The theme for the XXIV Mänttä Art Festival is The Human Era. With more than 50 artists, the exhibition discusses what happens, when humans control the land and natural resources.
Matti Aikio is a Sámi media artist from Vuotso, Lapland. He is also involved in his family's traditional reindeer herding trade. In his art, he uses video, photography, film and sound, often combining them into spatial installations. Aikio's works discuss nomadism as a lifestyle, a philosophy and a culture. His topics include environmental issues in the Sámi region and the future of reindeer herding in the midst of conflicting land-use interests. His art is an interesting mix of poetry and political statements, with centuries-long traditions meeting modern technology.
In his media installation for the Mänttä Art Festival, Aikio combines video art and old storytelling traditions. The artwork depicts the Sámi people's traditional relationship with nature, which is often in conflict with the policies of nation-states. Aikio is particularly interested in indigenous peoples' concept of place and time, which differs from Western views. For the Sámi people, nature isn't a separate entity, but rather on the same continuum with humans. Hence, Aikio states that he shares his dinner table with bears, wolves and wolverines.
Stina Aletta Aikio
Stina Aletta Aikio is a young visual artist. Her art focuses on the relationship between the local environment and the global-scale disasters threatening our nature. These threats include global warming, pollution and consumer culture. Aikio is interested in nature's internal communication, such as through the speech of plants. In her artworks, this is reflected on humans' activities in nature, such as mining. In her installations, Aikio has reworked refuse found in nature into objects resembling the jewellery in traditional Sámi dresses, thus giving them new life as parts of an artwork and the forest. Her art often also incorporates sound; it can be static noise recorded at the fells, such as the humming of electrical posts.
Located on Taavetinsaari Island, Aikio's environmental installation utilizes empty tin cans left in nature. She has reworked them into objects resembling the jewellery of traditional Sámi dresses, which are hanging from trees, glinting in the sunlight. Traditionally, the glinting and the jingling sound have been thought to bring good fortune, keeping evil at bay. Here, the message is opposite. The artwork reminds us of the concrete traces left in nature by consumer culture. The soundscape of the installation is created from the sounds of the mines in the Sámi region and the humming of electric posts erected on the fells.
Jasmin Anoschkin is a sculptor and a painter, whose colourful artworks draw inspiration from pop culture, folk art and toys. Her main materials are wood and ceramics. At first glance, the expressive animal figures she sculpts from them are appealing and humorous, but upon closer inspection, they also speak of the world situation, diversity and feelings of being different. Indeed, many of the sculptures bear stories based on the experiences of the artist and her friends.
Anoschkin's most recent ceramic sculptures depict "random species," animal figures with a little humanity thrown in. One of the figures might have travelled extensively, all the way to India, while another one seems a bit scary. The figures have received the treatment they deserve, and there is something captivating about their simultaneous beauty and brutality.
Ann-Sofie Claesson paints realistic, almost monochrome portraits. Their premise is usually her grandfather's family album with its photos of mostly already departed persons. Claesson is interested in people and the memories and remembrances they have left behind. For her, painting is a time-consuming process, as if allowing her to get closer to the person in the portrait. Claesson's paintings often hold some kind of darkness, a dark existential undertone that is hard to put into words; the paintings are about someone's absence, their passing. This naturally raises questions on what is left of oneself; who will remember me, when I have passed on?
In her most recent works, Claesson continues with these themes. The paintings depict children, forest landscape, watery reflections. There is only a brief moment, and soon that too will have passed. Childhood innocence is merged with the fading of memories; in our recollection, the past always lies behind layers and distortions.
Maria Duncker works diversely with sculpture, photography, video, performance and artistic interventions. She is an ever-curious experimenter, who utilizes materials innovatively and informally. The scale of Duncker's works extends from massive stone sculptures to lightweight folk costumes made from plastic bags. Her artistic interventions straightforwardly take on the cityscape and social situations: one example being a camera obscura tourist ride in a van, carried out together with her colleague, Vera Nevanlinna.
For the Mänttä Art Festival, Duncker has created an artwork playing with conceptuality titled Drama-Queen. The sculpture includes a replica of a gift Duncker gave to her friend. Earlier, Duncker had purchased a small diamond to adorn her tooth, but when it didn't suit its purpose, she gave it to her friend, Eeva. In the artwork, the luxury product is embedded in an apple. The diamond communicates with a decaying object that also represents an important foodstuff to people. In the future, clean food might be considered luxury products instead of the diamonds exalted to be forever.
Anna Estarriola is a media artist, whose art combines video art, sculpture, dance, performance and technology. Her works are often interactive installations, displaying technical skill combined with affectiveness and intimacy. Often the artworks include life-sized doll-like human figures with the artist's own face projected onto them. There is something magical about these installations. They may speak of loneliness, death or the finite nature of life. Estarriola creates art about the universal issues of humanity that we all seek answers to.
Estarriola's most recent installation depicts a moment of a performance. In the stage-like installation, an acrobat is balancing on a platform, where also the current side performer is waiting their turn. The artwork displays the performative elements of living.
Teuri Haarla is one of the pioneers of Finnish environmental art. His extensive oeuvre encompasses performances, video and community art, sculpture, drawing diaries, writing and site-specific art, the best-known example of which probably being Moulderness Park, a piece of land art created in 1993 at Ateneum Park. His more recent work includes a 17-metre tower. He has also developed his own spontaneous form of meditation called Biodrunk. According to Haarla, everybody's life is their own private research facility of happiness and sorrow.
Haarla's contribution to the Mänttä Art Festival is a small cabin built from spruce timber. The artwork, titled Teuri’s Amateurish Biodrunk Allows in the Hall All the Return of the Repressed, presents the three stages of Haarla's Biodrunk concept. Haarla ponders on the human era from the viewpoint of his own existence. Haarla asks if the age of human is over, the age of white man in particular, and wonders what might be his chances of "a kind of different existence."
