Eline Gaudé-Hanses is a Franco-Finnish visual and textile artist based in Helsinki, Finland.
I was born and raised in France, but over time I developed an immutable longing for my mother’s homeland, Finland. Its watery landscapes and seemingly endless forests fed my imagination, conjuring myths of old and bringing folklore to life.
Early on I began cultivating an unwavering fascination for the things and beings that dwell at ground level, and while others may have set their gaze upon cloudless nights, dreaming of distant moons and universes, my gaze was pulled towards smaller – albeit far closer – realms.
“Fostering my own sense of wonder and awe over time has taught me to tread forest paths with my bare feet, to let my soles collide with soil, sand, rock, and experience the place of meeting between earth and atmosphere. It has taught me to look for magic in the smallest things, from woodworms to the microcosm of moss.“
The first image that came to mind when I read this excerpt about Eline’s longing for the Finnish landscapes was The Summer Book by author Tove Jansson (creator of the Moomin books). The book is an account of a summer spent on a wild and remote Finnish island – a homage to Tove’s own summers spent with her grandmother.
Eline’s deep respect of nature and the landscapes connected to her heritage is beautifully communicated through her practice and will resonate with those longing for more nature connection.
There is an unspoken magic to be found in the natural world that science alone fails to articulate; through my artistic practice I call for a re-enchantment of the world, a revitalization of our immanent relationship with nature.
As this relationship ebbs and flows, threatening to reach a tipping point, I seek to surface and manifest a sense of nature-connectedness and belonging to place in my audience by engaging with multi-sensorial practices, such as multimedia installation, drawing and embroidery.
Eline has a fearlessness with her work, she doesn’t restrict herself to one medium or one place, but is willing to see the work change and grow with the altering landscapes around her. Living with the changes that follow the climate crisis means we have to alter our perspective on what nature is and the role it plays in our lives and communities.
In recent years embroidery has become a particularly meaningful medium to me, and I am slowly uncovering its potential as a tactile and reflective method of inquiry. As a practice embedded in time, sensation and even posture, it establishes a sense of care and material intimacy which allows me to develop a multidimensional relationship with my chosen subject and explore more-than-human modes of being.
It has essentially taught me to slow down and develop more caring and relational ways of interacting with nature.
Describe your Hand & Lock entry and the inspiration behind it.
My Hand & Lock entry, M/OS(S)MOSIS (or the “moss glove”), consists of a single glove, adorned with samples of living moss and further embroidered with an assemblage of moss inspired patterns.
It was influenced by my gradual awakening to the magic of moss and to the transformative potential of its vegetal teachings in a time of profound socio-ecological uncertainty. This project responded to a longing for connectedness and a desire to overcome artificial hierarchies and species divides through tactile, embodied practices and mutual learning.
By thinking with moss through the act of embroidery, I strove towards a gradual process of osmosis: a tenuous and care-full multispecies co-becoming. Where living moss ended, stitches took over, intuiting the gentle spreading of its extremities, learning to enfold the shape of my hand as a patch of moss would cover the surface of a rock.
A great line I think about from “The Summer Book” is “step on it once and it rises the next time it rains. The second time, it doesn’t rise back up. And the third time you step on moss, it dies.” A thought-provoking image of how we treat our natural resources.
My own sense of wonder is what drew me to moss in the first place: whenever going out for a walk my gaze would inevitably seek out flashes of green and copper in the landscape. Instead of finding a uniform carpet of vegetation, I discovered a brocaded surface of intricate patterns, a complex assemblage of species seamlessly woven together. I marvelled at their delicate features and the skilful way in which their lace-like extremities stretched on bark and bedrock alike.
Over time moss seemed to develop a presence of its own, a perceptible gravity, beckoning me to lean in and look closer. And closer I went: I entered an apprenticeship with this fascinating plant, going on a journey into the history, biology and spirit of moss.
