The Finnish artists and galleries at ARCOmadrid 2014 are:
Ama Gallery: Elina Brotherus (b. 1972, lives and works in Helsinki)
Elina Brotherus is a photographer and video artist. She graduated as a Master of Arts from the School of Art and Design (nowadays Aalto University). Her early works dealt with personal but common experiences, presence of love or absence of it. Later on, in her works she has been investigating, on the one hand, the relationship between photography on landscape painting and, on the other hand, the iconography of classical painting. The emphasis has moved from a way of working reminiscent of keeping a diary, to broader philosophical questions. The model for the works, however, has long been the artist herself.
Brotherus is especially being remembered for her series Suites françaises, in which the artist, using post it notes, is learning about the French language and life in a foreign culture. More recently, she has returned to the same landscapes in her series 12 ans après (12 Years Later). In 2011 Brotherus was again invited to Chalon-sur-Saône, this time to teach at a workshop in a local high school. She stayed in the same monastery guesthouse as before and photographed many of the same places she had explored visually twelve years earlier. A moving dialogue between the self-portraits of a young and that of a middle-aged artist makes the passage of time visible.
Galerie Anhava: Antti Laitinen (b. 1975, lives and works in Somero)
Antti Laitinen makes photographs, videos and performances, constructs islands and conceptual objects, digs and documents, and rows with icebergs. Hardly any technique is unknown to him. But Laitinen’s works aren’t freewheeling semi-hippie association, and are instead planned in detail, carefully considered and executed, and formally sound.
The works of the ARCOmadrid are part of Forest Square, a work prepared for the Venice Biennial last summer. Forest Square (2012–2013) crystallizes Laitinen’s manner of working, in which the essential aspects are an uncompromising attitude, the testing of physical and psychological boundaries, the absurdity of situations – and even humor. His works are often based on performance, the presence of the artist, which is documented with the means of photography or video. In Forest Square, Laitinen cleared a 100 square-meter (10 x 10 m) area of forest, assembled all the material that he had removed and classified it systematically. The work consists of three photographs, a video documentation and material from nature collected from the cleared area.
Forum Box: Mia Hamari (b. 1976, lives and works in Simo)
Hamari’s sculptures are part of the comeback of the tradition of Finnish wood sculpture, which during hundreds of years has been strong in this country of forests. At the end of the 1990s, several sculptors appeared, women as well as men, who have all since been developing the traditions of wood carving in their own way. Hamari is a storyteller, who with her works creates a fantasy world. It could be related to the inhabitants of Watership Down or those of Alice’s Wonderland, or to the stories from Tolkien’s Shire told by the adventurous hobbits.
Hamari carves wood in a careful way, adding materials such as bronze, bone, leather and bark, as well as colours to her works. The motives often consist of showing her childhood over again, and the bubbling, and at the same time melancholic, atmosphere of the circus world. The titles, e.g. Somnambulist, Fairytale and Traveller, direct the viewer’s interpretation of the works. The sculptures create an ambiance of magic and wonder. The figures come to life before the eyes of the audience and in their imagination.
Galerie Forsblom: Leena Nio (b. 1982, lives and works in Helsinki)
Leena Nio has been inspired by imagination and the images born at the unconscious level. Classical topics such as portrait, landscape and still life as well as certain colours and shapes are repeated in the works. In the paintings, there are often two overlapping or internal images that Nio uses to break the classicality of the subject. Her precise technique with its systematicality and spontaneity combine to create the surface and depth of the painting. In her oil paintings, feelings of alienation and identification are approached through everyday topics and experientially.
The viewer’s movement becomes part of the work, as the paintings’ structure and materiality change when the viewer moves. A closer view emphasizes the physicality of the paint: a thick coat of paint and the grooves left by the brush achieve an abstract and ornamental impression. When viewed from further away, the overlapping images become more specific. Distance gives the opportunity to see within the picture, while physical proximity weakens the ability to perceive the image. The works and the world they create are a new kind of visual and spatial entity.
Galleria Heino: IC-98 (Patrik Söderlund b. 1974 & Visa Suonpää b. 1968, live and work in Turku)
The artistic group IC-98, originally Iconoclast, was founded in Turku in 1998. The group is interested in events that turned out never to be realized, the fabulous relations between things, orthodox learning systems and heresy, the presence of history in the present, the designs and control mechanisms of the social organism and of architecture, and the techniques of liberating oneself from these. The choice of tools always depends on the context of the matter, its history and the situation at hand, as well as on the aims of the current activity.