Katriina Haikala is a visual artist, whose art is marked by fearlessness and the readiness to question set paradigms. She speaks up for free thinking, unchained by dogmas and traditions, and wants to use her art to reveal society's covert power structures. Haikala is especially interested in the challenges women face because of their gender. In her performative drawing workshop, Social Portrait, she puts women in the focus of portraiture. Her goal is to draw a total of 1,000 portraits of women by the end of 2020. Until now, powerful men have traditionally been the subjects of portraits. Haikala sees the role of the artist as an inspiration and encouragement to others. All this calls for a passionate relationship with creating art. Imagination and experimentation serve as sources for creativity.
Haikala's most recent work titled Réalisme tackles the sensitive subject of sex work. It gives a voice and a face to those who work in the field. Together with sex workers, Haikala has photographed new versions of known classic paintings where a nude woman is the object of the male artist's gaze. In the canon of art history, the models for these paintings were often prostitutes or labelled as such. In her new versions, Haikala has turned the tables: She is the naked object in the images, while the sex workers are depicted as clothed and powerful characters. Haikala's series of photographs include interviews of the people pictured and a text by academic researcher Niina Vuolajärvi.
Sanna Haimila is a visual artist whose main techniques are painting and drawing. She works intuitively: even if she doesn't exactly have the process mapped out at the start, she trusts her gut feeling and lets her work guide the way. For her, drawing and painting are sources for ideas. Haimila's themes stem from her own experiences. They depict such things as motherhood, relationships and grief. Recently, Haimila has been focusing on expressively painted female portraits. Haimila's skilful idiom and strong atmosphere make her artworks fresh and original.
Haimila's most recent series of paintings, Disturbing Factors, is based on selfie culture, where the person is trying to remove anything they see as 'wrong' from the photo. Although on the surface, the artworks look like self-portraits, they always have something threatening or disquieting about them. Even nature itself may feel distressing, as the piece titled Fog hints. In Visitor, beautiful lupines are in bloom, but ultimately, humans might be the worst invasive species of all.
Heli Hiltunen & Jorma Puranen
For the Mänttä Art Festival, Heli Hiltunen and Jorma Puranen are creating an installation together. In their solo works, both have used many techniques including photography and video. Heli has become known as a painter and visual artist, while Jorma has forged a long career in photography. Both have reflected on memory and recollection in their art, using various archives and collections as source materials for their work. Both have also created art from landscapes. Their art is connected by poetry and beauty.
The installation created by Hiltunen and Puranen for the Mänttä Art Festival combines photography, silkscreen printing and papercutting. The artwork is based on photographs of Werner Holmberg's classic landscape paintings. Combining the very faded photographs, metallic serigraphy surfaces and old engravings, Hiltunen and Puranen take the viewer to some unusual and menacing scenes. With references to art history and their own archives of found images, the artists create unexpected parallels that create new narrative contexts.
Roope Itälinna is a young painter from Turku. His photorealistic paintings fascinatingly play on the boundaries between reality and imagination. The artworks' meticulous details are counterbalanced with broader and more carefree strokes. Itälinna is interested in psychology, and his works often reflect upon different mindscapes. The mood in the pictures is intense, the persons living that one heartbeat of youth, yet often with their faces turned away from the viewer. The paintings exude the hope of youth, while tinged with an underlying melancholy about the finite nature of life.
In his latest paintings, Itälinna has portrayed his family and friends. In Weightless Drift, a young woman looks into the distance, surrounded by the infinite blue sky with a few drifting clouds. The carefree days of youth, melancholy and passage of time are merged with the infinity of space.
Renata Jakowleff is one of the most prominent young glass artists in Finland. She is an open-minded experimenter with a versatile approach to sculpting glass. For example, the fuzzy-like surface of her glass "fur rugs" deceive the viewer, making a hard object seem incredibly soft. Jakowleff is a magician creating miniature worlds that are vibrantly beautiful while possessing sharp and dark undertones. Her pieces are captivating and intriguing in their multidimensionality.
Jakowfleff's Daylight, Reflection painting, silver is a kind of a dismantled mirror and, on the other hand, a light painting borne from reflections. It does not mirror the object as a two-dimensional plane or a clear image but rather, through fragmentation, performs a sort of analysis on the light, displaying its character. Areas of brightness vary from black to full reflection and, in a way, the artwork ceases to exist as a physical object. The artwork highlights the instability of everything.
Timo Jokela has forged a long career in environmental and community art. The North is highly visible in his site-specific art. He is interested in art's relationship to a location, Northern peoples and residents. Jokela is consciously seeking to detach himself from the tradition of Western landscape art, which he sees as even colonizing over the North. In his work, he aims to bring forward the rich cultural, social and political interconnections of the North. His snow and ice installations as well as environmental and community artworks are connected with the ecosocial cultures of their locations in the Finnish Lapland and wider Arctic regions.
Jokela's most recent installation Forest Time does not refer to the forest as mere natural environment. In the artist's Northern home village, the phrase: "Let's go to the forest!" always signified the start of an activity: hunting, berry-picking and chopping wood, but also freedom away from the social scrutiny of the village. The forest connection held a certain reverence, stemming from the ancient Northern hunting culture: People asked the forest for their prey. The fragments of the installation refer to this disappearing tradition – the forms of everyday life that are in interaction with nature.
J.A. Juvani's artworks are carnivalistic and provocative installations skilfully employing different techniques. Video art is an essential part of his work. The aim of Juvani's installations is to have conflicting elements collide with each other. He plays with gender roles and identities, bravely putting himself in the frame without fear of being ridiculed. Still, his works also hold sensitivity and touching intimacy. Crossing boundaries and iconoclasm are important for him. Juvani states that the core of his art lies in drag and queer aesthetics, feminism, death, desire, love and, above all, comedy.
