Kirsti Rantanen – The Space of Textiles
The Craft Museum of Finland, Jyväskylä, FI

Kirsti Rantanen – The Space of Textiles  Craft Museum of Finland, Jyväskylä, FI

Kirsti Ratanen, Morisan Mielessäian - Täkänä, 1978, photo: Designmuseo

Showcasing the skills of a strong woman, Kirsti Rantanen – The Space of Textiles tells the story of a pioneering woman's career as an open-minded innovator in textile art. Kirsti Rantanen (1930–2020) was one of Finland’s leading textile artists and designers of the 20th century. Her oeuvre reflects the changes that began in Finnish textile art in the 1970s and in which she was instrumental. At the time, mostly rectangular pieces of textile art mounted on walls began to be accompanied by works placed freely in their space with their form and variety of materials as important as their technique. 

The exhibition is a compilation of Kirsti Rantanen’s life’s work, but the focus is on her artistic output that began in the 1970s which saw the emergence of space-consuming textile works, where form and variety of materials were as important as technique, alongside rya and tapestries. Exhibition includes her less known industrial textile design and pattern design for craft-based industry from the 1950s.

Before the Second World War, textile art was in the forefront of the applied arts in Finland and after the war it was successful in reforming the prominent ryijy (rya) tradition. Despite this, it has had a secondary role in relation to the visual arts and sculpture. Rantanen's career evolved from industrial designer in the 1950s and 1960s to abstract textile artist in the 1970s and sculptural and space-consuming installations in the 1980s. Rantanen continued to develop his own work. Alongside narrative and explicit imagery came an abstract dimension, centred on references to antiquity and history.

However, Rantanen's textile sculptures do not merely represent a continuum of history or a new interpretation of tradition. Many of the works are monumental in scale. The works are technically laborious, and their disciplined execution is close to perfection. In the 1970s, the works also reflect a social statement. Rantanen expressed her concern about the desolation of the countryside. She also took a stand for the status of textile art. A female-dominated field, it was often looked down upon by other artists. Kirsti Rantanen's work has shown that textile art is fully on a par with other visual and contemporary arts. Despite this, she preferred to call herself a textile artist. 

Since the early 1980s, sculpturalism and spatiality have dominated Kirsti Rantanen's works. At the same time, Rantanen also designed and executed more traditional textile works using tapestry techniques. These were mainly commissioned works for public spaces. They were made by Aino Käppi, a weaver at Helmi Vuorelma Oy, and later by Heljä Wiljander, a weaver, together with Kirsti Rantanen at Rantanen's studio in Hanhilampi. 
The exhibition is based on a collection, which was on display at Design Museum, Helsinki in 2016-17. At the same time Kirsti Rantanen donated her collection to the museum.

More information:

Kirsti Rantasen yksityisnäyttely Eld och lågor Kulturhusetissa Tukholmassa 8.2.-28.3.1989. photo: Designmuseo

Osa luonnoksesta kuvakudokseen Viikinkiaikaa, 1978, photo: Designmuseo

Pellavatukkainen tyttö, 1972, photo: Designmuseo.

Kirsti Rantanen 1986 in her studio, photo: Auvo Lukk

The Craft Museum of Finland
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