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.
Illusions of Certainty
Riikka Hyvönen, Mari Keto & Jani Leinonen
January 15- February 14, 2021
The Things We Lost In the Fire
March 12- April 11, 2021
“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.
Zetterberg Gallery is proud to present Jani Leinonen’s long-awaited stained glass works for the first time in Finland. With the exhibition Lies, Lies, Lies, Leinonen transforms the gallery into a shrine of light, color, and reflection.
Nothing but the Untruth // Jani Leinonen
Stepping inside Lies is a mystical experience. With dim lighting, dancing rays of light and reflections, it has the look and feel of a place of worship. Stained glass, a tradition firmly rooted in Christianity in the European context, is the dominant feature. Christian churches are not exactly reputed for their honesty, but Leinonen’s focus is not on the lies of the Church as such. According to the artist, European culture is rooted in Christianity, and that culture has a long history of deceit. Our post-truth era problems are firmly grounded on this history. Inside this little sanctuary, the artist is preaching us to think critically. Perhaps an oxymoron, perhaps on purpose.
On a closer look, the works combine ancient religious iconography with the styles and shapes of contemporary advertising. The artist harnesses the millennia-old methods of stained glass and mosaic for the purposes of today. It is no wonder the impression is holy, for the delicate craftsmanship of these works has been produced inside the walls of Franz Mayer of Munich, Inc. A rare surviving institution of European craftmanship that also produces stained glass work for the Vatican.
The title piece of the exhibition, a herd of corporate and institutional logos where names have been replaced with lies adorn what appears to be a large stained-glass window with colourful medieval ornaments. A question formed of more logos floats on top of it all: How Many Different Ways the Same Lies Can Be Told?
True to his affection for the popular, Leinonen has borrowed this sentence from a source no more noble than the first of Donna Leon’s highly successful crime novels set in Venice, Death at La Fenice (1992). In it, commisario Guido Brunetti enquires about his wife Paola’s habit of reading a different newspaper each morning without any loyalties to a set political leaning or even a language. It is part of Paola’s answer that we see reflected on glass here: “I want to see how many different ways the same lies can be told”.
Leinonen takes this question seriously. “Despite utopian forecasts about the democratization of information and power, not much has changed for the better. Governments, political parties and corporations in power still control information and disinformation. Politics, media and other institutions of power are all complicit in the crisis of democracy we are currently facing.”
As if to keep up with the times of information overflow, the works are an overflow of colour, light and mixed messages. Yet, a type of unexpected harmony emerges out of all this. Lies is an eclectic space for reflection.
Text by Carmen Baltzar
Zetterberg Gallery is pleased to present Joonas Kota’s third solo show at the gallery with the exhibition Anomalies. With painting as his main medium, Joonas Kota (b. 1976) is distinguished for his meticulous work and attention to detail. Kota’s works, all borderline between abstract and figurative, often creates parallel realities and drifts between the fragility of the momentary and timelessness. Kota graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki in 2003 and is represented in both private and public collections, including KiasmaMuseum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki Art Museum – HAM and E.W. Ponkala Foundation’s collection. The artist lives and works in Helsinki.
Always a Storm Away // Joonas Kota
Text by Aura Seikkula
As a focal, metaphysical idea of human knowledge, transcendence implies a new, third meaning. The actual possibility of knowing, and retroactively knowing if one knew. Jean-Paul Sartre’s positioning gains meaning in an object-oriented world. In Being and Nothingness (1943/1956) Sartre states “Consciousness is a being such that in its being, its being is in question insofar as this being implies a being other than itself.” This itself, the consideration of its being, has brought meaning to Joonas Kota’s artistic practice.
Kota’s oeuvre revolves around three elements: the symbolic reality, the reality in itself and the transcendental. Here, as for Sartre, the transcendental third element is the actual meaning creating agency. In his earlier works, Kota proposed how an abstracted forest turns into a virtual scape, how a diamond reflects fractions of the world around us and how an Emoji icon has gained symbolic meaning even outside its original context. Interestingly, with these elements, Kota pays tribute to the meaning of motifs in painting, by carefully elaborating on each for each series.
Kota’s Transcendent Diamonds series is such a three-tier consideration of the invaluable jewel. In his latest exhibition series, Kota continues to develop his fascination for this symmetric structure and in its seemingly metaphoric meaning, he defines the actual objective phenomena of the natural world. Fascination with this ultimate natural item is intelligible. A diamond is immune to any impurity due to the arrangement of atoms that are extremely rigid. It is also a semiconductor that displays the highest known thermal conductivity and electron saturation velocity of all earthly materials. Regardless of these facts, the question keeps being directed to human time. Can something be eternal in the world we have created temporal? Kota’s answer is transcendental.
The continuum of our efforts is fragmented. The continuum of our efforts gain an entity only when considered retroactively. So, it is in this process Kota partakes in the continuum of landscape painting by bringing forth one of the most beloved motifs, the storm. Once hated by its contemporaries the Turnerian stormy sea is a meaningful reference, maybe even more so in the era of the climate crisis. For Turner, the sea always set the stage for a tragedy. It was threatening, depicting Nature’s venom in the loss of man’s nullity.
