A bullet shot with a gun through an object is a mischievous target for interpretations. The act of shooting is so real, so violent, and so destructive in itself, that during these dark days, it is hard to see itas a symbol of anything else than the harsh reality we are witnessing. As we speak, bullets are piercing living bodies, destroying things and causing life-lasting traumas to people who remain alive in conflict zones near and far. The closer the bullet holes come to our home the more they shake our feeling of security.
Jani Leinonen’s new exhibition LOVE brings bullet holes really close, to the clean white space of Zetterberg Gallery in the center of Helsinki. All the artworks are pierced with real bullets – leaving a cracking hole in the glass and the art underneath. In the exhibition, the bullets have broken hearts and Coco Chanel No 5 perfume packages, and they have made cracks on otherwise soft birch wood panels. The bullet holes are the remnants of a deadly duel between two of the world’s most famous commercial mascots, and two recurring characters in Leinonen’s artistic oeuvre; fast food mascot Ronald McDonald and Kellogg’s Tony Tiger.
In Leinonen’s works the act of shooting is violence in itself but simultaneously a symbol of violence. According to philosopher Slavoj Žižek there are at least three forms of violence: subjective (crime, terror), objective (racism, hate-speech, discrimination), and systemic (the catastrophic effects of economic and political systems). Often one form of violence blunts our ability to see the others, raising complicated questions. These are the three levels of violence that Leinonen’s artworks play with.
Do we often interpret objects that look visually impressive as superficial?
How much can we miss out on if, despite being aware of this possibility, we are not always able to look and explore things more closely – while maintaining the curiosity and open-mindedness typical to the human species?
Why has the disposable cardboard coffee mug, that millions of people carry with them every day turned into a forever-lasting black granite sculpture ten times its size? Is the work with glitter and rainbows bruised? What might we experience when we notice a sculpture that resembles pink cotton candy, which, upon closer inspection, speaks of cannibalism? And what if an artwork offers a solution to the pursuit of eternal youth?
The exhibition Superficial reflects upon the phenomena of individual interpretation of aesthetics through the works by Jiri Geller, Riikka Hyvönen, Mari Keto, Joonas Kota, Jani Leinonen, and Aurora Reinhard.
Zetterberg Gallery is pleased to present Goodbye Reality – a pioneering collaboration between artist Jani Leinonen and VR/XR tech company Varjo. The exhibition invites visitors into a mesmerizing mixed reality experience. Harnessing the power of the Varjo XR-3 and the Unity engine, Jani Leinonen establishes new methods for creativity, brings tangibility to NFTs, and unites digital and physical art in a never-before-seen way.
Leinonen’s physical artworks on show consist of his vibrantly colored alphabet designs. Each letter, with uncanny corporate symbolism, seems to play on the subconscious triggers that ubiquitous brands have instilled in us throughout our lives. When putting on the XR-3 headset, visitors will enter a mixed reality experience. They can see the gallery exactly as before, except this time with photorealistic, virtual representations of the same alphabet design letters hovering in front of them – allowing one to reach out and touch each individual letter, moving them, duplicating them, or making them disappear.
Varjo’s XR-3 technology delivers the most immersive mixed reality experience ever constructed, featuring photorealistic visual fidelity across the widest field of view of any XR headset. The key innovation of this headset is that it allows for depth awareness, thereby blending real and virtual elements seamlessly. Hence, with the Varjo XR-3 headset, one can experience Jani Leinonen’s virtual sculptures in any physical space, allowing you to interact with them with your bare hands.
Jiri Geller, Riikka Hyvönen, Mari Keto & Jani Leinonen
Serving their Cocktails stirred and ice-cold Jiri Geller, Riikka Hyvönen, Mari Keto and Jani Leinonen are alluring us to keep on sipping. The artworks assembled for this COCKTAIL detour through different routes towards a shared destination. Whether through abstraction, fashion, global capitalistic symbolism, or Mesopotamian origins, the artists share one goal in common: to shake our understanding of what should make our mouth water.
Utilizing a variety of visual codes, the artists gain this shared destination with an enticing dialogue. Known for his striking aesthetics and immaculate precision, Jiri Geller stretches the limits of the form. In Killing Time (2020) everything is about to explode. How much further can you stretch a form of a seeming skull? What is the weight a balloon can bear? Questions impossible, or maybe even irrelevant, to answer through the logics of modern physics. Geller seems to state that those logics do not matter in the world, and in the space we are occupying. We have already decided ourselves, against all natural laws, how to live and how to make that life happen.
Having her interests originating from pop culture and aesthetics, Riikka Hyvönen keeps on stunning the viewer with her skills to capture moments of beauty. Her work turns abstraction into a desire to read the image. Hyvönen makes us want to understand the movement, the content, the code of her work. Adding complexity and aromatic nuances to her work, she leaves us lusting for more. And yes, lust is something Mari Keto deconstructs over and over again. Hunting for survival has turned into hunting for the most exquisite fashion items. Recognizable monogram, a two-letter signature of global avarice, gains new forms and codes turning two worlds into a single, double-layered, allegory. Keto ponders upon the relevance of the items we hunt and collect, and surround ourselves, to survive a modern day in life. As always, both Hyvönen and Keto reassemble code, visuals and matter into new meanings.
Revealing all the Lies, Lies, Lies Jani Leinonen’s collaboration with Mayer’sche Hofkunstanstalt has become his forte. Leinonen takes this centuries old work with historic, restoral technique and merges ancient religious iconography with the elements of contemporary advertising. Absolutely striking in their entity, these supposedly medieval ornaments frame truths into objects of desire. Accordingly, Leinonen adds up a new line of his burning businesses. This time, international banking is at stake. Slowly reaching from bottom to top, dismantled to be are all cross-border businesses and eurozone enterprises. Yet again, the organic surfaces of these works are captivating. The demolition is slowly in process. Still alive. The burned surface preserves in detail the properties of the material it once was. Shimmering in its deepening blackness, Leinonen keeps us aware how charcoal has come to connote crisis over progress. Like Keto, Leinonen strikes the viewer with an acute question: why are we still here?
COCKTAIL strikes us with a fazed view into our contemporary wellbeing. No twists are needed, when the main ingredients in this complex mix are the impressive craftsmanship combined with generous aesthetics.
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
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.
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
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.