Identity in, through and beyond artAll identities are interconnected and exist in relation to others. Artwork can be seen as a continuum of an artist’s identity whereas any interpretation of art is influenced by the spectator’s identity. When looking at an artwork you perceive it through yourself – what do you see?
Identity is a structure through which we navigate in any given environment. We may belong to a multitude of groups, sets, and landscapes at the same time. There are countless different roles that one acts according to and forms an identity as a synthesis of them all. For an artist, identity is occasionally a way to articulate 1. An artwork can be understood against the backdrop of its era as well as other productions of the artist. Through the manifestations from self-portraits 2 and experimenting with nature 3 to statements of ideology 4, it is possible to observe the multifaceted nature of identity and its sometimes subtle expression.
Eyes are followed by thoughts
At the centre of art is the consideration of perception – how one understands reality through the gaze 5. As the viewer moves in space, the reflections, colours and movement on the surface change 6. Art is a tribute to the simple feeling of existence reminding the importance of looking 7. As an extension of thoughts, art is searching and building, along with it providing privacy that gives space for thinking 8.
Everyone sees their own story according to their own experience, in this moment and time. Identity is being and becoming something 9. It is not self-evident that identity is automatically inherited. An individual can afford to choose 10, diversify and be shaped through subjective experience 11. Visual elements permeate and transcend individuality 12. The artwork communicates and confronts; it is present as a mediator and brings an opportunity for both the creator and the viewer to mirror themselves 13.
Identity is connected to the gaze and recognition, yet what becomes visible depends on the encounter situation 14. Identity is a hermeneutic, constantly changing and developing construction that continues through life. Development of identity takes place through narratives 15 which arise from experiences of events, situations and oneself as participant in them 16, like a diamond in the squeeze of everything 17.
Private haven in public surroundings
One might not identify with any country, city, house, or room, but rather, with a moment where there is something safe, or more precisely, a balance of safety and excitement. Home for this form of identity can be anywhere 18. Focus is on the edges and details of everyday life 19, where being consists of small repetitive parts, routines, their meaning, and importance 20.
One searches for itself instinctively 21 in relation to the surroundings 22 and may feel very conflicted with external and internal worlds which do not always meet 23. In microcosm, all kinds of being and existence are allowed, and in macrocosm individualities adapt with each other 24. In relation to others, the boundaries of one’s own separateness and identity are blurred 25. There is an invisible, layered, and cracked wall, which is like glass, a distinguishing and fragile element between public and private 26.
Familiarity creates a sense of security where experiences of alienation and restructuring in thinking patterns are safe to link. Art is a way to explore the world by combining concrete and abstract phenomena difficult to put into words. Art plays a concrete role in strengthening the identity of its viewer by helping to understand and illustrate inner and outer worlds. An artwork is a protective wall of its own, through which it is safe to explore both public and private surroundings 27.
Connected layer cake with its equations
Art is used to express through individuality to connect with others. An opportunity of isolation is permitted by the possibility to connect 28. There is no one without another 29. As a result of the collisions by energy crashing and rearranging thoughts our world view and position in relation to surroundings change. Key concepts link to each other by creating collective individualities.
Identity is a transformation which goes through different life stages creating layers 30 shaped by the inner and outer world. Stratified identities are present at the same time 31. Some layers have already experienced such a big change that their existence is not necessarily thought of, and the outermost layer does not always tell what kind of layers are hidden under it. Every now and then an individual identity becomes such an integral part of a common identity that it loses of itself for the whole, feeling flabbergasted in an exponential growth 32.
Time changes and shapes the way of looking and interpretation: A landscape can be looked at as a tourist or as part of a continuum. Identity is a collection of correspondences. Internal and external landscapes are arranged and moving between fragmented and structured surfaces 33. Identity is a process including actively both getting lost and discovering 34.
There is a crack in everything and that’s how the light gets in 35
Identity is a question of being determined by the congruence of properties 36 that require the permanence of essence and has the level of concrete 37 and abstract 38 phenomena 39, objects 40, and ideas 41. Shattered through the generated associations and an experience of oneself as an individual connected to others, identity is becoming something including the idea of choice and change 42. Multifaceted collection of the fragments allowing flexibility 43 is key in resilience 44. Art celebrates the multiplicity of different identities and the fact that one does not have to have just one identity but can be many things at the same time 45. An artwork is defined and elevated by its surroundings, imprinted by the circumstances of its existence 46.
