Artist Katriina Haikala sits for two weeks at the popular Granary Square in King’s Cross in August. Anyone who identifies themselves as a woman may come and model for her. Haikala draws two portraits of each of her models without looking at the paper she draws on. In the end, the model may choose, which of the portraits she would like to have, and which one she will give to the artist to become a part of her project called Social Portrait.
The idea for the project was born last year when Finland celebrated its 100th birthday.
“I felt last year that the stories of being Finnish were all focused on these heroic males narratives, like The Unknown Sooldier and so on. I wanted to give a spotlight to other people too.”
Haikala choose to draw portraits because of historical reasons.
“Portraits are associated with status, power and money, and typically those who have been portrayed have been men. Nothing puts you on a pedestal like a portrait.”
Haikala arranged a two-day drawing marathon at the Amos Andersson Museum in Helsinki in autumn 2017. During it, she drew 100 portraits of people who identify as women. The whole weekend the museum had a long queue of women wanting to participate, and Haikala felt that her project had become part of something bigger. The goal of drawing 100 portraits grew into 1000.
“Those who got their portrait drawn clearly felt that they were seen and respected as the individuals they are, and at the same time they also became part of a larger group and kinship of women. I realised that this project resonated strongly with women and because of that I had to continue it.”
Now Haikala has a collection of 250 drawings. Her goal for London is to draw 250 more.
“Previously I have been drawing in museums, this time it’ll be outdoors in public space. It will be interesting to see what that brings along.”
The Finnish Institute in Londin supports Haikala’s project. Finland is known in the UK for being a society that values gender equality.
“This year Britain celebrates 100 years of the suffragette movement’s victory, which gave some women the right to vote. In that light Haikala’s project is a timely example of empowering women through art”, says the director of the Finnish Institute in London, Pauliina Ståhlberg.
The results of the King’s Cross drawing marathon will be exhibited later this year in London.
Social Portrait, 1.–12.8., Granary Square, King’s Cross, N1C 4BH.