Juvani's contribution to the Mänttä Art Festival is a series of essay-like artworks, where non-binary gender and its aesthetics are ever-present. Stemming from personal experiences, Abdication refers to the relinquishing of the crown and position of power. Here, the artist explicitly disavows patriarchal masculinity. In the transgenerational male hegemony, he sees an oppressive and destructive force towards the rest of humankind and the planet. The era of men is over.
Minna Kangasmaa is an Oulu-based sculptor, who often sets out to create art from natural elements. Through the versatile use of materials, Kangasmaa reinterprets and rebuilds nature; sometimes with playful imitation, sometimes creating new, more conceptual wholes. The building materials of this reworked 'nature' may include stone, clay, plastic, porcelain, moving image, steel, concrete or copper. The carefully designed appearance of Kangasmaa's artworks speaks of the effect of humans and mankind on nature and the ecosystems.
Kangasmaa's recent works continue with her extensive series, Systema naturae. Kangasmaa seeks alternative ways to understand Earth as a meeting place for human and non-human life. She calls for empathy for other humans, animals, plants and everything on this planet. This would be the road to a new kind of understanding. Kangasmaa wonders if it is even possible to create art on nature's terms – the nature that surrounds and sustains us.
Sakari Kannosto is a sculptor with a brave approach to his topics. His large-scale artworks make an interesting use of recycled material and ready-made objects. His art reflects on consuming, the state of the environment and humans' connection to nature, but he doesn't shy away from more mundane topics such as family and relationships. Kannosto creates art from PVC, ceramics, bronze, fibreglass and found materials. His ceramic animal figures have made a particular impact on people. His most recent fish figures are strikingly fierce. They comment on mutations and the state of our natural waters.
Kannosto's most recent work, Riders of the Cursed Earth, opens doors to many directions. On one hand, the artwork is comprised of a construction resembling a drilling tower and, on the other, the hard hats referring to mining form a large bulbous structure – like a virus or a tumour. The huge ceramic earthworms refer to metamorphosis. Earthworms are usually signs of the soil's welfare, but on this scale, one can imagine a whole different story behind them.
Aimo Katajamäki is a visual artist, illustrator and graphic designer. His most characteristic techniques are woodworking, ceramics and gravure printing. His sculptures are delightful in their black humour. Their imagery borrows influences from pop culture, the animal kingdom and the gates of death; even the grimacing skulls seem human and frail. There is something moving about his sculpted figures: they seem to silently speak about the importance of the present moment and the finite nature of life.
In his recent wood sculptures, Katajamäki asks what is going on in the forest. The artworks feature the adventures of some ravens, a wolf and Little Red Riding Hood. The raven, often seen as the symbol of death, is in Katajamäki's art the backwoods intellect, messenger and totem animal, almost a humane character. The symbolism of fairy tales brings the ancient characters of the subconscious into light while leaving space for the viewers' own interpretations.
Kaija Kiuru is a sculptor from Lapland with a long career. The state of the environment and the connection between human and location have served as her long-standing main themes. In her sculpture installations, Kaija innovatively combines natural materials, everyday objects and nature references, creating new meanings and sometimes even strange connotations. She comments on people's power over nature while also searching for similarities between the two. Her artworks successfully play on the boundaries of the obvious and the unexplained. Trees with their diverse components are essential elements in her work.
Forcing Nature is comprised of pine marten skins attached to old lampshade frames. The skins are surplus material sourced from a Lapland artisan. In the installation, the pine marten symbolises nature, reworked and used by humans for their own benefit. Leaning and Backbone I-II also depict the power of humans. Here, gauze-wrapped trees have been chosen to symbolise nature. The series Dactylorhiza vulnerabilis combines photography and drawing. The images depict endangered marsh-orchid species found in the Viiankiaapa Mire nature reserve of Sodankylä, currently under threat from British company's mining venture.
Sunna Kitti is a young Sámi comics artist, illustrator and graphic designer. In 2018, she held an exhibition at the Sámi festival Márkomeannu in Norway, portraying the Sámi region a hundred years from now with the worst-case scenario having come true. In this dystopia, everything started with global warming, causing financial difficulties and creating instability in society. However, Kitti does not want to lose hope, but encourages us to seek the best possible future. At the moment, Kitti is working on a Sámi graphic novel due to be released in 2020.
For the Mänttä Art Festival, Kitti has created a new 10-page comic. It portrays the inner realities that the Sámi people live in, in the conflicting pressure of mainstream cultures. In the comic, two different realities have been built, both sides of the coin. On the reverse side, escapism is seen as means for survival. The artwork balances on the threshold between dream and reality.
Kaisu Koivisto is a versatile artist working with sculpture installations, photography, drawing and video. The core of her work lies at the interface of nature and culture. With her animal sculptures, Koivisto inspires us to think about how we look at animals. The materials for these endearing but also a bit frightening animal figures include galvanised steel, leather, fur, bones and glass eyes. The innocent gaze of Bambi isn't quite what it looks like: does it represent humans' inability to understand and respect natural processes? Koivisto acutely observes humans' impact on the Northern environment: how nature is turned into commodities and raw materials. She is inspired by fairy tales, stories and science fiction. In recent years, Koivisto has travelled the Baltic states, photographing the now abandoned Soviet military bases. Derelict buildings are crumbling, nature reclaiming its territory.
In her most recent sculptures, Koivisto has critically observed the instrumentalization of animals. She sees the stuffed hunting trophies as signs of defeat rather than victory. Koivisto's animal sculptures are beautiful, even enhanced versions of the original animal characters, while displaying references to danger and the destruction caused by humans.
