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Ritva's Cities – Memories of the Cities NOW' by Ritva Raitsalo  

These images reveal secret memories of cities and some unexpected secret places. They reveal a hidden city beyond the city or within the city.

Here you see a world that I have created with some familiar elements. Perhaps my starting point was a walk by the canal, but the end is always something completely different. I mix up places and take parts of the buildings. It's my vision, my interpretation, my experience of the existing world.

I create worlds and cities – moments that exist only in these images. Although these images may feel familiar, these locations don't actually exist. However, I believe these moments are a more truthful and revealing vision of how we experience the environment around us.

The viewer observes and experiences the city in fragments, not as a whole. Memory connects numerous fragments to create fragmented recollections in the brain and these images become more real than reality. My pictures are a visual expression of the memories of the cities NOW.

Interview with Tuomas Hiltunen, Lecturer, Colombia University, New York, July 2016

Ritva Raitsalo Artist

'I love how edifices, towers are outlined against the sky or reflect on the glass walls or on the water. Buildings are like gigantic sculptures, which can be manipulated and restructured according to my own plan. I de-construct what is taken for granted and make it unfamiliar, take off parts, add others like in Legoland. I blend past and present creating new perspectives.'

I spread selected collage pieces in front of me and start to compose according to the idea I have in mind. It may take several trial and error attempts before the composition settles. I am like a composer searching for a new tune. Images are my palette. Collage pieces are like magician's cards.

Born in Helsinki. BA in English and French philology at Helsinki University. Worked as an installation artist in Milan. Moved to London in 1985. She retrained as a photographer with Mick Williamson among others. She then developed into surrealist urban photographer specializing in hand coloured montaged silver gelatine prints. Her work predated Photoshop techniques.  She published a book 'Magic London' in 2010 and started a series of collages . In 2015 she published 'Ritva's cities I + II'. and 2016 .Ritva's Cities III. She has exhibited widely in several solo and group shows in UKSelected Solo and Group Shows: Click  CVetc

Paulina Wachowicz writes about her exhibition 'Imaginary London' 2014 in the Coronet,  London .

'The  Conversations with the City 'Some would say there is nothing magical about the city. You can’t mould it into different form or perform a certain kind of alchemy to obtain a shiny gem from steel and concrete. Some would be surprised seeing impressive collages by Ritva Raitsalo.

Ritva Raitsalo’s works focus on transformation. It’s a dialogue between deconstruction and recreation. Every piece reveals a different kind of journey. It’s like entering into extraordinary alternative worlds. Nothing is accidental.

Vivid colours, high contrast and strong perspective show energy and character of the city. Looking at her works makes us able to see surreal and dream-like cityscape. Buildings and places we are familiar with are not what we know any more. Connection between what is real and imaginary fades. Magic works.

The artist convinces you to share her perception of the capital. What you’ve seen for the first time might have been exciting just to become boring over time, but Ritva’s vision helps to rediscover the familiar and twist it upside down.'


Ritva Raitsalo interviewed by Paul Cummings, May 2012 ( Ritva's Cities I)

'Ritva is an artist who uses photographic media and paint for her collaged works of art. She is a flăneur trying to comprehend the city by reassembling its disparate locations into a single motif, 'I had to make London my own in order to feel at home'. She creates montages much like a film director commanding a dystopian film genre such as Blade Runner or Metropolis. Within the eclectic scene isolated figures create open narratives never to be disclosed.

These images contain potent and unexpected symbols and metaphors that are both serious and tongue-in-cheek. They pertain to postapocalyptic world were the survivors are very surprising.

Rod Morris writes (Magic London 2010)

'Ritva Raitsalo retrained as a photographer with Mick Williamson and other leading photographers. With their help and guidance she improved her darkroom skills and the craft of B/W photography. Then Ritva developed her unique way of working involving  coloured montaged silver gelatin prints. Each print is an original and the colour scheme a response to the subject matter of the image. Her work pre-dates photoshop techniques and has an organic, hands on feel harking back to early photomontage with references to Metropolis and the work of Peter Kennard.'

Peter Marshall wrote about the exhibition Metropolis at the Drill Hall Arts Centre (Inscape, 1993):

'Ritva's show goes beyond photography in both medium and intentions. Toned prints are overlain with brush-applied colour to give an impression of the city. The photographic elements often include multiple printing - clocks, perhaps from a Clerkenwell shop, are superimposed on plate glass Euston Road reflections of the Post Office Tower, all rendered in blues and greens in one image. The human presence comes in as a head in a gas mask, or a porcelain head, its marked brain areas proclaiming Willpower, Morality, Charisma and Social skills. Well-known landmarks such as the Lloyds Building are given a new treatment.

