Work: Sadness graphic 

Jirko Viljanen, graphic artist

My name is Jirko Viljanen, I was born in 1991 in Lahti, and I currently live and work as a graphic artist in Turku. In addition to the graphic arts, I also work with drawings, paintings, video and photographs, and I like to combine these techniques. There is no medium that I am afraid to use. 

I currently work with experimental art graphics and I am compiling a book about tombstone frottages. I deal with my own mental health, my near-death experience and the fear and acceptance of death. 

Preface to the Sadness work: 

Sadness stops us. Sadness darkens our mind and takes the attention away from everything else. Sadness comes from loss. Whether it is a bittersweet separation, an epidemic or serious illness, it is fundamentally fear about the fragmentation of daily life, the uncertainty of the future, and the loss of something important. 

In this case, we feel hopeless. We grieve. But sadness is at its loudest when a person close to us 

has passed away and is no longer present in this world. There is only an empty shell left of the deceased person, 

a shell that used to be the home of a person dear to us. Their soul is somewhere else, and we can only touch their earthly remains. One of these is their tombstone. 

I have recently dealt with death and sadness by examining more closely the anatomy of tombstones and monuments in the form of frottages. These outputs have consisted of many rolls of paper several metres in length with parts of monuments rubbed on them. 

The frottages highlight the traces of tombstones so that with sliding chalk and coal, the shapes, the cracks, the symbols and emotions of the monument appear on paper. Thus, the information on the surface is documented on paper. The works are reproductions of tombstones and serve as the last portraits of the deceased. 

The work has been implemented in cooperation with Metsähallitus, the Finnish Heritage Agency and the Pro Seili-Själö ry association. 

The work was created at the Seili graveyard. The history of the Seili island is characterised by its years as the site for the treatment of lepers and the mentally ill. The patients placed on the island lived in isolation, and there was no hope of leaving the island. The wooden crosses on the church graveyard still remind us of the fate of those patients. 

The crosses and stones I document are monuments to the female patients sent to the asylum and to members of the staff. 

Concern, or the desire to get rid of the patients, made their guardians send them to the island. 

For the patients, it meant lifelong in-patient care at the Seili asylum. The sadness and hopelessness experienced by the patients made me carry out my project on this very island. In addition, my concern about my own mental health made me visit the historical island. On the other hand, staying on the island taught me how there is hope and solace in accepting the inevitable. 

Sadness always changes shape. It reminds us of why we are alive. And when the grief has been processed, we can welcome acceptance and solace.