Arto Korhonen is recognized for his large-scale watercolours, where he portrays in detail his everyday life, his friends, cityscapes and nocturnal highways. In his most recent works, he has taken on the theme of nature. Strong contrasts and powerful colours create a fairytale-like atmosphere in his forest motifs. Among the trees, what seem to be eyes are peering at us, nature observing us at all times. Even if the human species was to vanish off the Earth, nature will continue its existence, holding the seeds to new growth.
The artwork includes a painting of mirrored sunglasses reflecting a natural landscape, hinting at rejection and the fact that we might not hold up to nature's scrutiny. In Korhonen's art, nature has a spirit, perhaps even a soul. Even if the human species was to vanish off the Earth, nature would continue to exist. Korhonen has approached his theme more freely than before, without the careful sketching typical for him. Has the freedom perceived in nature transferred into Korhonen's painting?
Tuomas Korkalo uses various techniques in his art, from drawing and painting to installations and methods of social and environmental art. For him, learning and interaction are important parts of the working process. His artworks are very controlled. They reflect on topics like the properties of colour and light within a space. In his environmental art projects, Korkalo often starts from natural materials, continuing with recycled materials if necessary. Korkalo's artworks speak to the viewer with their playfulness and minimalism, while still containing a deeper life-contemplating quality.
Korkalo's installation titled The Protest, located on Taavetinsaari Island, is comprised of metallic figures mounted on a rock, that despite their small size, are vigorously expressing their opinions. About what, the viewer can only guess. Korkalo is interested in group dynamics, the strengthening of solidarity and loyalty to a community – as opposed to the exclusion of outsiders.
Nuutti Koskinen is a media artist, whose works transcend the boundaries of video installation, sculpture and animation. Often, they play on spatial and theatrical elements. Koskinen is interested in the conceptual structuring of communities, identities and nature as well as their ideological dimension. In his works, emotion and logic is often counterbalanced with the conscious and subconscious. Koskinen raises questions about how our relationship to society and the environment is formed guided by language and images, and how mythologies and power structures are conveyed through sensory and corporal experiences.
Koskinen's Talk About Society combines live action footage and photography-based animation. The work's starting point was political rhetoric that uses a lot of nautical vocabulary. For example, the society is referred to as 'a ship' and leadership as 'navigation'. A ship can have a single destination, but what about society, with its community character? The artwork is a beautiful, dream-like depiction of a world about to be shipwrecked. And yet, Koskinen does not lose hope. The work includes symbols of hope: merging, adapting and a chance to redefine our existence.
In her art, Sari Koski-Vähälä utilizes materials that we often think of as trash or surplus: chewed gums, hair, peels from squeezed fruit, old foam mattresses, used tights etc. Her work is marked by collecting, coincidence and sense of wonder. The recycled materials often yield new, sometimes humorous sculptures and compositions. Insignificant becomes significant.
For the Mänttä Art Festival, Koski-Vähälä has created an artwork resembling a raanu rug from thousands of rowanberries. It easily brings to mind genetics and molecules but can also refer to spiritual values with its rosary-like appearance. The material for Koski-Vähälä's second piece is used chewing gum, moulded into elaborate white roses.
Jouni Laiti is a master of Duodji, the Sámi handicraft. Duodji is more than just handicraft. The aesthetics and methods of contemporary Sámi art are partly based on the Duodji tradition. The skill of Sámi crafts bears influence on the Sámi people's sense of community, and these methods have been passed from one generation to the next. Knowledge of natural materials is key. In his most recent wood, bone and horn pieces, Laiti ventures into a more conceptual direction, letting some of his works take part in social dialogue. These pieces comment on the state of the world surrounding the Sámi people, and also the effects of the world situation on the Sámi region. Laiti aims to arouse emotions with his works; for him, this is a sign of their success.
In Eatnama bávččas (The Pain of the Earth), a rusty nail violently pierces a guksi cup adorned with reindeer horn. The skilfully made guksi is now ruined and unfit for use. The associations raised by the piece include mines that slice through reindeer pastures and lands within the ancient Sámi regions.
Sauli Miettunen is a sculptor, painter and environmental artist. He derives the shapes and materials of his sculptures from nature. In his environmental artworks, he is focused on the interaction of the sculptures with space and nature, as well as their cultural environment. Miettunen's art contains references to nature, such as animal vertebrae and trees, but on the other hand, the sculptures also display the impact of humans on nature. Nature cannot escape people. Miettunen's sculptures are surprising, inventive and skilfully crafted, a joy to the senses.
In his most recent environmental installation, Miettunen has built a suburb for birds on Taavetinsaari Island. Traditional bird's nests have been replaced with architectonic units made from wood fibre: birds' high-rises, rowhouses and bungalows. Some of the dwellings are square, while others resemble more traditional nests. Miettunen raises questions about birds' habitat loss. Perhaps the birds of the future will have modernized like humans, needing suburbs such as this artwork to live in.
Juhana Moisander's art is based on history, memory, mental imagery and fantasies. He uses photography and video to create site-specific installations that carefully consider the architecture of their location. He combines video projection, sound and objects into mysterious wholes: in the corner, a human figure may creep up on the viewer. A seemingly mundane situation of the projection may even feel a bit scary; there is often an inexplicable presence in the atmosphere. The mood is created from historical references down to the clothing: it is like seeing a ghost. These poetic artworks don't explain too much, but rather trust the viewer's own insight. They leave space for various interpretations.
Temptation of Saint Anthony, created by Moisander just in time for the Mänttä Art Festival, is based on a recurring topic in art history. Saint Anthony was a hermit living in the desert, who was tested by demons in the form of various temptations and inner visions. In his artwork, Moisander studies the inner struggles of an individual, where body and soul, mind and matter take each other on. Tormentors include urges and misfortunes that tear the person in different directions.
