Kukkivat vedet / Blossoming waters. Maretarium, Kotka, 1.-30.9.2019
"Ulla-Maija Alanen photographs aquatic plants as they occur in nature. She neither cuts, picks nor arranges the plants to follow her design, except for framing the subject and choosing the camera angle. Alanen sees her project as belonging to the traditions of both documentary photography and plant portraiture. In her photography, however, “documenting” and “portraiture” do not mean there is an investigative distance between the photographer and her subject. Working in the aquatic space beneath the surface of the water creates a special sense of intimacy. Their sensual features and the sense of being embraced by water subtly set these photographs apart from those traditions of botanical depiction that show plants in the air or in relation to solid materials.
Blossoming Waters is the result of Alanen’s multi-sensory work in the wilderness of the Pohja-Kisko Lake Upland. Alongside the camera and the sense of vision, she also uses her skin as an instrument. In the exhibition text, she describes how she feels the connection between the internal and external aquatic space. The pressure and movement of the water push against the water within her body and vice versa. In fact, the works in her earlier series The Skin of Water are basically self-portraits that highlight the relationship between the photographer and her subject, with a grid-like pattern of light blending the fragments of her body into an organic part of the lake floor.
The works capture the corporeality of being in the water. The viewer encounters the other side of the “the skin of the water”, the mass of the water, the wet density of which creates a light space consisting of two kinds of light in these black-and-white photographs. On the one hand, the light coming from above, through the surface of the water, outlines the shapes of the plants, and on the other hand, the water itself is a source of light. Light seems to materialise everywhere, even in the darkness at the bottom. This experience draws the viewer into the world of grasses and water lilies in the sub-aquatic water space. The velvety feel of the shapes and surfaces of the plants that evokes the senses is also due to the impression of light being everywhere and coming from everywhere..."
Text: Kaija Mäenpää
Translation: Margus Elings
Copy editor: Michael Haagensen