1 “Being an artist in itself is more of an identity than a profession.” — Satu Rautiainen, I Am the Fountain II (Minä olen suihkulähde II), 2022, oil and acrylic on board, 61 x 40 cm
2 “What do artists reveal about themselves through their works? What remains when the exhibitions are dismantled?” — Krister Kråhn, curator, Taneli Rautiainen, Anonymous (self portrait), 2002, mixed technique, 100 x 50 x 70 cm
3 “Nature has strongly influenced my identity and my works are part of a posthumanist manifesto, which I hope will encourage people to respect the surrounding nature, forget themselves and reject the human-centered world view.” — Eemil Karila, First Snow, 2022, ink, tempera and oil on linen, 80 x 60 cm
4 “In my work, I deal with the impact of identity, how we perceive ourselves, and create an image of who or what we are for others. Femininity is often an internalized experience of being an object, and liberation from it is present in the works.” — Julia Niiva, The story I tell myself 1, 2022, oil on canvas, 68 x 103 x 2 cm
5 “Humanity and being are condensed into a soul-like description of which only the most essential remains: Eye, thought.” — Sini-Meri Hedberg, from the series Beyond (Tuolla puolen), 2007–2011, gouache and oil on canvas, 41 x 33 cm
6 “The works are painted on nets, which emphasize lightness, transparency, the flow of light on the painting surface, and movement act as contrast to the paintings with a matte surface.” — Rose-Mari Torpo, Narciso, 2021, mixed technique on canvas on polyester, 140 x 110 cm
7 “If you remove the image from the painting, what is left? Do we still perceive the single-colored layers of paint as pictures or what are we then looking at? Applied tinted paint?” — Elina Ahlstedt, Burst, still, 2021, oil on canvas, 120 x 90 cm
8 “The starting point can be anything; an observation, a landscape, an experience, an everyday thing or feeling that gets you excited.” — Maija Helin-Åvall, Opening Up (Avautuminen), 2022, mixed technique on canvas, 40 x 40 cm
9 “Life is not an achievement for the characters. The pursuit of a goal has been replaced by something more essential. Where are we and where are we going?” — Tuukka Peltonen, Bridge of Shadows (Varjojen silta), 2022, woodcut, 79 x 59 cm
10 “I’m a designer by training, but in recent years I’ve approached the art world more than the design world. Can I be in both at the same time or should I choose one? On the other hand, I’m also really interested in what lies between these two worlds. What is the point at which design becomes art or vice versa?” — Tero Kuitunen, Happy Tears, 2022, handmade ceramics, 60 x 25 cm
11 “Telling about one’s life and sharing one’s own experiences is always inevitably diving into the self. When you open up your own subjective reality of experience, you also become exposed to other dimensions through hidden meanings.” — Juliana Hyrri, Soap opera: passionate screams, 2022, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 30 cm
12 “The importance of appearance and visual presentation is greater than ever in today’s era of image flow. It’s interesting how everyone else sees us, just not ourselves.” — Kirsti Tuokko, Black Mini, 2022, oil on acrylic panel, 150 x 100 cm
13 “We carry the past with us, the ones that were before us are felt in our feelings and visible on our faces when we look in the mirror.” — Elina Honkanen, Almost there, 2022, hand carved acrylic, satin ribbon, 20,5 x 9 cm
14 “My work is an attempt understand our time and its phenomena, as well as how it affects us collectively, to crystallize the spirit of times like self-branding on social media, populism and its various forms, collective individuality, woke and cancel culture, and escapism through renaissance.” — Simo Saarikoski, Prosperity Theologian’s Dream (Menestysteologin uni), 2021, painted plaster, 30 x 21 x 26 cm
15 “The narrative of lived life is always changing, as man is constantly rearranging the fragments of his story, both consciously and unconsciously. The graphics and painting collages I work with are formed in somewhat the same way: pieces are added, edited, covered and removed. Often the pieces take on completely new meanings when placed next to each other. Sometimes you can’t seem to find a suitable place for any of the pieces, and sometimes every element falls into place painlessly on the first try.” — Minna Louhelainen, A Thought Bubble At Night’s Sleep (Ajatuskupla yöunilla), 2022, graphic collage on stretched canvas, 35 x 29 cm
16 “In order to identify with oneself, one should find the voice of one’s own soul which requires a great understanding of ourselves and others. We are all essentially the same small and vulnerable wanderers in this world. This is what I have wanted to express in my own works.” — Ritva Määttänen-Valkama, Human 1 (Ihminen 1), 2019, aquarelle on paper, 42 x 32 cm