The Moratorium Office
A moratorium is the delay or temporary suspension of the execution of a law. The moratorium was originally declared in Utsjoki, the Tiirasaari Island of Deatnu (Teno/Tana) river. In the summer of 2017, a group of locals declared the waters surrounding Tiirasaari an area where the Finnish Government's fishing regulations no longer apply. Instead, a code based on Sámi common law was declared. The state's fishing agreement of the Deatnu River had restricted the traditional fishing methods of the local Sámi people and increased the rights of visitors. In the summer of 2018, The Moratorium Office was established in the Internet. It is a decolonialist service helping people with any self-determination issues of their regions. The members of The Moratorium Office are Niillas Holmberg, Jenni Laiti, Petra Laiti and Outi Pieski.
Arttu Nieminen is a Rovaniemi-based director and media artist who uses the Arctic nature as a starting point to his art. At times, nature presents to him as a self-aware entity, and sometimes as a mystical interface between the visible and the invisible. It can seduce the careless viewer into other worlds. Surrealism, intuition and coincidence guide Nieminen's work. The result is magnificent and experimental video art.
Nieminen's most recent video artwork, Awareness, is a surrealistic prophecy where people reach for the skies. Mark Pritchard's music repeats Biblical verses about the Tower of Babel, while the breath-taking images take us to the vast and snowy landscapes of the North.
Anna Niskanen is a young photographic artist who uses old printmaking methods in her work. The distorted landscape photographs have been printed into unique images on paper and fabric. She has shot her large landscapes in places like Iceland, where she was fascinated with the local folklore about the 'hidden people' (Huldufólk) who live in rock formations. Modern-day Iceland has maintained respect towards nature and supernatural beings. Niskanen visited places known for this tradition, as she wanted to feel the presence of the hidden people. Traces of these beings may be left in Niskanen's stunning artworks.
Niskanen's latest artwork, Vortex, has also been shot in Iceland. It is a study of stone and ice. The vortex pulls the viewer in to see nature's beauty which served as the impetus for the artist's working process.
Mari Oikarinen is a sculptor using a variety of materials, from wood to plants, embroidery and found objects. Her work is characterized by serial form, with stories, memory and passage of time as repeating themes. In addition to sculpting, she is attracted to drawing due to its straightforward and spontaneous nature. Oikarinen is interested in imperfection, strangeness and incompleteness: these themes are also cherished in her own artistic process. In recent years, nature has become an increasingly important theme in her work.
In Oikarinen's new sculpture installation, To the Bone and Marrow, the artificially bundled trees and branches also display human characteristics. We are all part of the same vulnerable structure; somehow crippled and a little wounded. Alongside violence and disfigurement walk cultivation, underpinning and eventually resuscitation. In Oikarinen's artwork, nature has been mended and reworked, much like when humans graft apple trees to breed them for various purposes. The installation can indeed be seen as nature's repair kit that doesn't necessarily always work.
Anu Osva has addressed themes such as interaction between people and animals in the Arctic Region. She emphasizes the partnership of humans and domestic animals; neither has to be relegated to a slave. Osva is trained as a painter, but also holds a university degree in animal breeding. These both sides emerge in her artistic work; she is also a member in the Finnish Bioart Society. Osva often builds complex installations using elements such as video projected over her paintings. Her art may also include references to genetics. At the moment, her focus is on plankton in the Arctic waters.
Osva's artwork titled Star Dust combines painting and video image. It displays the Yakutian cattle roaming under the infinite Siberian sky. The Yakutian cattle is genetically unique, the last native cattle breed in Siberia. Osva calls for the intrinsic value of animals, questioning humans' right to breed animals for their purposes. Osva's second work, Mother's Pearls II, depicts a large pearl necklace stored with genetic information about adapting to cold weather.
Paavo Paunu is a bold experimenter transcending the boundaries of painting and sculpture. His large installation-like artworks are abundant and often humorous, not shirking from the stranger sides of life. They spread out on a large scale, creating new dream-like spaces. The slightly off-kilter characters may be leaning in corners, with house-like structures built from reclaimed wood providing shelter. His paintings often feature a small male figure facing a manifold of challenges presented by nature. Emotions and the subconscious are present in Paunu's art.
In his work, Paavo Paunu trusts his intuition, his themes usually emerging from within the artwork during the working process. The sculpture created by Paunu for the Mänttä Art festival is gigantic, a ruggedly handsome portrait of a human being who, regardless of all the struggles, strives for something new – perhaps for balance or happiness. What remains is the serene smile of the enormous figure.
Emma Peura is a graphic and visual artist, who in her installations uses a wide variety of tools and techniques. She smoothly combines drawing, video and bricolage. Her art has commented on environmental issues such as the Lokka Reservoir in Lapland. Upon construction, the reservoir flooded not only the houses of Peura's relatives, but also most of Posoaapa, the largest string bog in Europe. Approximately 600 people were forced to leave their homes. Peura has studied the region's history from old maps and stories from his relatives. She used them to draw a new map, her interpretation. Pool depicts a place that no longer exists – except in memories. The artwork includes sound, with Peura's father telling a story about his family.
Outi Pieski's art is based on her roots in Utsjoki and the Sámi culture. Her art combines various contemporary art techniques and the traditional Sámi craft of duodji, an art in itself. For example, in Pieski's Čohkiideapmi (Falling Shawls), the tied fringes of Sámi dress shawls form a spatial installation. It may be seen symbolically as a gathering of people in Sámi dresses, or a safe haven, or it may be interpreted as an abstract landscape. Pieski works diversely with techniques like painting, drawing, video and photography. Her art is technically refined, poetic and beautiful, while demonstrating strength and power. Pieski has actively commented on topics such as the decolonization of Sámi culture and environmental issues in the Sámi region.
