2008 Beck's Canvas winner Riitta Ikonen communicates current issues through art


'Snowflake' by Riitta Ikonen

Artist Riitta Ikonen’s work, titled 'Let’s Stick Together', won the prestigious 2008 Beck’s Canvas competition. Royal College of Art graduate Riitta Ikonen’s work is both funny and socially poignant, featuring themes such as climate change and pollution of the Baltic Sea.

For over 20 years the Beck's bottle has been the canvas for some of the biggest names in contemporary art, including Royal College of Art graduates Tracey Emin and Jake and Dinos Chapman. So this year’s winner, Finnish born artist Riitta Ikonen, was sure to be in good company.

"The Beck’s Canvas project was a culmination of many happy coincidences. I entered three images to the competition, but none of them were chosen. I happened to have an exhibition on at the RCA during that time and the Canvas jurors came to see it. In the end they found the winning image on my website.’

Riitta Ikonen came to London two years ago to study visual communication, art and design in the Royal College of Art after graduating with BA Honors for Illustration from the University of Brighton. Her stay in London has been very fruitful. In addition to her Beck’s Canvas project, she has taken part in many international projects and exhibitions, such as a photographic exhibition in Moscow focusing on local climate change, ‘We Came to Take Your Jobs Away' exhibition in Slovenia and ‘Help a Brother Out’ charity exhibition in South Africa. Tate Britain have commissioned her costumes for their April 2009 'Walkthrough Wardrobe' exhibition.

"The idea of coming to London frightened me at first, London being such a big and busy place. I have since found it to be an incredibly good place to network and just bump into people, interesting opportunities and projects. And the great thing is that here you can never tell what’s behind the next corner.

The same element of surprise also applies to Ikonen's work. "My work is concerned with the performance of images, through photography and costume design. Certain items, usually small and insignificant, excite me to the point where I have to wear them and then document that process. The super-garments I make open up new experiences. In my costumes tremendous things happen – to me and to the people I work with."