Monday, July 24, 2006

Cool, white, and silent – the minimalist school in Finland

Could there be a better place than Finland for making cool, minimalist and completely introvert art? The Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki releases this year a whole group of artists who seem to favor the silent and minimalist way of speech.

Some examples below:

John Phillip Mäkinen – the work of art consisted of imitations of hunting trophies: a number of white animal heads fixed on a white base to the background of a white wall in the Helsinki Taidehalli. There were elk and deer, all made of plastic. An odd morbid humor in a row of sculptures.

Sampo Malin – a couple of big, white, simple cubes without any tiny details ruining the pure simplicity. The blocks were lying on the floor or hanging by cables from the ceiling on top of others. That was it. There was the effect of pure volume, mass, proportion, proportion to the exhibition hall and to the viewer’s body. Does it not sound like an ideal piece of finest minimal art where the meaning is supposed to lie somewhere between the viewer and the sculpture? But behold the punch line: Sampo Malin looks like a good apprentice of Rachel Whiteread’s. The white blocks turned out to be model-measures for the ideal kitchen. Perfect!

Hans Rosenström and Tuulia Susiaho were using snow as the main material for their piece. Hans’s upside down piece of landscape and the sentence written onto snow is really calm and fine. Tuulia, as I understand, is using snow in a metaphorical sense for ideas and thoughts; snow is aesthetical and ethical for creation.

And finally Stephen Parise. He is not Finnish, but from the US - so we cannot connect his minimalist act with the idiosyncrasy of the northern soul. He presented a piece that is rather a painting than a sculpture: a transparent rime of polymer on transparent Plexiglas. It could only just be noticed, it was subtle and cool.

By Anneli Porri

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

My favorite piece of Latvian art

By accident I bought a catalogue of Latvian photography exhibition called "What is important?" from Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art. The show took place in 2004 and was curated by Solvita Krese (one of the initiators of Republicart project). I found my favorite piece of Latvian art from the catalogue of this exhibition: it was a couple of small photos by Kriss Salmanis. The piece was called "Idislikeyouverymuch" and both of the images were about a small tightly bound up teddy bear. Pink grid table cloth in the background and photos taken exactly from front and side (like they usually shoot criminals in prisons or police stations) gave the impression that the artist really wants to stop this bear acting and put it into jail and forget totally.
In one hand these photos expressively illustrate the feeling of strong blind childish anger, and a wired self-satisfactional way of revenge in another hand. I strongly hope that this "criminal" has really earned such kind of treatment.
"Idislikeyouverymuch" piece is significant in another way as well: first time during the trip to Latvia I saw a simple piece of art. So simple, that it is already genuine. And good sense of humor is also something need to admit and appreciate.
Text by Rael Artel

"Idislikeyouverymuch" by Kriss Salmanis, 2000

Where to eat in Riga?

Anneli Porri kindly suggests:
Anda showed us a small shop for small artistic artifacts, half-art, half-design, "a really democratic place" as she introduced. It was quite near to the Theatre cafe. There can also buy books and magazines about art and theatre. Upstairs is a small eating place, mostly drinks are served I guess, but you can eat there as well.
Neither printed menus nor pricelists existed. The friendly waiter just asks you to step into the kitchen and he presents all the foods in the fridge – from raw chicken liver, spinach, ecological hand-made bread to extra-fine mangos.
Well, what shall we cook then, the waiter asks. I had a custom made grilled sandwich with salmon, chili and a ripe

Rael Artel is trying to be an expert:
-> Double Coffee, a Starbucks-style laminated coffee-chain has occupied every street corner: good coffee, loud and annoying music, too expensive tasteless food...
-> Macaroni (in Brivibas Iela) is a stylish restaurant with international kitchen, a bit too expensive but very good food, special focus on pastas. Thanks for Anda to take me there!
-> Capitan Enriko: just a pub with TV-sets showing football and probably ice-hockey as well. Nothing special.
-> Artist's Union cafe nearby bus station is a cold-war "artistic" interior design mixed with homemade food that evokes memories from kindergarten times, nice and cosy, go for sure! Thanks to Mario to take me there!
-> John Lemon, an American dream place, incredibly delicious mushroom soup available. Pizzas are poor, music and people very nice, wonderful courtyard.
-> Cili Pica is a popular chain-restaurant with international cuisine, relatively cheap and fresh food, quick service but loud disco music. If you are really hungry and want to eat quick and cheap, go for it!
- Theatre bar, a small cosy bar with pleasant atmosphere, caring service and nice people around. A bar with history as I've understood.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Some days in RIGA