In the 2000s, the activism of indigenous people has yielded new laws and statutes. In New Zealand, the Whanganui River has been granted a legal personality: now, the representative of the river can defend it in court against such threats as mining companies. Pieski's series of paintings titled Rástegáisa lágalaš riektesubjeaktan (Sacred Mountain Rástegáisa as a Legal Person) portrays the Rástegáisa mountain, looming over the Deatnu River, as an equal fellow being to humans. The Sámi concept of the world has been traditionally animistic: All things in nature have a soul. Pieski brings these traditional views respecting nature forward in her art to counterbalance the Western world view.
Tamara Piilola's large, fabulous landscapes emit their own inner light. The water glints in the sunlight, the shadows merge into the darkness of the forest. Water elements are an essential part of her paintings. The artworks are not direct emulations of reality, but rather take the viewer somewhere beyond naturalism, to mindscapes. At the same time, the beauty of the paintings exudes comfort and mercy. Perhaps they are about longing for a lost paradise, a world where all was still well.
Piilola's series of paintings starts from the beauty of nature, expanding into multi-layered interpretations. For example, Earthlings takes us into a forest landscape. From beyond the trees, the viewer meets the gaze of Earth's other residents, the animals. This frozen moment takes the viewer on the cusp of a different kind of existence, outside the world of humans.
In his photography, Harri Pälviranta depicts identities, history, masculinity, violence and the memory of society. His works are often political, commenting on hot topics such as school shootings. He often utilizes historical archives. For example, in his project Military Dispatch, he uses as reference the 1941 book Vapautemme hinta (The Prize of Our Freedom) containing the photos and basic data of each Finnish soldier killed in the Winter War. Pälviranta's photographic art utilizes the documentary while delving into a more universal level, raising fundamental questions about the relationship between individual and society as well as covert structural violence.
In his latest work, The Price of Our Liberty, he uses as photographic reference the 1941 book Vapautemme hinta, containing the photos and basic data of each of the 26,662 Finnish soldiers killed in the Winter War. Pälviranta has scanned every photo from the book, combining them into a hundred lightbox prints. In this artwork, Pälviranta casts a critical look at the war's narrativization, hero myths and nationalism. 'The Spirit of the Winter War' is constantly invoked in all sorts of contexts in Finnish public discourse, with fallen soldiers being harnessed for political bandwagons.
In her art, Selja Raudas knowingly blurs the boundaries between rational and meditative thinking. Her most recent series of paintings studies global warming and the relationship between natural resources and conflicts through arctic ice and landscapes. The project included a residency in Greenland. According to Raudas, it is essential for us to understand that the melting of glaciers serves as an indicator to wider social changes, reaching ecosystems, economies and societies. Besides facts, people also form their views on the environment through emotions. Raudas wants her art to stir emotions and subsequently awareness of the consequences of the glacial melt.
As the population and demand for natural resources grow, so will the tensions between population groups. According to an estimate by The United Nations Environment Programme, since 1990 there have occurred 18 conflicts in the world with the scarcity of natural resources a contributing factor. Indeed, Raudas points out that curbing environmental disasters and global warming would also protect people from future conflicts.
Mammu & Pasi Rauhala
The works of the artist couple Mammu and Pasi Rauhala depict the home and relationship. Their life-long art project is called Bears All Things, which they have been working on since 2013. The project includes documenting their everyday lives and renovating an old house in their wedding attire. Even though wedding clothes symbolize a traditional ritual, they are allowed to breathe and get dirty, the marks of time are allowed to show. The project is documented in various ways, including various photography series. They finely manifest the project's absurd, silent comedy with references to Kaurismäki and Twin Peaks. There are even associations with the paintings of the Golden Age of Finnish Art, such as Eero Järnefelt's motifs depicting everyday people.
Mammu and Pasi Rauhala's second art project titled Hanging in there refers to not just the relationship but also the environment. The couple is "hanging in there" while the world is changing. Are we capable of change at the face of global challenges, or will everything eventually revolve around our small sphere of everyday life? In the miniature sculptures on display in Mänttä, the couple in their wedding clothes is gradually destroyed during the course of the exhibition: water and bacteria ravage the figures made from soap and bronze. Behind life lurks the evanescence of all things.
Pasi Rauhala works with media and multidisciplinary art. His works make use of interactivity and the latest media art techniques, but also recycled materials and nostalgic paraphernalia. His themes include the relationship between truth and falsehood in the ever-increasing information flow. Truth seems to have been muddled beneath the apparent equivalence of facts and opinions. Artificial intelligence and virtual worlds challenge our perceptions of reality. These, ultimately philosophic issues are what Rauhala studies in his artworks.
Rauhala's most recent artwork titled Concrete Pixel is an interactive video installation. It comments on how humans transform nature, filling it with things like concrete, and how nature eventually claims the space back. The installation ponders on the differences between the physical and the digital worlds; the artificial landscape seems natural, even more beautiful than the real one. The presence and actions of the viewer transform and even damage it. The world is perfect only when no one is looking. As soon as a human turns their gaze on it, it disintegrates. The human being is the destructive force.
Johanna Rojola is a renowned comics artist and all-rounder as well as a visual artist. She likes the speed of the comics medium; it enables the artist to react quickly on hot topics. Comics also have built-in anarchism: basically anyone can start drawing a comic strip with just a pen and paper without investing in expensive tools and materials. During her career, Rojola has created political and societal comics without sacrificing her humorous and witty touch. Her current interests include freehand drawing.
In her childhood, Rojola lived in Haapavesi, known for its peat production. The local district heating worked on peat, and the soot would blacken the snow during wintertime. For the Mänttä Art Festival, Rojola has recreated her childhood memory of a peat bog, a wall piece titled Carbon Sink. Natural bogs are important carbon sinks. Even though less than three percent of Earth's surface area is bogs, they store more carbon than all of the world's forests combined.
