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Ars Fennica Awards
by Johnny Milner
2009-11-20 10:03:31
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Ars Fennica, the most prestigious art award on the Finnish cultural calendar will be announced today (November 19th) at Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art. Selected by Vincente Todoli (director of Tate Modern), the winner will be awarded a sizeable sum of €34000 as well as receiving a publication introducing their work and a traveling exhibition.

b7621a45c2_400The Ars Fennica exhibit comprises five artists whose otherwise dissimilar work is united by common concerns for society, consumerism and the environment. From Jussi Kivi’s photographs of pristine Finnish wilderness to Petri Yrjölä’s large and abstracted oil paintings, which capture the subtle nuances of a threatened northern forest - the exhibition has been cleverly curated. There are links between each body of work through both the themes and the use of space.

The overall tone of the event is somewhat morbid and bleak. Mika Karhu’s enormous graphic charcoal pieces investigate man’s illusion of autonomy, his obsession with consumer culture and how this results in a loss of his mortality, corporeality and experience. Jyrki Riekki’s work is both brutal and blatant his piece Happy Meal splatters out on a wall of wooden planks - making use of variety of materials such as sheep skeletons and porcelain dolls. Matti Kalkamo’s life-size bronze sculptures undergo a series of metamorphoses. Destination Salvation (probably my favourite piece in the exhibition) features a clergy of robed monks keeled and praying. At first glance they look twisted and tortured but when their faces randomly light up a more human and fragile side is exposed. I can’t help to think if only this installation was accompanied by a sound component or then isolated all together the effect would have been even greater.

It is exciting to ponder on who will succeed and receive the acclaimed award but at the same time a pointless process. In reality the judging and evaluating of art prizes will always be arbitrary. Regardless of the artists working methodology, their craftsmanship or the way in which they seek to disrupt the accepted structures of the time it is ultimately up to the discretion and critical evaluation of whoever is judging it - this of course may not be the same as the next judge’s or even the viewers’ opinion. The decisive factor is personal taste. In any case the benefits of the Ars Fennica are obvious  and not just for the winner; the five artists will all receive more exposure and attention than they would otherwise.

In my opinion the exhibition is well worth seeing. I can appreciate the work for its craft, technique, use of materials, the way its been curated and assembled and so forth, however, I feel that to state something truly profound within these all so common themes one must resist complacency, one must wage war on habit and indifference. I don’t feel this has been particularly achieved in this exhibit.

Ars Fennica runs from 09.10.2009 - 10.01.2010 on the 4th floor, of Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art.


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