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Things We Lost In The Fire



Jani Leinonen
March 12- April 25, 2021


If dark times can help anyone transform into something new, they certainly have done so with artist Jani Leinonen. The artist famous for his exploding colors and humorous viewpoints has taken a turn to the abyss. And it is dark in there.

In his new exhibition at Zetterberg Gallery, Leinonen is putting on display destroyed objects that he has collected from buildings that have burned down in accidental fires or arsons. The exhibition is visually and conceptually one of the grimmest exhibitions by the artist, almost completely black, with only glimpses of color sparkling in the corners of some of the pieces. There is a slight scent of cinder in the air – reminding us that the works have truly been ruined by fire.

The exhibition view is dominated by two large religious-looking sculptures. The biggest one is an oddly familiar round shape, with breathtaking ornaments that have partially collapsed in the fire. It does not take long to realize that the shape is the rose window of the church of Notre Dame that burned in 2019.

Leinonen is known for implementing thought-provoking texts in his artworks. However, this exhibition is an exception. The practically pitch black exhibition only contains one clearly readable sentence: “forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”. The words of Jesus are engraved into a wooden window frame of a church in East Village, New York, that burned down last year.

Next to the religious iconographies, there are also national, financial, and cultural symbols of prosperity – all burned to ashes. A golden coat of arms of Finland, a fancy Goldman Sachs’ corporate sign, and a decorative mirror from a bourgeois home have all incinerated in fires around the world. This obscurity in the history of the objects gives us no clues whether we should feel loss or empowerment for the annihilation of these objects. Perhaps it is best to feel both. Sadness with a glee, anger with compassion, confusion with a hint of satisfaction for these symbols of power being obliterated so beautifully. It feels like some of the objects deserve to be burned, but for others, it feels like sacrilege.

Leinonen’s Things We Lost in The Fire opens at the same time as the artist’s impressive installation The Truth at Serlachius Museum. Leinonen has constructed a miracle inside the museum by bringing a burned-down chapel with miraculously intact and colorful stained glass windows. The works at Zetterberg Gallery continue where the museum show ends, making the stories behind these burned buildings and objects deeper, more complicated, and more real. Leinonen leaves us with more questions than answers.

After years of emphasizing his agenda, it seems that Leinonen has learned not to point it out, leaving us to decide for ourselves what will arise from these ashes. It doesn’t make the viewers’ task any easier, or more comfortable, but perhaps it makes it more interesting.


As gods of fire we walk the earth

The titan Prometheus stole the divine fire from the Olympus and gave it to humans. Fire was civilization, fire was creation, but fire was also destruction. Fire was control and independence, fire was chaos and fear. Fire was development, opportunities and new forms of arts and skills. For receiving this gift, humankind was punished with all the misfortunes and diseases of the world and was thrown out of paradise, to never again walk alongside the gods, the moment Pandora’s jar was opened.

At the bottom of the jar, there was hope. The hope emerged as a consequence of the fire.

With fire, humans began to burn the earth, the air, the animals, and each other. We surpassed the gods – then we forgot about them. Wars and revolutions are born out of fire. One thing perishes and burns out in favor of something new. We are driven by burning hatred, by burning dreams, by burning hope. No longer do we associate fire with opportunities and creation. Today, the fire of creation is hidden behind factory walls and in machines, so we no longer see it. And so, we no longer pay any special attention to it. Today we see the fire in burning cars and forests, in rebellion and indifference. Fossil and dying.

We burn our candles at both ends.
We burn mark each other.
We burn bridges.
We burn out.
We burn off.
We burn down.

Then it all turns black and quiet. Until we find hope at the bottom of the jar – until a new titan enables us to surpass the gods again.

