Riikka Hyvönen painting

Riikka Hyvönen: Roller Derby Kisses

29 June, 2016

I am fascinated by skin. Because skin — protective, fragile and strong — is such an indivisible part of being human. In life, like in the game, things come and go, but sometimes they leave marks behind. Our skin tells the stories of our lives. Like that time when a dangerously talented blocker once knocked me out of bounds.

This project began from a realisation: I wanted to capture the momentary marks, the bruises, that are seen in a completely different light in the mainstream culture than inside the subculture of derby players. That’s where my investigation of the psychology of bruises started.

For me, roller derby is really all about the community, and the mesmerizing subculture that has sprung from it. If a derby player gets hit in the game, she wants to show her bruised bum for her team members on the side of the track (and then reach some well-deserved admiration on the internet). These bruises are called derby kisses — kisses from derby. They are little love bites and badges of honour.

Each of my gigantic 3D artworks is based on a real photograph. “I have a really beautiful bruise on my bum. Do you want to see a pic?” A friend once posted on my FB wall. “It has 12 colours and is the size of my head.” I said yes, I definitely want to have a look. She sent it to my inbox. It turned out to be at least as impressive as she had threatened. In the end, this comment of hers also became the name of the work.

Riikka Hyvönen painting
Riikka Hyvönen painting

These days, derby girls from around the world send me photos of their trophies. I am deeply honoured to be able to turn some of them into art.

Recreating a derby kiss, I use wood, MDF, leather, glitter, and various tools from paintbrushes to jigsaw pieces. I need to break the surface of the leather, then paint it, then break it and paint it again — and repeat the process dozens of times in order to create a picture, as hypnotising on canvas as on the skin.

Through making artworks of large scale, with a remarkable amount of sparkle, glitter and colour, I objectify the girls completely, but in the same way as they objectify themselves. With the kitsch, tacky, thoroughly questionable elegance, my aim is to capture the unapologetic representation of beauty that roller derby is all about.

The colours of these bruises alter from light green to all imaginable shades of purple. Their psychedelic figures are capable of taking forms as mystical as the clouds, pictured for centuries in art.

I want to help people find beauty in the unexpected — like in bruises the size of a head and of twelve different colours.

Riikka Hyvönen painting
Riikka Hyvönen painting
Riikka Hyvönen painting

Riikka Hyvönen is a Finnish artist based between Helsinki and Berlin. See more of her work: www.riikkahyvonen.com

Art