Johanna Rotko approaches art and photography via microbiology. She photographs people's faces and, using UV lights, exposes the images onto microbiological petri dish substrates. She grows yeast in the petri dishes, making the exposed photographs ever-changing, moving images: yeastograms. The philosophical questions raised by Rotko's art concern humans' connection to nature, evanescence, cycles of matter and the concept of time in a photograph. The yeastograms highlight the transitory nature of our existence and the cycle of matter in the universe.
The image source for Rotko's project titled Living Images, Yeastograms has mostly been century-old cartes de visite. The portraits exposed onto the substrates change constantly, eventually disappearing as mould takes over the petri dish. Afterwards, the artworks are compostable. In her relationship with nature, Rotko has settled upon a biocentric world view, where people do not put themselves above nature.
Elina Ruohonen is a painter, whose vivid and unapologetic artworks are oil on transparent plexiglass base. The reflective plexiglass adds layers to the paintings, bringing the viewer in as part of the painting. In her recent works, Ruohonen has studied the human-animal relationship, mutations of living beings and a possible future where flora and fauna have taken over from humans, leaving people having to adjust to this strange new society. With these artworks, Ruohonen wants to focus on how the life of many beings would improve, if people started to deliberately correct their remaining actions with other species in mind.
Ruohonen's most recent painting series comments on the age after global warming. Our view of the future is reflected on the choices we are making at this moment. Tickets, please! asks what kind of values people use to redeem their spots in the Noah's Arks of tomorrow. The paintings offer glimpses of melting glaciers, jungles and boats as symbols of transition. However, Ruohonen does not lose hope, but believes that young people are capable of making wiser choices than the earlier generations.
Panu Rytkönen is a skilled sculptor, who works on his time-consuming wooden sculptures for many years. The artworks often touch upon the mystery of death and loss. Their animal motifs, such as horses, are also interlaced with the omens of death. Rytkönen often incorporates historical documents, such as old books, into his exhibitions. These texts add to the thematic context of the sculptures, starting with maybe a theological speculation on how to get to Heaven. Rytkönen's artworks do not explain, but silently speak their own language, mesmerizing the viewer with their understated irony and beauty.
Rytkönen's multi-part installation, The Heavenly Footman, reflects on the mystery of death through, among other things, idiom referring to the baroque. The storied funeral procession of Mozart is haunting in the background, horses carrying their load into the world beyond and a dog transformed into a wolf running along on the final journey. Is death the end of everything?
Alexander Salvesen is a visual artist and lighting designer who also works in performance art and music. Salvesen gets his inspiration from nature and its beauty; the forms of the landscape, the hues, lights and shadows. Light is one of his painting techniques. The intangible nature of light holds an endless fascination to Salvesen - he just can't touch it. In his art, Salvesen plays with the subjectivity of the viewer's perception and senses: he may combine light art with traditional pigment painting. He poses the viewers a question: What they are actually looking at and what do they only think they are seeing? What's more, Salvesen doesn't shy away from political or socioeconomic issues in his art.
The theme of Salvesen's diptych, Centre of Our Universe, is water. Images displayed by overhead projectors are compared with not only polar caps, but also the balance of water and ice and its disruption. The silent installation with its slowly moving images raises questions about our future on this Earth.
Iiu Susiraja's art is moored in the tradition of the photographic portrait but approaches this tradition from a wholly original viewpoint. Her photographs are rife with humour, courage, shamelessness, absurdity and incredible inventiveness. Susiraja's portraits challenge the polished selfie culture that only show the subject's surface and nothing more. Her performative videos continue with this theme. In clear daylight, in a very expressionless manner, Susiraja brings to us secret desires, those embarrassing things that subdue our courage. Using her own body, Susiraja insightfully portrays womanhood and the demands and clichés attached to it.
Susiraja's contribution to the Mänttä Art Festival includes a series of three photographs where the deadpan artist has taken on household duties traditionally seen as women's chores. In Susiraja's poses, these everyday events gain anarchistic and rebellious interpretations, while displaying Susiraja's signature warm humour. The same themes continue in Susiraja's video art, also on display.
Nestori Syrjälä works with sculpture, installations and video. The themes of his art are the Anthropocene, ecological crises and alternative futures. In recent years, his works have addressed the threat of human impact to nature. The earth, air and seas around us are becoming alien, strange. People are altering the geological state of Earth. Syrjälä wants to rethink forms of sculpture and art as the state of emergency of our environment escalates. He asks, if the position of humans among other living and non-living beings could be remapped. Could it be possible to shift towards a more environmental-friendly, non-anthropocentric philosophy?
The conceptual doormat created by Syrjälä for the Mänttä Art Festival is based on the first clear photograph of Earth taken from space. The Blue Marble image is one of the most reproduced photos of all time, and in the 1970s it served to raise environmental awareness. For the first time, humans saw their planet as a distant, beautiful and finite sphere as opposed to the muddy and bumpy land we usually see. The sublime and the squalid, art and mundane, mud and outer space meet in a titillating way.
Artist Collective KUNST
The Artist Collective KUNST are Christina Holmlund, Pia Paldanius, Sirpa Päivinen, Anu Suhonen and Julia Weckman. The collective has become known for multidisciplinary and performative exhibitions and events. Video and sound installations, photography and performances form the backbone to their art. The collective's work is marked by humour and unexpectedness, making the artworks playful and participatory.
Final Tours is Artist Collective Kunst's performative social sculpture. Kunst will build an end-of-days travel agency offering people a chance to save themselves from the apocalypse. When filling up an application form to an eternal luxury cruise, the travel agency's algorithms select cabin class and placement. The travel agency complete with a reception desk operates as a theatrical space, where the exhibition guests take part in creating the artwork.