Out of the ashes grows new life. Metamorphosis is a frightening thought, and that something is going to die is a terrifying thing. We do not know what comes after the fire. What burns gives life to the soil and from the ashes the ancient Phoenix bird arises. Nothing can last forever, neither nations, banks, nor religions. Mythologies create narratives that give us a sense of unity, meaning, and purpose. We believe devotedly, if not in one, then in the other. We firmly believe while seeming to have forgotten about hope. Mythologies emerge, live, and die. What we once believed in, is now a superstition, and what we believe in today will one day raise eyebrows. We are all going to die and perish, and our thoughts and spoken words will disappear. Yet, hope will live on. Like the burning love for life that we cling to. But what is formed in the fire, in the heart, will endure – as will art.

Erlend G. Høyersten
Director at ARoS
Aarhus Ultimo February Anno Domini 2021

Jani Leinonen – The Truth

Jani Leinonen’s long-awaited solo exhibition The Truth will open at Serlachius Museum Gösta on 27 March 2021. For the show, the artist has created a magical installation implemented using centuries-old stained-glass techniques, offering its visitor a plunge into the long history of propaganda and manipulation – and the colorful present. 

The exhibition will also reunite Leinonen and world-famous street artist Banksy after six years, as Banksy’s show A Visual Protest opens at the museum in mid-May 2021 and will be overlapping with Leinonen’s exhibition for three months. In 2015, Banksy invited Leinonen to exhibit at his Dismaland Bemusement Park -show in Weston-super-Mare, UK.

“It’s a showcase for the best artists I could imagine, apart from the two who turned me down.” – Banksy

Read more about the exhibition at www.serlachius.fi

Illusions of Certainty

Zetterberg Gallery is pleased to open its program of 2021 with the group exhibition Illusions of Certainty presenting works by Riikka Hyvönen, Mari Keto and Jani Leinonen. 

The world of ideas, the world of reason, started to develop through a vast European intellectual movement during the 17thand 18th centuries. The Age of Enlightenment, or siècle des Lumières or Aufklärung as known in French and German, created the independently capable, thinking human being. Affecting all of philosophy, politics and art, Enlightenment came to connotate an era of reason as the main impetus for the improvement of the human condition. The enlightened individual ignited the strive towards French Revolution, that eventually lead to the foundations of modern Western democracy and as such the origins of modernity. 

However, the reason of the enlightened individual may be defeated. It seems the legacy of reason keeps turning the ideas of human intellect into illusions. Into superior ideas of position, into features of arrogance, exploitation and greed, igniting processes leading towards the escalating climate crisis. And yet again, affecting all of philosophy, politics and art. 

Presenting takes on the Illusions of Certainty, Riikka Hyvönen, Mari Keto and Jani Leinonen show a keen interest in a variety of materials and how they gain conceptual lives through artistic manipulation and creation. 

I find profound analogy to the current human condition with Leinonen’s carved statement The Forest (2020) “The Forest was shrinking but the Trees kept voting for the Axe for the Axe was clever and convinced the Trees that because his handle was made of wood he was one of them”. Leinonen processes a multitude of materials while incorporating his artistic thinking onto the sculptural statement surfaces. Wood’s history with the development of human skills and society building can be seen eternal. Our lives and our societies are founded on this material we keep destroying and demolishing, as we would be dismantling our own livelihoods, surroundings and futures. Just as we have done with the human reason, the individual intellect and the trust for its possibilities and relevance. We are the axes for our own existence. 

As an art material, wood dates to African and Pre-Columbian artistic practices and associates with craft. Something that Mari Keto is exploring through her techniques. Keto’s Moribund (2020) unites a circle of rhodinated bronze butterflies. As customary to her practice, Keto combines the commonplace with the magical. The circular form of the butterflies refers to unity and eternity. Is Keto suggesting a metamorphosis of humanity, a four-staged life cycle that we have lost? Maybe the illusion is the beauty that is built on a long-term growth, not visible to the selective, beauty desiring eye. 