The more I found out, the more I realised what a complex living system it is and how much we, as humans, can learn from its resilience and adaptability to a changing climate and environment. By crafting the moss glove, I have attempted to manifest this holistic journey in the form of an artwork.
Are there any secrets you can now reveal about your entry?
I had initially intended to submit two fully embroidered gloves as my prize entry (to be presented as a pair), but lack of time and personal circumstances came in the way – as they sometimes do.
However, this proved to be a happy accident as I found that removing the functional dimension from the work made it all the more impactful as a standalone piece. I also have to admit that this was the first glove that I had ever made, and completing the thumb section proved to be a challenge in its own right!
Quite often with a slow craft like hand embroidery, you can underestimate the time needed to create an artwork and once you begin, a whole world of ideas are opened up. I think it is wonderful that Eline focused on one glove and gave it the time and patience to really grow, even if that meant cutting down on the work she could submit.
Where do you think your creativity is taking you?
Revitalizing – and reimagining – our relationship with the natural living world is possibly the most pressing issue of our time. It has become a primary concern of mine, and I believe that art and creativity have an essential role to play in activating and facilitating this process.
My own creative practice has led me to delve deeper into matters of care and attunement to more-than-human lives and stories; childhood memories, fleeting impressions, curiosity and an underlying but enduring sense of wonder have often triggered these artistic inquiries.
By exploring diverse forms of expression, ranging from installation to embroidery work, I aim to develop an array of artistic strategies that can be applied in wider social settings (e.g. through community work and environmental art interventions) and foster care for local ecosystems, raise sensibility to environmental losses, and develop new narratives for the future.
Some of this work is set to begin this year, starting with a pan-European initiative designed in collaboration with my collective, The Sympoietic Society, which will span across three countries (Finland, Italy and Austria), and it will continue through the projects and activities developed with my Finland-based non-profit creative association, Ymmärrys ry.
Reading about Eline’s most primary concerns comes at a particularly poignant time as I read “A Life on our Planet” by David Attenborough. Learning about our changing natural environment, species loss and how unbalanced our eco-system is becoming is overwhelmingly alarming. As Eline says, we must develop new narratives for the future and act fast by prioritising and increasing biodiversity.
Slow crafts and connection to nature is a rebellion against fast consumption and the unsustainable use of our natural resources, so seeing Eline’s work and her connection to the natural world, brings me a feeling of hope that the future will be brighter than it is predicted to be.
What one piece of advice would you offer someone looking to be an artist?
Don’t be afraid to discuss what you’re currently working on with others, whether it be a family member, a friend, or a fellow creative! I’ve often found that talking about my process out loud was much easier than writing about it, and allowed me to put words on things that would otherwise be difficult to articulate on my own. I’ve had many fruitful conversations with friends and artists; these always ended up sparking new ideas and creating unexpected connections.
On a more practical note, while developing my embroidery practice I quickly came to realise that regular breaks and physical activity are particularly important when working with such a time consuming and physically restricting medium.
Now, whenever I am stumped for inspiration or stuck in my own process I try to go out for a walk, get some fresh air and motion. As a Norwegian proverb says, “Ut på tur aldri sur!” (which loosely translates to “On a hike – never gripe!”). So go out, stretch your legs, and give your mind a well-deserved time out! Let your body wander while your mind wonders: the world is full of beauty and mystery, we need only step out and open our senses to experience the full extent of its gifts.
It has been such a pleasure to read about Eline’s work and talk about the influences surrounding her practice. She reminds us that we must all learn to slow down and take note of our natural world and the wisdom we can sow to protect it.
For more of Eline’s work, you can follow her on Instagram and follow her blogpage. Eline is also involved in the “De Structura” project, a pan-European initiative for young artists and cultural workers, which led to the foundation of the cross-border artistic collective The Sympoietic Society
Alongside this, she also co-founded the non-profit association Ymmärrys ry, which aims to accelerate societal recovery, resilience and sustainability transformation through creativity and innovation.”