Berit Talpsepp-Jaanisoo is a sculptor whose recent works are classical figurative sculptures modelled after historically significant artworks. Talpsepp-Jaanisoo has been interested in fantasies aroused by inanimate objects, which the lifeless sculpture can't reciprocate in any other way than by its presence. The sculpture is still able to trigger emotions and reactions in the viewers. According to Talpsepp-Jaanisoo, the complete indifference and inaccessibility of the sculpture subvert the normal dynamics: the sculpture i.e. the object starts to control the situation. In these artworks, Talpsepp-Jaanisoo combines photography with sculpture, enabling her to study new meanings of classical sculptures, as they take on the characteristics of photographs. The photographic features humanize the sculptures, yet still preserving their inaccessibility.
In The Sphinx, Talpsepp-Jaanisoo studies the ritual and religious significance of an iconic sculpture. At the same time, the sphinx is a self-portrait of the artist; she has combined a sculpture of herself with the appearance of a hare. Strength and the air of mystery are still present. In The Caryatides, Talpsepp-Jaanisoo replicates classical antiquity's sculpted female figures that supported the structures of the temples like columns. The caryatids have been designed digitally and cut from everyday styrofoam instead of marble.
Jaakko Tornberg works with sculpture, painting, drawing and photography. In recent years, he has worked extensively with miniature sculptures, which he makes from debris and waste materials. Something new is created from castoffs. The figures made this way are humorous and endearing, but also somehow tragic. Each figure is its own personality: one seems a bit lost, another blustering with a sense of power, the third raising its hand in a happy hello. They display the gamut of life, from the average Joes to robots and cherubs.
For the Mänttä Art Festival, Tornberg has created miniature sculptures parodying luxury. They constitute their own tiny population, glimmering in shades of gold and silver. There are all types of characters in the group, including animal figures and royalty. They are enigmatic, even primitive, each with their own personality. The viewer could spend endless hours investigating the crazy world they create.
In her minimalistic sculptures, Aiko Tsukahara studies the future of humankind and space. She seems to raise the question if humans will eventually have to evacuate into artificial worlds, clinical chambers in the infinite space. On the other hand, these same bunker-like structures are already being used in military architecture. Boundaries are blurred; humans are absent from Tsukahara's miniature worlds. Is this a post-human era or maybe another civilization? Tsukahara's materials include ceramic powder, quartz and wood.
Tsukahara's Neoclassicism is based on the Parthenon Temple on the Acropolis of Athens, which is seen as one of the symbols of the Western civilization. She has created a miniature-like sculpture of the Parthenon, carefully replicating the dimensions of the building in scale. Unlike the original, Tsukahara has filled her Parthenon entirely with columns. The unadorned columns take the viewer's thoughts to the modern age: The human race strives for outer space with its technology, but it can also harness this technology as a tool for destruction.
Samppa Törmälehto is a gifted painter, whose artworks are eventful in the vein of slapstick humour. Rockets shooting through the sky, monster trucks barrelling, computer gimmicks, wrestling with an octopus etc. Strange mishaps of everyday life follow each other in a popular culture setting. Everything takes place in splashy bright colours, fuelled by an expressive painting technique. The subjects are portrayed with tender humour, as not everything goes as planned and some harder obstacles might be come across along the way. Törmälehto feels his working process should be fun, which shows in the pictures and also cheers up the viewer.
Törmälehto's most recent paintings for the Mänttä Art Festival are satirical observations on the relationship between humans and nature. Humans have created chaos, which the animals featured in the paintings seem to comment with scathing irony. From the paintings, everyday human life is rolled out at us, from Lidl plastic bags to beach vacations, seasoned with a boldly twisted attitude.
Jussi TwoSeven is a visual artist with a background in graffiti and street art. He painted his first graffiti as a teenager in mid-90s and has been actively pursuing this artform ever since. In his elegant, photorealistic artworks, he uses stencil technique and acrylic spray paint. Environmental themes are close to his heart, and he has brought them to life in his public artworks featuring animals. It is his way of bringing nature, forest and wild animals into cityscapes.
For the Mänttä Art Festival, Jussi TwoSeven has created a multi-part artwork, Vulpes Vulpes, which is also visible in the townscape. The fox head paintings spread out from street utility boxes all the way to Pekilo's wall, also in the form of moving image. The art brings this familiar animal closer to humans and reminds us of nature that is only a stone's throw away from the developed environment – right behind the supermarkets and bicycle paths.
Hanna Vihriälä is a versatile sculptor who plays with scale in many of her works: The artwork is comprised of smaller individual parts which, when viewed from a distance, form a larger image with a whole new meaning. These single parts may be pieces of candy or macadam, which give up their identity for the larger image. Vihriälä wants to play with shapes and thus study concepts such as the boundary separating a painting from a relief. Shadows and reflections hold important roles in her art. Many of her artworks demand a great deal of handicraft and repetition, in spite of their apparent levity. Vihriälä has indeed noted that this manifests the presence of the human in her works.
Vihriälä's installation Pyhäjoki, Still Water, is made of thousands of white wreath ribbons which are usually printed with funeral tributes. Hanging from the ceiling, the blank ribbons form the bottom profile of the Pyhäjoki River. Vihriälä is from Ostrobothnia, and this river is part of her family history. The generational chain is present in the artwork, exuding the silence and the powerlessness felt by humans at the face of death and other changes. The artwork is dedicated to Vihriälä's father who, before his death, hoped to once more hear the sound of the Pyhäjoki River.
Camilla Vuorenmaa works with painting, graphics and drawing. She paints human figures, trying to capture the moment when they are alone, separate, or joining a group. Vuorenmaa avoids hyperbole; she is interested in the stirrings of the inner world of the model. She collects ideas for her paintings from magazines, books, popular culture and her own photo archive. The stories relating to the details in the images are important to her. In recent years, woodcuts have been an essential part of her painting process. Her artworks are wild, even scary, but also meditative and ambiguous.
Vuorenmaa's painting installation for the Mänttä Art Festival outwardly resembles a cathedral glowing with stained glass windows. However, its grotesque UV-painted figures go on their worldly ways. Heavenly and earthly come together.