Soft Action
18 Nov 2022 – 15 Jan 2023

Niina Mantsinen combines graffiti and the imagery of street art with different textile techniques. She is known in particular for her hand-tufted rugs depicting tags and graffiti. Her works break the traditions of rug art and at the same time challenge the viewer to interpret graffiti in a new way.

Mantsinen originally came up with the idea to make graffiti rugs while studying the imagery and techniques found in Finnish and Scandinavian traditional textiles. While searching for a new way to approach the design of rugs, the thought of combining rugs with a familiar subculture began to feel like a natural and appropriately crazy idea. The union of two differing artistic disciplines opens up new perspectives on the culture and history of both. Mantsinen’s work can also be seen in the larger context of the increasing appreciation for graffiti and textile art, and the democratization of crafting. Thanks to this development, new creators have found textile techniques and embraced them as a tool for craftivism.

In many cases Mantsinen’s rugs are based on a specific graffiti painter’s interesting style. Mantsinen picks the graffiti for the rugs in collaboration with the painters. The choices are also influenced by the stories about the locations and when and under what circumstances the graffiti were painted. Mantsinen feels that tufting works especially well for making graffiti rugs, and in some ways even resembles spray painting. The rugs are as large as the original graffiti, and so her largest works are several metres in size. Baby Bird (2022) is one such colossal work, which consists of an embroidered tarpaulin for VR railway wagons. Embroidery is a new technique for Mantsinen, who is constantly learning and trying new things. Her latest body of work has begun to include more elements, subjects and techniques alongside tufting.

Niina Mantsinen (b. 1986 in North Karelia) lives and works in Helsinki as a textile artist. She graduated as a designer from North Karelia University of Applied Sciences in 2010. She has been creating works in collaboration with Finnish and international street and graffiti artists for over 10 years. Mantsinen has had her work shown in several group and solo exhibitions around the world, most recently at Joensuu Art Museum and the Finnish Cultural Institute in Stockholm.

This exhibition is supported by the Finnish Heritage Agency and the Finnish Cultural Foundation’s North Karelia Regional Fund.