The best of this work reminds me of Ian Sinclair's Downriver and his obsessions about particular areas of London and as a whole it assaults me with a vitality somewhat foreign to my normal native reserve. Photographers - even many in the 'independent ' sector - tend to shun ideas as if they might somehow warp the mind, and Ritva has certainly jumped in feet first. Perhaps she doesn't always quite land fully on them - I have problems with fitting some of her subject matter to her intentions and there are certain colours from the chemical palette which I find too dominant in the show as a whole, but she has certainly produced an interesting and thought- provoking show'.

Interview by Kirsi Pennanen on RadioMafia, Finland 2.5.1993 Extract.

Translation from Finnish  by Ritva Raitsalo

Here in the Drill Hall Arts Centre, Central London there is an exhibition 'Metropolis' of photo installations by Finnish Ritva Raitsalo, showing her vision of London as a metropolis.

Metropolis is often described negatively.Rene Dupond has said that a modern big city proves that human beings adapt themselves to the sky without stars, streets without trees, tasteless bread, dull parties. Joseph Condrad says in 'The Secret Agent' that in the big city there is enough darkness to bury five million people. Metropolis, the well known Gothic film by Fritz Lang from the 20's describes people without a face spinning a big wheel.

For Ritva,  metropolis is home, a mess of positivity and negativity which crystallizes in her photograph 'Time bomb'. 'This is a  double exposure of a glass building on which Post House Tower reflects and a picture of clocks,  various buildings, traffic jam, traffic signs. The concept of time is important, because it is typical for our time that time rules us.'Ritva has photographed places which are known to her: Camden Town marketplace, canal boats and the skyscrapers of London City, but B/W pictures of Ritva are not grey, she has created a composition of various cityscapes and painted on top brilliant almost aggressive colours.

'There are not so many colours in London, so I had to create these colours around me.'

'Is London bleak, grey, cold?'

'It can be for some people, but not for me, if I miss colours , I create them. I took these photos here in 1988 from Camden Market, Camden Lock, the canal and the bridge which is very picturesque, even if often very dirty, but I don't need to describe that. I have created my own Camden Lock.'

'What does London represent to you?'

'It is a very stimulating place, lots of things. events happen here.'

'How does the word metropolis sound to you, good or bad?'

'Good, even if metropolises can be very dangerous, but here in London you can live as if in a village, at the same time you can get in 15-20 minutes by underground to West End, where all the theatres, cinemas, galleries, shops are.'

Maybe metropolises attract so many different people with different backgrounds, with different reasons because of the sense of freedom and countless influences. Ritva Raitsalo's pictures of London are as if from the Science Fiction world and yet from the reality. A big gas mask overshadows a skyscraper. You can see cyclists wearing face masks in the streets, so that their lungs would preserve until retirement age.

Extract Sixty artists excel at ART/Converters 2016 at Studio 1.1 Gallery in Shoreditch

By James Brewer

Knock on the red-painted door of an intimate art gallery in a byway of trendy Shoreditch, and inside you will find a display by around 60 mainly British artists. With their small-scale works they present vibrant examples of contemporary endeavour and experimentation.

This is the ART/Converters! 2016 fund-raising show for the independent gallery Studio 1.1, in which everything by “past and future” artists has been donated for sale at £200, “an astonishing price,” as the organisers have it. Behind each of the exhibits in this loose collection demonstrating the inexhaustible variety of tracks being pursued in this London scene is an individual story of commitment and determination....

A surrealist city montage by Ritva Raitsalo.

Helsinki-born Ritva Raitsalo turns out silver gelatine photographic prints that are surrealist montages refashioning hypermodern aspects of the cityscape of London. One such photo-collage at Studio 1.1 was part of this ongoing work focusing on urban intensity – faces in a faceless city. A woman peers apprehensively like an Alice in Wonderland into what must seem to her to be a Lilliputian canyon of skyscrapers.

Ritva says: “Buildings are like gigantic sculptures, which can be manipulated and restructured according to my own plan… Collage pieces are like magician’s cards.”...

Studio 1.1, run by Keran James and Michael Keenan, is an artist-led, not-for-profit gallery started in 2003 a short walk from Shoreditch High Street. They say: “Our main aim has always been to provide a supportive environment for artists to take risks.” The gallery is “primarily artist-responsive rather than just artist-run.” It plans mentoring surgeries for artists and members’ evenings that will be networking opportunities for visual artists of all kinds, writers and other creators.

'Peter Marshall wrote in INSCAPE n.9,1994 regarding the exhibition at the Brunel Gallery.