In the beginning of June we were deported to Riga. The goal of our journey was to meet as much artists as possible and to visit as much shows as we can. As probably mentioned in this blog, we prepare a show of contemporary art that should take place at the end of 2007 in Tallinn, Estonia.

To be honest, studio visits are actually my favorite part of the job in being a curator. During that I really appreciate the possibility to have direct access to the artwork, to get know artist's intentions, to ask explanations and discuss topics the artists work with. The trip to Riga was full of meetings, full of nice time with younger generation Latvian artists. At this point we need to thank Latvian Centre of Contemporary Art which is a very well functioning structure. Solvita Krese and her team made our "shopping-trip" very informative and comfortable.

Friday, May 26, 2006

May 25: A spring day in Helsinki

A piece from series of watercolors by Linda Granfors

We were visiting the graduation show of Helsinki Kuvataideakatemia (art academy) in a public holiday. In the beginning, of course, it was impossible to recognize, that it is some kind of fiesta national. Just, there were amazingly lot of drunk people in the streets and happy hours for bier started at 11 am...
Anyway, the graduation show was divided between 3 different venues: most of the works were exhibited in Taidehalli, three artists in the gallery in Lönnrotinkatu and the works of another three in the space in Kasarmikatu. It seems to me that Kuvataide Akademia really cares about its students: good installation, catalogue, posters... The only thing they forgot was to add the contact of the artist to the catalogue. What if I like some works and I would like to contact the artist?

Just to menion some works from Taidehalli: one of the best works were by Timo Vaittinen. It was a video piece filmed still by still in an abandoned house. No, it wasn't ordinary hanging around in empty house full of trash, it was much more sophisticated. Some rooms in the house were covered by tiles, and Timo used this situation to animate some phone-game characters. So the walls of the rooms became huge cell phone screens and tile-pixels generated all kind of beings mostly familiar from teenage-directed phone-ads or early-age tv-games.This incredibly fresh and focused video piece was a part of bigger installation, which basically reminded me some strange popish stage design, and the intentions of the artist of the installative part of the piece remained quite unclear. Unfortunately the catalogue didn't distribute any information either...

Timo Vaittinen, a video still from larger installation in Taidehalli

The other wonderful piece was by Pilvi Takala (Pilvi, by the way, will make a new work this summer in Pärnu, in my space - check Thehe work was titled as... mmmh... I cannot remember the title... but it was a 3-screen slide projection. Thehe photo installation was actually a performance documentation which Pilvi made in her short residency in Berlin. The performance itself was very sipmle: she was talking around Arcaden shopping mall in Potzdamer platz with transparent plastic bag full of money. The piece is a neutral documentation of her walk and all the comments made by shopkeepers and security-guys, and strange glances given by passerbys. The work was very much about warning, private propety and ultra safe society we have created around us. You need to hide what you have, othervise it might be dangerous for you! The work was good also because it required some attention from the viewer to notice the point.

Petri Eskelinen: "Kaksipuolinen horisontti". Installation, 2006

Another interesting work was by Petri Eskelinen.The piece was about navigation and it consists of the kinetic objects and small landscape paintings. Visually his pieces reminded me a young czeck artist Kristof Kintera who just graduated from Rijksacademie, and who is usually manipulating with everyday objects in a similar way. But this is the question of technique only... Petri's works were very much handmade and moving in very monotonous way in the gallery floor. One ship, one ocean and one globe. Unfortunately accompanying text in the catalogue is 100% in Finnish...
This text by Rael Artel