Gate to Saimaa
© Kuvasto 2016. Photo: © Bank of Finland
THE MASTER OF ABSTRACT AND THE GOLDEN RATIO OF THREE IN LANDSCAPE PAINTING
It is a challenge to avoid using exaggeration when talking about Dora Jung’s (1906–1980) textile art works. Remaining within reason, the properties that dominate her works are to be listed in their sensual minimalism, the understated elegance of their colour palette and their scant but pertinent characterisation. Rarely do artists leave a legacy of their name being associated with a specific innovation. In Jung’s case, her particular approach to using the damask weaving methods brought her international acclaim and is still known today as the Dora Jung technique.
In blending stylishness and subtle colours, she also managed to sow the seeds of humour. Jung’s designs incorporating fishermen and old women at the market place became understandably highly popular. One of her more surprising works depicts a face, which the discriminating eye can easily see, reminds one unerringly of Pablo Picasso, not only that, but also executed in Picasso’s inimitable style. However, it is actually Dora Jung herself – a blended portrait of two masters. Undoubtedly Dora Jung has needed to be sharp-eyed during her career – and much more. Upon graduation from the textile department of the School of Applied Arts in 1932, Jung bravely established her own business, Dora Jung Textil. She operated out of a room in her parent’s home, in which she had set up a single loom. The yarns were dyed in the family’s bathtub. Dora Jung’s father was the architect Valter Jung.
Twenty years later Dora Jung was on the front row, being awarded the Grand Prix at the Milan triennial. In the design jubilee year of 1951, Finns received more awards than artists from any other participating country.Finnish families have been very familiar with the art of Jung’s textiles and her “100 roses” tablecloth design, in particular. This was commissioned by the Stockmann department store in honour of its 100th anniversary. Her oeuvres ranged from individual monumental works, to woven items manufactured on a mass scale. Dora Jung made one of her early massive works for the Swedish National Museum in Stockholm, in 1943.
Dora Jung’s creations hold an exceptionally important position in the Bank of Finland’s collection. When renovating the Bank’s Headquarters in 1962, she was commissioned to create the massive textiles that give their names to two of the meeting rooms in the building, Gold Standard and Copper Standard. Entire walls in each of the two rooms are taken up by the respective Gold and Copper Standard works. They were woven in 1961 and 1962. Both represent the best in abstract art and their geometric designs hold their own against the era’s international and national constructivist artworks. The works are the largest of their kind among monumental art made in the early 1960s. If we were to ignore the dated divide between art and applied art, Dora Jung is clearly at the head of Finland’s abstract school of art, alongside Sam Vanni, Birger Carlstedt, Lars-Gunnar Nordström and Juhana Blomstedt.Her large woven pieces each create their own identifiable calm atmosphere in their respective meeting rooms. The artist has paid attention to detail and shaded the surfaces using individual black threads that remind us of the subtleties of lithographic techniques.
The Bank’s open-minded commissions do not end there. The former branch office in Mikkeli asked Jung to design a woven artwork that would describe the feature that were geographically and economically significant to the region. “Gate to Saimaa” was finished in 1965 and is an abstract portrayal of the relationship between the water of Lake Saimaa, and the forests and land (in the form of fields) that surround it. The artwork’s spaces form various perspectives at one time. Looking at the work from a bird’s eye view, it takes on the appearance of a coloured map, the areas of water and land clearly delineated from the other. Looked at from the side, the surface’s patches of colour appear pierced by stylised tree trunks. The gate formed by the green of the woodland and brown of the earth enhances the ‘golden rule of three’ in landscape painting.