︎ Ideas of nature seen from the abstracted edge of perception.  ︎ Hypnotizing play of forms and colors, such that the distinction between fantasy and verity is rendered incidental.  



Set of six tapestries drawing inspiration from the visuals of migraine. ︎Artworks Available

Kustaa Saksi’s exhibition First Symptoms presents six unique tapestries manufactured with Jacquard weaving technique. They are woven using cotton warp with mohair, silk, alpaca, cashwool, velvet, rubber, viscose, copper and transparent polyester yarns resulting in richly layered, multi-sensory works that draw their inspiration and texture from the scientific examination and personal experience of migraine.

He’s portraying the ways of migraine behaviour with drastic contrasts in material use, repeating patterns and rhythmic textures with disorders: sometimes appearing like nerve cells building brain connections, resembling the growing roots of a horseradish or fractal-like Lichtenberg figures – electric discharges on surface. Pulsating, disruptive, delusional, or relieving at times – then aggressive again. Prodrome, aura, attack, post-drome – the phases of migraine seen in Saksi’s tapestries are influenced by ornamentation from a variety of sources: from nature’s systems, scientific illustration and tribal art to black metal visuals. He has chosen the weaving technique and materials to emphasise the nature of migraine and to accent the healing approach of the artworks as well, them being tactile and gentle constructions.

“I have had migraines for most of my life; the first attack I remember occurred when I was coming home from school at age seven. I had borrowed a stack of comics from my friend and couldn’t wait to get into my room to read them when it happened: a brilliant, shimmering light appeared to my field of vision. It expanded, becoming an enormous shimmering circle, with sharp zigzagging borders and brilliant yellow and green colours. I was frightened – I could no longer read as the

letters were skipping or disappearing entirely leaving blank spaces on the pages and my left hand had gone numb. A throbbing headache appeared and from then on I knew I was going to continue the curse of my family: being a migraineur.

Being a lifetime sufferer, I have a very personal relationship with my migraine. It’s like an old, slightly tiring friend visiting regularly: always indiscreet and unconditional, never bland. Sometimes the aura takes more trying forms. I will go mute. The words I try to speak or read end up as other words, or not words at all. I will see strange dreams, or smell peculiar aromas. Currently, me and my migraine get along well, but I feel I haven’t seen all the tricks yet.

What fascinates me, is the visual delusions connected to the attacks. Usually pattern-based, kaleidoscopic, identical structures sometimes flickering, forming and reforming all over the visual field – common in migraine auras for most sufferers. It is only occasionally that these are formed to arrays of faces or animals or other recognisable objects. Often geometric structures cover the whole visual field: checkerboards, transparent oriental rugs, tribal patterns, ornamental spherical objets d’art like radiolaria or bacteria, repeat- ing wallpaper designs, spiderweb-like figures or concentric circles and squares, architectural forms or deco- rative paper-cut snowflakes, mosaics, spirals and swirls.

It is intriguing to think the migraine attack offers us a glimpse, like a looking glass, into the mind’s eye. Neurologist Heinrich Klüver (1897-1979) describes “geometrization” or “geometrical-ornamental” tendency seemingly built into the brain-mind in his book Mechanisms of Hallucination. Neurologist Oliver Sacks (1933-2015) focuses on this conclusion in his book Migraine: “These hallucinations reflect the minute anatomical organisation, the cytoarchitecture, of the primary visual cortex, including its columnar structure — and the ways in which the activity of millions of nerve cells organise themselves to produce complex and ever-changing patterns. We can actually see, through such hallucinations, something of the dynamics of a large population of living nerve cells and, in particular, the role of what mathematicians term deterministic chaos in allowing complex patterns of activity to emerge throughout the visual cortex. This activity operates at a basic cellular level, far beneath the level of personal experience. They are archetypes, in a way, univer- sals of human experience.”

It is interesting to play around with the cause and effect of people’s fascination towards patterns in general in our everyday lives: pentagonal and hexagonal tiles in our bathrooms, herringbone and tartan patterns in our jackets, repeating motifs in our knitted pullovers, repeating wallpapers of patterns within patterns. Geometric and scrolling motifs seem familiar to us no matter which culture we’re engaged with. Could the basic geometric shapes in art that people have been using to visualise the world, from Islamic art, Scandina- vian folk motifs, Aboriginal art of Australia, traditional Japanese patterns to African tribal art, reveal something from our visual perception system and how it is configured? These decorative motifs, very similar in any culture, seem to well from internal human experiences, from prehistoric cave-painters to contemporary artists and decorators. “Do the arabesques in our own minds, built into our own brain organisation, provide us with our first intimations of geometry, of formal beauty?”, asks Dr. Sacks.

As we still have only a primitive understanding of migraine and its mysterious ways, the attacks might reveal something about how “seeing begins”, about the spontaneous self-organisation of visual neurons and how nature itself is coded through fractal-like mathematical patterns and universal formations.”

Photography by Jussi Puikkonen