Keeping in mind with Turnerian understanding, each of Kota’s diamonds entails a storm. The meticulously shaped structures have an enchanting draw. The framed, round shape becomes a telescope for terrestrial observation. Here again, Kota’s transcendental consideration gains depth as he acknowledges the overwhelming objectivity of nature. By layering natural phenomenon with scenery and simultaneously arranging our vision with formed regularities of a cubic crystal system, the diamond, Kota proposes a stance for all life forms.
ENGAGING IN NOTIONS OF BEAUTY // RIIKKA HYVÖNEN
Art is Seduction – Not rape
Susan Sontag, 1966
For Susan Sontag art has the capacity to make us anxious and uncomfortable, as such. For Sontag, art is inviting us to engage in a private, sensual experience through an interpretative dialogue. Art asks for our intellect to interpret, to prove our potential to think and to create meaning. However, we should find a balance in this task. A balance with content and concept without overdoing it. This act of interpreting art is an intellectual task, that is loaded with consciousness and appreciation, simultaneously accepting the volume of the artistic process and its results. As Sontag notes, art aims to seduce us with this engagement, not to rape our consciousness.
Riikka Hyvönen is on an exploration of beauty with her expressive and thought-provoking acts of the construction of contemporary identity and the nature of its various representations. Hyvönen has built the foundation of her practice on the forms of objectification through which the female body is dismantled and constructed online and in print.
Questions of representation and objectification gain duality in her work. Hyvönen considers self-identity as a constructed mass deception that we have agreed upon. Her witty, playful and controversial work is both founded in the present while she extends commercial values in visuality to reconsider common female stereotypes and cultural assumptions on beauty. Her famous Roller Derby Kisses sculptural painting series portrayed the achievements through the intimacy of female skin and there captured the massive, momentary marks that gain new importance only inside a small group of enthusiasts. Proceeding from this consideration of personalized beauty, she looks at the objectifying process of editorial shoots. In her recent photo installations series, her content and concept were built from the fashion magazines editorial photoshopping. Here the models’ faults, the photoshopped ones, are highlighted on plexiglass duplicating the original photo of the model. Hanging large-scale and heavy the pieces scrutinize our conception on digitally constructed beauty.
Having her interests stemming from pop culture and aesthetics, Hyvönen’s insightful criticism reaches beyond prevailing questions of body image and feminism. She attests the ways in which popular gestures end up as mechanisms of cultural consolidation. And as requested by Sontag, she lets us find these meanings by engaging with her proposal.
Hyvönen continues merging sculptural elements in her painting process. This time by turning her painterly gaze to the natural world. With the exhibited series she captures the momentary joy of light erupting on a surface, touching it with a prism. She finds her references from social media to employ a selection of experiences. For Hyvönen, light’s metaphors are a multitude. Whereas the spectrum can form upon a heavily bruised skin, as in Roller Derby Kisses, Hyvönen is aware of the weight of its connotations. Can you paint a rainbow without touching upon – any of – its denotations? Regardless, one is clear. Light can break though anything. Even the darkest of the hour.
Susan Sontag Against Interpretation, 1966 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Riikka Hyvönen (b. 1982 Rovaniemi, Finland) lives and works in London. Hyvönen holds a BA of Fine Arts from Goldsmiths, University of London and is currently finishing her master’s studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki.
Text by Aura Seikkula
The Summer show 2019 at Zetterberg Gallery brings together works by Jani Leinonen, Aurora Reinhard, Jiri Geller, Riikka Hyvönen, Joonas Kota & Mari Keto.
The exhibition runs through June – August 2019.
If these are our heroes who needs enemies
January 18–February 10, 2019
Zetterberg Gallery is pleased to open the exhibition programme of 2019 with Jani Leinonen’s solo ´If these are our heroes who needs enemies´ on January 18th.
Leinonen’s exhibition questions why certain hero-statues still stand in the centers of the European capitals, and why so many do not know – or if they know – subvert – the unspeakable atrocities of some of these historical figures?
The works in Jani Leinonen’s exhibition consist of about two hundred scattered hero statues of different sizes. There are more than 160 sculptures in the main work of the exhibition – even some Finnish heroes fit in.
Leinonen’s exhibition draws our attention to the collective loss of memory that those heroic descriptions maintain: they wipe out the shocking acts of the rulers of history and replace them with sacrificial heroism, romantic adventures, and noble generosity. The exhibition speaks of unobtrusive but effective ways of building and maintaining social power – also through art.
Joonas Kota: #PARTYPOPPER
November 30–December 16, 2018
Excerpts from Dr. Sam Inkinen’s essay “A Dialogue at the Studio, or Observations on Art and the Artist – Postmodern, Metamodern, and the Internet Zeitgeist as Key Themes”(November 2018)