Kristiina Lahde
Toronto artist Kristiina Lahde in her home studio, November 2014. Photos by Bill Clarke.
Toronto artist Kristiina Lahde in her home studio, November 2014. Photos by Bill Clarke.

Throughout her art-making career, Toronto-based Kristiina Lahde has used commonplace materials and objects, including envelopes, newspapers and tape measures, to produce her work, obscuring their original functions through folding, cutting and rearranging. The repetitive and rhythmic arrangements found in much of her work are informed by the tenets of Conceptual and Minimal art. “Art-making, for me, is really about the planning,” she says. “I really enjoy organizing, taking the time to think about the shapes and the space, and methodically mapping it all out.”

Lahde’s work has been seen extensively in solo, group and public projects across Canada. She is represented by MKG127 in Toronto and, in 2013, she was long listed for the Sobey Art Award. In November, Magenta editor Bill Clarke visited Lahde at her studio, located in the West End home she shares with her husband, artist Adam David Brown, and their daughter. Here, Lahde discusses some of the work that she is currently making for a solo show at Toronto’s Koffler Gallery, opening in January, 2015.


No matter how much I read about something, like the mathematical concepts behind a shape, I need to make a model of the form to truly understand its mass and structure. This geodesic sphere is a maquette for a work I’ll be constructing out of vintage wooden yard sticks for the Koffler show. The final piece will be about 10 feet tall. I’m also developing two installations using measuring tapes, so that’s a 100-metre long surveyor’s measuring tape you see there. I plan to create geometric shapes in the space using the measuring tape affixed to the walls and floor, like line drawings in space. I’m thinking one will be triangular and the other will be cubic, but as I want them to be rough interpretations of these shapes, I don’t want them to completely play by the rules.


I‘ve been amassing a huge collection of vintage wooden yard sticks because I’m going to need about 120 of them to construct the geodesic sphere for the Koffler show. I’ve been scavenging through antique and junk shops. I’ve pretty much cleaned out all the rummage shops in the West End, so I’ve had to expand my searches to the country. One Sunday, I went to an antique market outside of Dundas and the dealers were telling me that old yard sticks are getting hard to find. Still, I found 30 that day, which is a pretty good score, I think!


These measuring tapes are the primary material for the collages I make. I cut them up into geometric patterns and reconfigure them. You could say this picture represents my colour palette. They are materials to have on hand for when I have a design I want to work through. Most of these I’ve gotten in Toronto, but I also pick them up when traveling. You can find very different colours and designs in Europe.


In the background are some of the maquettes for the spatial line drawings I’m doing with the measuring tapes. The envelopes in the foreground are an ongoing series that I’ve been making since 2004. I always like to have a few on the go. There are also some measuring tape collages that have been cut up and arranged, but are still waiting to be glued down. And, the circular piece in the front is made of old index cards that I obtained from the Royal Ontario Museum. When the museum’s collection was digitized, whoever did the inputting struck through each card with a pencil to indicate that the information on the card had been transferred. To me, they are like found drawings. I have hundreds, if not thousands, of them. So now, my job is to figure out ways of arranging them. They will appear at MKG127 in the future.


The piece on the left is a work in progress. I’m cutting and layering vellum onto the cutting mat. The green mat is the substrate of the work. It’s another way in which I’m transforming a tool that I commonly use for my work into a work. The little pile of circular pinwheel shapes beside it are some tests for the connecting joints for the geodesic sphere, but I kind of like them as a shape on their own.


Initially, my ideas spill out onto paper. I start with sketches of (really basic) ideas that probably make no sense to anyone else. Then, often using graph paper, the drawings become more detailed. The honeycomb shapes are layouts for collage works that I’ve done with the measuring tapes. The sketches help me figure out how many pieces I’ll need and what the shapes will be. I remember once saying to a friend, “I’m really organized,” and she laughed because that is probably the most obvious thing I could ever say about myself. I really enjoy the organizing, the thinking about the shapes and spaces, methodically mapping it out. Then, I have a clear intention for what I want the work to be.


Kristiina Lahde’s solo exhibition opens at the Koffler Gallery in Toronto on January 22, 2015.