Ritva Raitsalo works on her photographs - usually printed from multiple negatives - with chemical toners and also with paint. The results are striking and highly individual. In this show she presents a sequence, in which various elements recur at intervals - recognizable buildings such as Nat West Tower, Euston Rd masks and the two shoes. The buildings show both the pattern of repeated structural elements and also the less regular silhouette of their edges against the skyline.

Red Cloud, for example shows (I think) part of the Barbican with almost all the building but its top edges covered by the red and white painted polluting cloud, set against an unnaturally even blue china sky.

I have a few quibbles about the colour - the rhino is lilac - to my eyes. As for the Red Shoes, this refers to the macabre Hans Christian Andersen tale of the magic slippers sold by a wicked shoemaker to a poor young girl which will not stop dancing. A quick axe job and off go the feet dancing on their own, leaving the girl with a pair of wooden feet, finding religion and hobbling through life. Best known through the 1948 Oscar winning ballet film, The Red Shoes (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, featuring Moira Shearer, Anton Walbrook, Marius Goring et al - including Mme Rambert) Film is obviously important as a medium to Ritva.

At its best, Ritva's work has an element of surprise and confrontation with ideas that is unusual in photographs; it deals with themes such as urbanization and ecology, asks questions, and explores possible answers. Her work includes a poem 'Metamorphosis and Chaos'.

Linda Talbot wrote in Ham & High Oct. 1993: 'Illusions of grandeur conjured by Ritva. Nightmare illusions of London are created by Ritva Raitsalo in Visions, a show of mixed media photographs at the Everyman Cinema, Holly Bush Vale, Hampstead. Her work convey a state of flux and ecological threat. Camden Lock is depicted in a disconcerting light, featuring a flaming red tree. But the essence of her work is found in Timebomb, a many layered impression of the city. She often works with multiple prints, coming to London in 1985 to develop painting and manipulating photographs.

Linda Talbot wrote further Aug 1994, regarding the exhibition at the Brunel Gallery. 'Raitsalo shows 22 works from the brooding study of a feather looming over the Thames to works inspired by destiny, reflections and flying. She has written Metamorphosis and Chaos, a poem which sums them up. She has developed an original way of manipulating photographs, producing mainly photocollages and portraits, often published in book jackets.'

Sirpa Rasanen BBC WorldWide Broadcast - Interview in connection with the exhibition at the Drill Arts Centre 19.4.1993 Extract. Translation from Finnish by Ritva Raitsalo

Ritva Raitsalo has practised art in Milan, Helsinki and London. Her work has been shown in different parts of Europe. The Metropolis show, which has just been opened, consists of Ritva's photo compositions of London. There are two clear themes, in some pictures London is shown as a gigantic funfair, which attracts people like a magnet, in others ecological destruction threatens metropolises. The central picture of the exhibition is 'Time bomb', in which clocks tick ominously to the end. The composition is made of double-exposed B/W pictures which have been coloured with various methods.

Two pictures have already got a lot of publicity. Ritva Raitsalo's 'Protect Yourself' was published in HEALTH 2000 magazine to illustrate an article dealing with biological weapons. 'There is a gas mask in front of a skyscraper in a metropolis. Cyclists use 'gas masks' already and maybe we all have to use them, if we want to live in a metropolis.'

Another picture by Ritva Raitsalo has been chosen for the cover of the latest issue of British Feminist magazine Every Woman.

'They commissioned a picture for the cover. The issue should be positive and dealing with women's London, places where women can meet each other. There should be part of London and a picture of a woman. In my cover there is St. Paul’s, Thames and the lights reflect on it in the evening and there is a portrait of a smiling woman' 'In this one there is a sculpture of a head, representing oriental meditation, inward looking black eyes, with a third eye, with a text will power and charisma. It has the colours of neon light and feels like science fiction. For the cover of St. Martin's Ride I photographed bombarded buildings and I used some of them for 'In the moonlight'.

Metamorphosis and Chaos

'Feeling light as a feather/   the mind  is taking a flight/ dreaming  about smiling faces

A city is left behind/hidden under a mask/as night falls

 A red shoe is dancing  in the city/ where a rhino is moving in the purple light

Faraway a  city is in danger/a red cloud is hanging above/

and white poisonous vapour is rising

 A clock is ticking/ Is there still time to act?

Two lamp holders like statues/are guarding the light

 Real faces appear staring  as if petrified

The moon and the sun and the destiny/are all watching

What's the meaning of all this?/ 

Letters scattered here and there/seem to have a message, an answer/

but who is able to decipher it/An ancient oracle?'

Giclee prints available on request Contact: ritva.raitsalo@gmail.com

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