Silver Darlings: Teija-Tuulia Ahola
The Finnish visual artist Teija –Tuulia Ahola is no stranger to Sutherland and her exhibition at Timespan in July 2006 formed the second part of a body of work focusing on the coasts of the county.
In 2005 at Skerray Museum she presented a work which provoked exhibition visitors to search for gilded stones on a nearby beach. A year later Ahola returned to Sutherland to install a work at the invitation of Timespan focusing on the living history and inhabitants of this east coast village. The show centred on an open invitation the artist made to inhabitants of the area: “Please join me at Timespan and bring with you old unimportant objects that bring to mind important memories”.
The artist then assisted the visitors to gild the object with silver leaf, a process originating in Ancient Egypt and often associated throughout history with religious symbolism and transformation. The gilded objects were then exhibted as an installation, the “Silver Darlings”, before being returned to their owners at the end of the exhibition.
Ahola’s concept revealed a connection between her homeland Finland and the fishing villages of Sutherland and Caithness. As the artist said whilst in Helmsdale: “The herrings were sent over to Finland by the Scots, maybe by your relatives and it was received by mine, (definitely it was keeping us both alive),”
The Great Famines during the 1800s in Finland occurred during the years of the Scottish herring boom and imported salted herring offered a little relief to the rural Finns. Such demand for herring provided employment and hope to a neglected and abused Northern Scottish people.
The Silver Darlings and the other works in the exhibition extended the dialogue that artist Teija-Tuulia Ahola has formed with the region that began with her marriage to an expatriate Scot and developed over many subsequent visits to her extended family in Sutherland since the mid nineties.
“I want to facilitate a dialogue between the past and the present, between memories and people, to celebrate the value of handwork that past generations have realised, and an appreciation of the value of the jobs we are doing now.”