The Ironer, 1999 collection Lars Swanljung
An installation and a portrait, a fragmentary and biographical personal portrait of a 89-year old grandmother, who made her living as an ironer, and brought up her five children beside this work.
The work consists of a portrait painting, paintings with moralistic and religious sayings, text, sheets and an ironing board.
Poems, fragments of manuscripts and writings are printed on the folded and piled white sheets. The texts are unedited and fragile, an old woman’s handwriting from a life far away from modern high culture literature and smoky artist’s bars. She lived a life as a hardworking woman, having no opportunities of fulfilling herself in any way, nor to develop her way of creative expression.
“The Lord loves a broken heart”
Part of the work is a series of decorative but in content harsh paintings, with different moralistic and religious sayings made in eglomisé technique on glass.
These kind of paintings, with this specific technique, were common during a period between 1890 and 1920 on the western coast of Finland. In this context they represent the moralistic and social pressure of society, severe of its nature concerning religion, politics and work.
In the installation, the old fashioned style and the light irony that can be sensed in the content of the texts, represent the change of morality in 20th century Finland; the liberation from old values and the necessity of this development.
The work is despite its vast textual content a wordless meditation about seeing a human being, understanding the choices made by this woman in the situation she lived in. It is a picture of a woman standing between moral and obligations; about the necessity of making a living for her family, sacrificing and hardening herself to restrain.
Yet she had a tiny way of expressing herself and this was through writing small poems ending up in her drawer.