similar idea of potatoes with faces as another artist on the other side of the globe. Perhaps all ideas already exist in form of a rootstock. Every now and then, a sprout or tuber emerges in a slightly different form, a new variation. The works create layers around the ideas. The lineage of man, potatoes, and the human potatoes is long and complex.

The Mandalas

While prowling flea markets, I’ve paid attention to the lacy mandalas on sale. I’m attracted by the symmetrical flower-like patterns around the holes in the fabric. Crocheting is a repetitious task and thus perfect for becoming lost in one’s thoughts. What remains of the everyday rush and racket is merely some dust. In the end, however, the chaos becomes a pattern, and the pattern, as an entity, can look beautiful from far. The Mandalas in the exhibition have been made out of household dust.

*The Finnish word ‘mukula’, in addition to its actual definition ‘tuber’, can also be used in colloquial speech for ‘child’.

Elina Katara