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

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


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

Lies, Lies, Lies

Jani Leinonen
February 7– March 1, 2020

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


Joonas Kota
November 22nd – December 15th 2019

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.

How ’bout a Little Rainbow Reflection?

Riikka Hyvönen
September 13th – October 6th 2019


Art is Seduction – Not rape 

Susan Sontag, 1966[1]

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.

[1]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


Jani Leinonen, Aurora Reinhard, Jiri Geller, Riikka Hyvönen, Joonas Kota & Mari Keto
June-August 2019


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.