Please upgrade your browser

For the best experience, you should upgrade your browser. Visit our accessibility page to view a list of supported browsers along with links to download the latest version.

Show RCA 2019

Karoliina Partanen

Show RCA work

Major project:

Treat Yourself

Treat Yourself is about ritual; pursuit of beauty, gesture, decay, time, fear of invisibility, and preservation of memory. 

The project stems from my interest in the language used in advertising aimed at women. Advertisements convince us to believe that beauty treatments and products are fun. Like treats. That whenever we invest in these products and treatments, we invest in our personal wellbeing.

My own home is filled with different smiley, sunny, pastel-colored pots, creams, and scrubs. Whenever I buy something, I’m not buying the actual product, but the promise of happiness and lightness. In a tub. 

Adverts prey on people’s insecurities, carve out this sense of need, and then make money by trying to fill that gap, that emptiness. We are made to believe that we need them. That they are good for us. That with that healthy glow, happiness will follow. 

These lies are discreetly whispered to us by wittily worded labels on eye cream jars, by those glowing faces from inside light boxes at bus stops. Loud advertisements, false promises, bright lights, feelings of detachment and attachment, belonging and alienation.

What’s interesting is that to ‘treat’ something can also refer to a wound, a cut. I’m equally interested in the empty spaces as well as what is visible to the eye – in how that gap caused by a sense of disconnect and detachment is filled with foundations, creams and lotions. This project is an investigation of how and why those isolated, floating, fleeting pieces of self are sewn together, of the different ways the feeling of not belonging is hidden and suppressed, blended and faded out.  


  • For me, photography is something gestural; it’s like painting, a tool for drawing outlines for things that are invisible. I’m interested in decay, rot, fluids, memory, scars and in how preservation of memory changes through different processes. My focus is in the tension between mark making and photography – in the gesture of a brush stroke, in the way liquids run across photographic paper, in the way light is poured onto different surfaces. I paint with light, build installations, print my photographs onto different surfaces, turn objects into cameras, make photograms. 

  • Previous degrees

  • BA in Photography, University of the Arts London, 2010
  • Exhibitions

  • ARCHIVE(R), Tate Britain Archive, London, 2018; ( ) SCAPES, The Arches, London, 2018; The Other Summer Exhibition, The Lollipop Gallery, London, 2015; The Night Contact, Jubilee Square, Brighton Photo Biennial, Brighton, 2014; Foto8 Summershow, The Host Gallery, London, 2011; An Exhibition of Works of Art, Trinity Buoy Wharf, London, 2009; Your Space of Mine?, The Nolias Gallery, London, 2008
  • Funding

  • 2018 Finnish Cultural Foundation / South Karelian Regional Fund, a grant for a photography project focusing on the ruined architecture in South Karelia, Finland.
Royal College of Art