Regenerating methods of sculpting wood originate from the Renaissance. Riikka Hyvönen employs a variety of conceptual and technical approaches to the material. Hyvönen’s Jeezus striker (2016), is part of her famous Roller Derby Kisses series. Hyvönen’s sculptural paintings portray a niched achievement. The massive leather elements show momentary marks that have gained meaning among a community of roller derby enthusiasts. By doing so, Hyvönen partakes in the definition of an icon. Here an icon is not a character but a part of unique visual culture with physical, momentary connotations. With this portrayal, Hyvönen reminds us that every community forms its own language, whether visual or physical. 

Jani Leinonen is true to his own practice by always developing his ideas further through different works, through different times. The headstone pieces are something he carries along with this process maybe more conceptually, rather than methodologically. Leinonen’s fascinating new element is glass and mosaic art. Yet another art historical reference, mosaic was a fan favorite in the Ancient Roman world, dating back in Mesopotamia in the 3rd millennium BCE. For his glass works, Leinonen collaborates with Mayer’sche Hofkunstanstalt, founded in 1847 and works with historic, restoral technique. Leinonen’s Love (2020) is a stained glass piece reminiscence of a headstone. He asks us to burry the Love. All of it. Rakkaus. Amore. Amour. Kärlek. Liebe. All gone. It is refreshingly contradictory to the exhaustive demands – personal and societal – to find true love, or any. 

Leinonen’s statement Untitled (2020) does not let us off that easily. Leinonen reminds us, that we will never be freed from our own making. The only thing certain is our sentence, the climate crisis, that is for the future generations to serve. As the Illusions of Certainty, Leinonen is suggesting a reversal of expectations. 

But back to where we started in Paris, a morning of 1792. The citizens woke up to the overthrown statue of Louis XVI. The multi-year process of the French Revolution was coming to its culmination. Preconceived truths about status, power and position were rejected. Icons and symbols were destroyed. The enlightened individual gained power over the elites and economic and political institutions. Idea and reason became the means and the medium towards oppressive regimes. A legacy some of us have chosen to preserve. In philosophy and politics, and in art as methodologically suggested by Hyvönen, Keto and Leinonen.

Text by Aura Seikkula

Fragility



Aaron Heino, Mari Keto & Jani Leinonen
September 11-October 4, 2020

Jani Leinonen, Fragility, 2020

“Why does something happen, rather than nothing?”

Jean-François Lyotard’s question of anything happening has become ever more pertinent. The question of why is unavoidable. Yet we have failed to answer it, far too long. We must argue not only for ourselves but for the world. 

In the exhibition Fragility, a multitude of textures and surfaces explore the ground of uncertainty and the future we have destroyed for ourselves. Almost like a pathway through turbulence the works lead the viewer towards a growing discomfort. This discomfort is by no means an aesthetic one but loaded with awareness. Like a surge of texture, the exhibition portrays Fragility more as a question rather than an answer of its forms. Aaron Heino, Mari Keto and Jani Leinonen all negotiate something that may answer “Why does something happen, rather than nothing?” but remains for the viewer to decide. 

As a sculptor, Aaron Heino positions himself observing everyday subject matters and their mundane details, while drawing meaning from organic shapes and natural phenomena. Heino’s A Natural feature (2018, Black granite) is a toxic deal. Yet again, Heino utilizes process-oriented treatments of his material, which gain an organic form. The classic material of black granite is strikingly delicate in depicting a slice of a citrus and its draining flesh. As if awaiting to be noticed its deceasing components, the citrus looks delicious in its sparkling detail. Heino’s sculpting is seemingly meticulous and impressive in its thoroughness. Combining something so weighty with something so delicate and juicy, grounds for impossibility but Heino succeeds in depicting the essence of the fruit, to the finest particle.

Working through symbols, iconographies and marketing strategies, Jani Leinonen invites us inside a deceptively ordinary material, wood turned – or should I say burned – into charcoal. Leinonen’s Sorry (2020, Burned wood) stares back at the viewer, remarkably black. The organic surface of the work is enchanting. It is still alive. The burned entity preserves in detail the features of the wood it once was, even highlighting them.Inside the artwork, the material exists simultaneously through its art historical references; both as a sculptural material and a drawing implement, scripting out a statement. By framing the charcoal, Leinonen proposes to view it like its molecular relatives, diamonds.