IC-98 does a lot of both empiric and archival research. Traditional research is combined with intuitive and personal points of view. The final works – drawings, animated films, books or installations – are multifaceted combinations created from different sources of knowledge. They are kinds of staging, a theatre, where the world according to IC-98 is shown. All the projects of IC-98 can be characterized as narrative structures, blueprints or scripts, which function as a summary of the linguistic as well as the affective flows.
In the animations Abendland II & III (The Place That Was Promised & The Edge That Was Set), the world of dusk is the universe of IC-98’s stories. For them the sunset is not so much about the decreasing economical and political power of the western world and the discussions around it, but rather about the end of the human being – and about the hope that nature would, after all, survive. In these works, Abendland is a world without human beings.
Helsinki Contemporary: Ville Andersson (b. 1986, lives and works in Helsinki)
Andersson combines the dark Romantic figure of an artist with that of a thoroughbred dandy. In the dramatized situations of the photographs, there’s a strong mystical and psychological force. This force is also present in the paintings, which are in dialogue with a former civilization: with literature, film and fine art. In the artist’s style you can see influences from many different time periods. Andersson sees clear links and continuums in this wide source material. He uses the archive of art history as a sort of dictionary, forming new sentences, and bringing the dialogue that’s already going on, further. The focus is on intertwined human beings and fragmentary body parts. They are enfolded in a mysterious atmosphere that won’t let the viewer off easily.
The works are moving in a world of nuances of black and white, which is also known from Andersson’s earlier production. The black-and-whiteness functions as something that makes time stop, the pictures seem to live in their own world, apart from the viewer’s reality. Esthetic and beauty do have their own place in Andersson’s art. As he sees it, this is a veil through which we can filter even our darker feelings – the conscious and the unconscious ones. The work of art functions as some kind of softening device, with the help of which we can be in touch with these feelings.
Photographic Gallery Hippolyte: Perttu Saksa (b. 1977, works and lives in Helsinki)
Perttu Saksa is a visual artist and photographer from Helsinki. In his photographs, he strives to present motives that otherwise wouldn’t be the object of one’s attention. Saksa deals with the relationship between man and nature, as well as with the portrait as a genre. In his photo series Echo (2012), Saksa has photographed primates found in old collections of natural science in Europe. The works in the series question the small difference between a human and an animal, and tells about the ways of writing history, with the help of natural science. “Animals do not create narratives. They exist. We co-exist. Animal representations are based on narratives, not on nature, not on animals, but on us. We look at an animal the way we want it to be, as the persons we ourselves wish to be.” To Saksa, the ways of leading parallel lives of humans and animals are important, and also how man, inevitably, describing nature, makes culture a part of it.
In his new series of works, Kind of You (2013), Saksa has been continuing this theme, and has been photographing dancing monkeys in Indonesia, who perform in the street, wearing traditional dresses and masques. The photography series is a vision of humanity; of people’s ways of mastering and subordinating nature to make it like themselves. ‘Dancing monkeys’ have been turned into a cruel and macabre urban street theatre. Saksa explores the human capacity for empathy and the ways we confront otherness: “Underlying all this is an uncertainty about and awareness of our place in the world, which allows us to call into question and reflect on our relationship with the surrounding space. In the pictures this is linked with contradictions, which could probably be called the shadows of humanity. The shadows take us to places that are incomplete, and filled with contradictions.”
Apart from his photographic art, Perttu Saksa is known for his psychological personal portraits, as well as for his activity as a press photographer.
Korjaamo Galleria: Riiko Sakkinen (b. 1976, lives and works in Cervera de los Montes, Toledo)
Riiko Sakkinen makes social observations by taking advantage of the rich image material that the world of advertisement and consumer goods. The motives of the drawings, paintings, listings, and the different objects and installations refer to everyday life, the pictures of popular culture and the social discussion that is now being held. After his graduation from the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts in 2002, he moved to the small village of Cervera de los Montes in Toledo. Sakkinen is active in the Finnish cultural discussion and the expression artist in the mass media describes him well.
At ARCOmadrid, Sakkinen’s exhibition consists of ceramic plates and a neon-light piece. The plates carry the adventures of characters borrowed from comics, cereal packages, adverts and animations, from Hello Kitty to Superman, finished with a slogan. The free-standing neon advertisement says: Escribid a Papa Noel y pedid trabajo, which means Write to Father Christmas and ask for work. This is a variation of an earlier work where the word ‘work’ was replaced by ‘freedom’.
