When girls first start rollerskating, they naturally spend quite a bit of time falling over and hurting themselves. Those with the fortitude to persevere get better and stop falling over and hurting themselves. Then, if they get really good, they join roller derby teams, and start hurting each other. If roller derby has passed you by, you won’t be aware of how hardcore the sport is (check out the frenetic Drew Barrymore-directed film Whip It from 2009 for a crash course), but the roller derby girls don’t mess about, and injuries can be pretty nasty.
As well as being body-slammed into the barrier at breakneck speed, there’s the ever-present possibility, nay certainty, of hitting the unforgiving rink arse-first. The resulting bruises are known by the sweet nickname “kisses”, worn as a badge of honour by the tough gals who play. As artist Riikka Hyvönen explains, roller derby requires a lot of physical strength, a pair of muscular buttocks is a distinct advantage, and you’re not playing properly if you don’t end up with a brightly-coloured, hand-sized lesion by the end of the game. London-based, Lapland-born Hyvönen has documented these injuries for a collection of large-scale artworks on display at The Finnish Institute in London.
Roller Derby Kisses lies somewhere between painting and sculpture, beginning with a documentary photograph which the artist re-renders in 3D on canvas with the addition of fabric and glitter. The works are a celebration of the players’ bravery, and also convey the kitsch, glam spangle and knowing self-objectification of the sport. The paintings’ titles are taken from comments that the players posted under photos shared on the internet. The exhibition will continue until 23 July — check for viewing availability.