Leinonen’s connotations are manifold. While urging us to consider the global marketing tactics, he is suggesting something more acute. The practice of coal burning has, ever since the 18th century, had a significant role in the deforestation of central European landscapes. Accordingly, the escalating environmental crisis has its origins in the warming of the atmosphere, caused by ever increasing carbon emissions. Like so many of our everyday materials, charcoal has come to connotate crisis over progress. 

While one cannot ignore the environmental references, Leinonen’s other works in the exhibition, Fragility (2020, handmade glass and plaster sculptured on wood) and Magic Carpet (2020 printed carpet), navigate his thinking into other prevailing directions. As repeatedly experienced, the time of a crisis has throughout the history prompted systematic destruction of relevant cultural artefacts, art, literature and anything significant depicting humanity. An ideological crime has provoked removal of statues portraying a position of prominence. Leinonen seems to participate in this political bewilderment by creating a mosaic of a president. A statesman in pieces among the pieces of their alikes. Written on a Magic Carpet, Leinonen asks us whether “You want the Truth or something Beautiful?” As if a truth was a possibility in the fragile, fragmented world of multiple truths. While negotiating the truth is historically philosophical, Leinonen positions it within the political. Again, asking of the not happening, Leinonen reminds us that our truths are individual. 

Mari Keto builds her pop art aesthetics immaculately with jewelry material. Her works are composed of diamonds, crystals, pearls and stones. Keto’s Smile now Cry later (2020, Acrylic stones, mdf, silk) is a portrait of the decay. Something that even in its eyeful increases the discomfort brought forth at the exhibition’s entry space. We are about to fall from the edge of capitalism. The hypocrisy and absurdities of capitalism suggested by Leinonen, gets a crying crown jewel at Keto’s service. Yet again, interestingly, the skull connotations are manifold. As a motif, it spans cultures and histories. Whereas pre-Colombian American artists encrusted skulls with precious stones, Keto seems to impeach decadence, with her natural sense of irony, of course.

Understanding, or accepting even more so, the fragility of the human condition is inevitable. The poetics of future losses embodied by the works, and the fragility they suggest, is profound. 

Quote: Jean-François Lyotard. Flash Art, #121, March 1985

Text by Aura Seikkula

Censorship in the Tatxo Benet Collection

Jani Leinonen’s McJesus is included in the exhibition Línies Vermelles – Censorship in the Tatxo Benet Collection at La Panera Art Center in Lleida, Catalonia.

The exhibition brings together a selection of pieces from the Tatxo Benet Censored collection that all have, at some point, been banned for political, religious, or moral reasons. The show aims not only to influence the visualization of the atrocities that, for various reasons, have been hidden in different parts of the world, yet to visualize, as a challenge, the censorship itself as an atrocity. More than a ghost from the old totalitarian regimes or the remote Holy Inquisition, the complexity that censorship presents in contemporary societies makes it necessary to refine our understanding of its multitude of faces.

A good part of the works that can be seen in La Panera has been censored for religious reasons, including Jani Leinonen’s McJesus, which was removed from the Haifa Museum in Israel last year as a result of violent protests by the Christian community.

The exhibition is on display from September 26, 2020 -January 10, 2021.

Read more about the exhibition at: www.lapanera.cat/es

Intersect Aspen 2020

Zetterberg Gallery is pleased to announce its participation in the first edition of Intersect Aspen, an online art fair replacing Art Aspen, which will be live from July 22-26, 2020. 

The gallery will present a selection of works by Jani LeinonenAurora ReinhardRiikka HyvönenMari Keto and Joonas Kota.

The online viewing rooms open to VIPs Wednesday, July 22, at 11 am (EST), and to the public Wednesday, July 22 at 1:59 pm (EST). Intersect Aspen will be accessible at www.art-aspen.com