Introducing Kalsa, Finnish Collagist
/DRI:M/SPACE is pleased to spotlight Kalsa, a multidisciplinary artist from Helsinki, Finland. Covering a broad spectrum of the arts, Kalsa's aesthetic draws me into a world in which I am very much at home. We both share a fascination with the melancholic, the mystical and the uncanny, and find beauty in the macabre.
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Divine Malaise II, 2020 / The Fall Into Time, 2020 / À Rebours, 2020
From the Collagist:
"I create collage art as an informal occult ritual practice, seeking a dissolution of the self and identity, the boundaries between ourselves and outsides. Apocalypse—whether personal or universal (the distinction hardly matters)—being the central theme, I'm interested in mourning and mystery, dreams of rapture and revelation.
My work is inspired primarily by the art and literature of Symbolist and Decadent movements, religious imagery and supernatural horror. There is a hidden world, there is also nullity and decay. Even darkness is something to see.
I work solely with second-hand materials, discovery and collecting are a crucial part of my process."
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Kalsa's Workspace, Self-Portrait, Collage Works in Progress
Lured by a mix of paper collages dripping with religious symbolism and atmospheric analogue photography, reminiscent of movie stills, I was pulled hard into Kalsa's dreamy world of gothic imagery—gorgeous, wispy shots of figures wandering through cemeteries and churches, icons and flora filling me with want. Kalsa's personal Instagram account (@tvvvxy) is equally delicious, their vision superbly curated. To hell with mediocrity and pour me an absinthe!
"Among the Ruins" is an apocalyptic imagining and affirms for me that the ephemeral is lost on nature. Kalsa has included this excerpt from a poem in the book Labyrinthophoroi & Glyptogeographies by an author who goes by "oudeís". It is published by gn0me, a platform specializing in anonymous, pseudepigraphical, and apocryphal works. Sigh, excuse me while I retreat from the "world" and get lost in the beauty!
“The Moon's lost past returned has restored that
Primeval forest's dreams, removed the mask
And heard your wish, and you need only ask
For yourself tonight and you're assured that.
Fair siblings, take these words upon your tongues
And let us now indulge ourselves for Her
Whose Light reveals us as we always were.
The Universe was old when Death was young.”
Nocturne (in ruin), 2020
Kalsa's curation on both their art and personal page is a sight to behold. I had a tough time choosing images for the Spotlight as I wanted to feature every single one. And because Kalsa has only been posting collages since 2020, I wanted to show some restraint and let you discover more of their beauties on your own. To add, this is the first time that I went beyond collage and included photography on /DRI:M/SPACE. I just couldn't help myself! The way the photographs are staged and layered, with objects obscured, feels very much like collage compositionally.
Signs and Sighs, which is absolute perfection, features an open-palmed and sullen-faced bohemian Madonna donning a veil and nimbus crown against the backdrop of an elliptical-patterned church threshold. I love everything about this photograph and asked Kalsa to elaborate on it and give a little of the backstory.
They write, "There isn't really any process when it comes to my photography, more on the contrary... But I recall the amusing (or ominous) way in which this particular shoot came to an end. A sudden gust of wind caught the veil, which then flew directly upwards, landing on the gable above the church door; possibly it lies there to this day."
Signs and Sighs, 2018
Kalsa has awakened something in me, which I am having difficulty articulating. Something that I lost many years ago, since living in the Middle East. I yearn for the time when I can unabashedly embrace myself, live and breath art, and not adhere to the cultural expectations for behavior and dress. It's soul crushing!
If you can't tell, yes, I am completely enamored with Kalsa. For being so authentically them, for embracing the unconventional, for inspiring me to be more me.
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Top Panel - Miserere, 2020 / Untitled—Analogue Photograph, 2019 / Fatalism, 2020
Bottom Panel - Ora Pro Nobis (Sedlec Ossuary)—Analogue Photograph, 2019 / We are All Dust, 2020 / Torture By Roses—Analogue Photograph, 2017
Do check out Kalsa's links to learn more about them and their decadent eye. And while you are at it, have a listen to their band Uttunul here and prepare to be transported!
If you are interested in purchasing Kalsa's collage prints, you can find a selection here via Goth Shop, a London-based venue featuring Goth fashion & art. Their site also has a "stories" section on Goth subculture with interviews and photography.
Apokalypsis II, 2020
Q&A with the Artist:
/DRI:M/ARTZ: If I remember correctly I think I first saw your collage work featured by Semioculus on Instagram and was immediately taken with your work. When did you first become interested in collage? Can you share a childhood experience or memory that shaped your aesthetic?
Kalsa: When I was in art school, some decade ago, I was most of all focused on mixed media painting, exploring different techniques and materials, and this is when collage came to play. Also I remember being very interested in Dadaism at the time, so that too must have had something to do with it. I then started to make the occasional collage, although painting still felt like the main thing for the time being. By the way, much of the pieces from that time are gone now, either buried in private collections or sometimes painted over by a more talented painter...
I can't think of a single experience from childhood to have directly influenced my aesthetic, it all came later. A much more recent memory comes to mind: visiting Barcelona in 2014— seeing there gothic architecture for the first time with my own eyes, the splendor of age and decay, the Catholic cemetery on a "mountain"... A touristic adventure can go a long way, and this one did leave a mark on my soul. It was around this time when I got deeply into analog photography.
DA: You also moonlight as a musician and are in the band, Uttunul, which has been described as "post-industrial ritual nightmares". Your sound is intoxicating! I can't wait to experience live music and the club scene again. How has music informed your artistic practice? What similarities does collage share with music making, if any?
K: Thank you, and me too! Dancing is one of the things that I miss most of all these days. Music for me is of highest importance. It affects everything I am and am not, of course my work as well. Although I feel like other art forms have a more direct influence, music is always there in the background, so to speak. I believe that music can offer us the most vivid glimpse to the Outside (or The Inmost Light, the noumenal world, or whatever one may call it) which is one of the main concerns of my work. The sounds of Uttunul are created by layering and patching together various sounds—synth drones, chimes, metal scrapes and what have you—so it is fundamentally sound collage. Also lyric writing, to the extent I myself can take credit for it, happens in somewhat collage-like manner. Collage appears to be my modus operandi, indeed!
DA: What can your fans look forward to this year and beyond? I, for one, am looking forward to seeing more of your collages on Instagram, considering that you only started posting in 2020!
K: Who knows! I, for one, don't... I consider my work from last year to be a cycle that has now come to a close. More recently I've toyed with some slightly different things, like different materials and realizing some secondary ideas just for the sake of it. Meanwhile waiting for the next cycle to begin, perhaps. Anyhow, I'm rather pleased with the direction of my efforts so far, so expect to see something in more or less similar vein. Lately I've been haunted by the vague ideas of 'twilight talk' and 'lunar language'—maybe look forward to seeing something like that, whatever it is, conceived in collage form?
Check out Kalsa's tune recommendation "Prayer" performed by Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus. It's gorgeous!
Instagram | pale.tenant