Curated by Paula Toppila and Sophie Kaplan.
Janne Lehtinen, Sacred Bird, 2005. Courtesy of the artist.
"Late in the evening they reached the world's northernmost cliff." Arto Paasilinna
Part of this year's "100% Finland" season in France, the Maan Asema/Position of the Earth exhibition brings together fifteen artists working in photography, painting, drawing, sculpture, video and installation. The dynamism of today's young Finnish art scene, especially in the field of photography, means lots of potential for new discoveries; so in addition to artists already known internationally, the CRAC Alsace exhibition also includes young artists showing for the first time in France.
The exhibition title Maan Asema/The Position of the Earth* refers to the relationship – by turns humanistic, naturalistic, scientific, physical, oneiric and/or intimist – that each artist, in his or her own way, establishes with the earth and with theworld in general.
Landscape and the natural environment loom large in the work of Finnish artists of all generations; this is especially evident in the works on show and raises, in these times of globalisation, the implicit question of the enduring nature of national characteristics and the inescapable influence of one's immediate surroundings. But rather than proposing an overview of the variations in artistic treatment of landscape, the exhibition seeks to show how landscape both triggers and expresses a relationship with the world dictated by personal speculation, a propitious natural setting and our planet's disturbing ecological context. One result is that planet Earth has regained a central position which, perhaps, it has not enjoyed since the great scientific advances of past centuries. Some of the works are part of a Romantic tradition, and their topography – vast open spaces (Heli Silojarvi) or a domesticated secret garden (Anni Leppäla) – is a direct reflection of landscapes of the soul. In other cases the soul is faced with fantastic worlds (Anna Tuori) inhabited by strange creatures straight out of the darkness of Finland's forests (Kim Simonsson). In still other works, the extraordinary has its roots in apessimistic, even doomladen vision: Liisa Lounila's telluric vistas betray a fascination with nature in all its capacity for destruction, while Ilkka Halso's antithetical point of view presents man as digging the grave of the natural world, even as he tries to save it. Many of the exhibits show the individual coming to grips with landscape, testing and colliding with it in sometimes promethean terms : digging a path barehanded through the ice, building an island (Antti Laitinen) or vacuuming up snow (Adel Abidin). But he is also seen, in the work of Janne Lehtinen, striving towards the sky in an ultimate expression of "the dreamer's resolute struggle against earthly gravity."** This connection with the earth and its physical properties reappears in works exploring the way human beings perceive not only terrestrial phenomena, but also themselves as belonging to the earth, which itself belongs to the universe and is governed by "astonishing" laws "on an immense scale" (Petri Eskelinen and Tommi Grönlund & Petteri Nisunen). In a humanist vein, the point of view of earth's inhabitants is scrutinised, tenderly and sometimes ironically, by artists like Seppo Renvall and Ville Lenkkeri. Symptomatic here is Lenkkeri's The World as We Know It, a photograph of a globe of the world in a corridor: interpretable, in the wake of Copernicus and Hubble, as a new depiction of the earth and its place in the universe, this image brings humility and humour to its portrayal of humanity as simultaneously imposing and tiny.
1 Inspired by The Position of the Sun, a novel by Ranya Paasonen, 2006. 2 Didier Mouchel, in Janne Lehtinen, Sacred Bird, Ostfildern, Hatje Cantz, 2005.