on site art projects

Finland, one of the northernmost European countries, has despite its distant location a flourishing contemporary art scene. Especially many young artists have lately made their names known beyond the borderlines. Here are my four picks of contemporary Finnish artists you should know:

Elina Brotherus, Artists at Work 6, 2009, 70 x 84 cm, chromogenic color print, edition of 6

Elina Brotherus

Photographer Elina Brotherus (*1972) does not only work behind the camera, but often steps in front of it. In her works her interest in the visual strategies of motion pictures is apparent, but unlike her colleague Cindy Sherman Brotherus’ approach is rather the one of a documentary than of a feature film. She does not act a role other than the ones she already possesses: those of an artist and a model. In her series Artist and her Model (2005–2011) Brotherus positions her models – mostly herself – in variety of calm nature landscapes and quiet indoor milieus. The depicted people are alone admiring their surroundings or sunken into their thoughts. Although Brotherus acts both the roles of an artist and of a model, the pictures are not conventional artists’ self-portraits. Rather than that they are pictures depicting a model, whose role the artist herself occupies. In the series Artists at Work (2009) the artist-model relationship is approached as well. We see in these photos a group of painters and drawers portraying Brotherus nude, a classical artist-depicting-a-model-setting. Brotherus’ camera captures the scene of the working painters and herself, thus creating her work of art. Hence all the partaking artists end up with a double role: the one of depicter and of the depicted.

Abb2 jiri geller - deadboyJiri Geller, Dead Boy, 2006, 13 x 13 x 21 cm, painted resin, edition of 3 + 1 AP

Jiri Geller

With his works the sculptor Jiri Geller (artist name of Jiri Holopainen, *1970) pursuits to fool the viewer. This begins already with the chosen material: He makes raisin look like milk or ice cream and creates weightless looking air balloons out of fiberglass. Geller is an educated silver smith and the aspect of hand-made uniqueness has a significant meaning to his art. His works might look like mass-produced items, but actually they all have demanded months of careful work. Geller admits to be fond of the idea that his artistic touch is so perfect that it tricks the viewer to believe his works are made by a machine. Geller’s imagery consists of familiar images originating from the popular culture. His brightly painted Donald Duck heads rest on their pedestals next to human sculls crowned with thorns, accompanied by a dismembered hand of Mickey Mouse. Sometimes Geller creates hybrids with mismatching symbolic. For example in his work Dead Boy (2006) he puts the thorn crown, an iconographical attribute of Christ, on one of his Donald Ducks. The artist says that with these conflicting attributes he wants to give an image of a factory in China, where the producers have misunderstood the brands and decided to merge them for better sales.

Abb3 jani leinonen - FLAJani Leinonen, Food Liberation Army, 2011

Jani Leinonen

Jani Leinonen (*1978) combines activism with pop art and uses images of popular brands and advertisement in his works – not always in an undisputed manner. Leinonen became enfant terrible of Finland’s art world with his work Food Liberation Army in 2011. In it a Ronald McDonald statue was ‘kidnapped’ from one of Helsinki’s McDonald’s restaurants. During the following day the kidnappers published a YouTube video, in which an unidentified group of masked individuals – including the artist – demanded answers from McDonald’s to their questions about the restaurant chains food ethics or else their mascot would be executed. The kidnapping made the international news and after the McDonald’s spokes person stated that the company would not “negotiate with terrorists” a cast made of the Ronald statue was beheaded by a guillotine in the Showroom Gallery in Helsinki. As an aftermath of this stunt the artist received a fine for stealing the Ronald statue. Leinonen himself has stated in an interview that his artistic goal is to make a work of art so famous, that it will be stolen from the museum, copied in Shanghai and known by Damien Hirst’s mother.

Abb4 pilvi takala - bag lady kleinBag Lady, 2006-2009, slide show/book/performance, courtesy of Galerie Diana Stigter and Carlos/Ishikawa

Pilvi Takala

Even though Pilvi Takala (*1981) is the youngest artist on this list, she is already a well-known name in the international art scene. Takala’s works are sociological performances that could be even called experiments, in which she examines the boundaries of the social conventions of human interaction by confronting random participants with provoking situations. The reactions of the people she encounters are documented with a hidden video camera. In her work titled Bag Lady (2007) Takala walks around Berlins KaDeWe carrying a transparent plastic bag full of banknotes. During her experiment she is approached by many passers-by and shopkeepers and is repeatedly told to hide her money. Some of them even offer her a non-transparent bag to put her money in. Her behaviour seems to raise worry and fear amongst the people around her. In her other work The Trainee (2008) Takala acts an intern at a professional services firm Deloitte, where only a few knew of the performance taking place. As the recordings of the performance show she starts out as an ordinary trainee doing her internship, but gradually she would stop working and instead spend her days sitting mutely at her desk or driving up and down with the elevator. Video clips and prints of the e-mail transfer between Takala’s work colleagues and their supervisor, document the confused reactions of the colleagues as they seek for an explanation to her unorthodox behaviour.

Jutta Emilia Tynkkynen (born at Finnish lakeside), currently lives and studies art history in Vienna.