“My ceramic plates are painted in Talavera del a Reina, about ten kilometers from my Spanish village. The Talavera ceramics is world famous – I’ve seen it e.g. at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The painters I work with are no anonymous assistants; they are masters of their trade, proud of their vocation, who modify the subjects of my drawings and paintings to suit ceramics, and often come up with a more creative way than I myself could have done. My Talavera ceramics combine the locality of my everyday life and the world of global consumer culture, politics and economics I deal with in my work.”
Make Your Mark: Egs (#Opening programme)
Egs started his graffiti career in mid-1980’s. He uses spray paint, ink, wood, paper and other media in his works. His art focuses on the three letters E, G and S, which appear in all his works. He has exhibited in museums and galleries around the world.
Variations of the three letters will be on display in the #Opening section of ARCOmadrid.
See a video for ARCOmadrid by Egs Make Your Mark gallery.
Every wave, star, drip or block I have ever painted can be traced to this attitude of graffiti anthropologist. Every fade is reminiscent of some graffiti that I have seen. Every 3d or bubble has a story to tell. Every piece I¹ve done pays homage to the great graffiti folklore. – Egs
Showroom Helsinki: Jiri Geller (b. 1970, lives and works in Helsinki)
As a Finn, Jiri Geller’s work perfectly fits that grey Nordic outpost’s proud, tragic tradition. His sculptures are elemental and essential, fascinated with death and violence, critical of the fake and phony, and ever aware of just how dark the world can be.
But then, rather than being limited by his roots – or in denial of them, Geller keeps to this impeccable conceptual framework, and takes it global.
Geller’s objects offer meaning despite their solidity and materiality. A pessimistic yet playful – at times quite profound – energy flows through them: escalators connect one to nowhere; fiberglass tsunamis promise leisure sport and/or death by flood; ice cream cones sit frozen in mid-melt next to exquisite skulls that melt and drip like butterscotch candies in the sun.
It’s rare to see such playfulness and heaviness seamlessly combined in the same artistic vision: Geller’s balloon fabrications radiate all the lighthearted joy of portraits of children… who have recently died. And he has constructed a video game control module possibly intended to burn you alive.
(Mark Maher, Helsinki, 2010)
SIC (#Opening programme): Olli Keränen, Karri Kuoppala, Maija Luutonen, Kalle Leino, Muriel Kuoppala, Konsta Ojala, Sauli Sirviö, Timo Vaittinen and Laura Wesamaa
Sinne: Anna Rokka (b. 1986, lives and works in Helsinki)
Anna Rokka is a Sweden Finnish sculptor, who makes large spatial installations for her exhibitions. Often the structures are reminiscent of a tree house or dwelling. The exhibition visitor also gets to visit the inside of them. The ambiance of the works also reminds you of apocalyptic visions or hallucinations, the colours of which create psychedelic spaces with their glowing and fading colours. Rokka describes the finishing process of her works in the following way:
“I focus on experimenting with interactive installations. Research and grasp into the sci-fi and supernatural thoughts chain these ideas with my interests in ancient handcraft, traditional architecture and myths. Anti-thinking is a good way for me to approach the process. This provokes ideas to grow in my mind that I otherwise wouldn’t come up with.”
Gallery Taik Persons: Niko Luoma (b. 1970, lives and works in Helsinki and New York)
Niko Luoma’s new photography series have their references in geometric modernist painting and atonal music. At the same time his way of working is related to the conceptualism of the 70s – the world is seen through a chosen system. Luoma has been working on analogical series based on light and abstract imagery since 2006. In Luoma’s words:
“My material is light. The work focuses on energy rather than matter. My work is about the process as much as about the result. My process combines systems of calculation and change. I find my inspiration in mathematics and geometry; symmetry and chaos, both imagined and found in nature.
I use multiple exposures as a method. I am interested in repetition and continuation as concepts. Over the last ten years, I have repeatedly tried to find new ways to challenge the photographic process, that is, to avoid known solutions. Working only with light and light sensitive materials, I am fascinated by the fact that this process leaves nothing behind — no debris, no ruin — just an exposed negative.
In the first series of the trilogy called Variations on a Standard of Space Luoma studies the layered relation of a cube and primary colours to Cézanne’s observations and early cubism. Luoma describes the methodology of this work: “The use of the term ‘variation’ refers to improvisation, interpretation and chance. As a result each photograph combines 12 events and three colors forming the entity of space and color under the theme of ‘variation’ and ‘collapse’.”
Visit also the following galleries to see more Finnish artists at ARCOmadrid2014:
Esther Schipper: Grönlund-Nisunen
Future Gallery: Jaakko Pallasvuo
Max Estrella: Charles Sandison
Mirta Demare: Diego Bruno
Galeria Senda: Ola Kolehmainen