17 “[…] When everything else is stripped away. […]” — Eeva-Maija Nuorala, Born From The Depths (Syvyyksistä syntynyt), 2022, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 80 x 4 cm
18 “I like the kind of solitude and privacy that painting gives. I have painted memories of places where I feel a strong connection and homey feeling I’ve been looking for.” — Saija Starr, I Dive With My Eyes Closed (Sukellan silmät kiinni), 2022, oil on canvas, 70 x 80 cm
19 “My works are autobiographical treatises where reality and imagination melt into one, and my own relationship with life becomes more multileveled than my everyday sweatpants self. The existential crisis and the exploration of the self take on a stage-like form.” — Anna-Stiina Korhonen, Everything Wonderful (Kaikkea ihanaa), 2022, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 cm
20 “My interest is focused on the edges of identity construction. I notice that I become rooted in my habits and that the days repeat a certain pattern. Weaving rug is nice in its monotony when I know that there are always the same number of stitches tied next to each other, as well as rows made of stitches, and the grid-like pattern they build is repeated from piece to piece.” — Lotta Hänninen, Happy Place IV, 2021, hand made rug, 80 x 60 cm
21 “The paintings are impressions from several places at the same time, references to short walks in my neighborhood, to the scenery around me, a kind of sum of what I’ve seen and experienced. In the paintings, the expression is simplified and abstract. I take observations of nature and the environment into the studio, and process them instinctively. Some works are pure studies of form and color. In some of the works I zoom in on the ground and try to recreate the details of the flora” — Minna Hannele Lappalainen, Promenade (Bekken) from series The Field, 2019, acrylic on Arches watercolor paper, 32 x 24 cm
22 “How does time and leaving shape our way of looking and interpreting our surroundings? I reflect these conflicting and connected feelings in sculptures that reach out, bulge, open out and close in, and are often built from combinations of different materials.” — Leena Hyttinen, Over The Edge (Yli äyräin), 2022, ceramics, glaze, textile, 38 x 23 x 29 cm
23 ”The works have parts of internal and external landscapes. These parts are arranged in the picture field into living objects, color areas and partially undefined shapes, moving from fragmented to structured and back. I try to create different mental images with the materiality of my paintings, which complement the vagueness of the essence of the subjects.” — Eeva Lietonen, Confused Ellipse, 2022, handmade oil on canvas, 50 x 42 cm
24 “One may have found that momentary part of their way of being and the connection, the other is more in pain about their own position in the world and their direction. Identity is born in interaction with the circle of life where choices direct choices.” — Sirkku Rosi, A Pedestrian (Jalkautuja), 2021, aquarelle on paper, 32 x 32 cm
25 “Identity is the experience of oneself as separate from others.” — Marika Lahdenperä, Misty Day 2, 2021, aquarelle on paper, 112 x 27 cm
26 “The parties alternately move away and get closer and one must find its individuality.” — Laura Pakarinen, Distances, 2020, stop motion, 1’ 16’’
27 “The watercolors in the book have everything I love: flowers, cats, moonlight landscapes and childhood memories. In Lapinlahti, during the exhibition the book was placed at the intersection of two corridors, in a greenhouse-like corner where I used to paint as student.” — Liisa Kuusela, 45 paintings (45 maalausta), 2022, watercolours on paper in a flip book, 24 x 16 x 6 x 8 cm
28 “Finding your own identity is a lifelong journey into one’s own soul to the edge of basic values. We become whole in connection with our environment and other people.” — Katja Härkki, Nymphs, 2020, oil on canvas, 150 x 230 cm
29 “Do we build, support or tear each other down?” — Päivi Rintaniemi, Together, 2022, ceramic, 12 x 7 x 10 cm
30 “Identity consists of many layers.” — Matilda Palmu, Layers, 2020, hand tufting, 120 x 120 cm
31 “As materials for wedges, the glue and individual wood have more integral part in painting, some pigments and colors may be easier to demonstrate. The lemon yellow and the grey-lilac tone I mixed became particularly important determinants of the identity of this painting.” — Pauliina Waris, Coffee Time (Kahvihetki), 2022, tempera and oil on canvas, 127 x 127 cm
32 Jussi Goman, Flabbergasted, 2021, ceramic, glaze, spray, 42.5 cm; Exponential Growth, 2021, acrylic on canvas, 80 x 70 cm
33 “The repeating theme in my paintings is giving shape to inner conflict caused by the identity in transition.” — Marja Karisalmi, Contraption (Härveli), 2022, acrylic, charcoal and marker on canvas, 78 x 68.5 cm
34 “All individuals in nature have their own purpose and species-typical identity. My artistic process includes both active creations, and my works are ambiguous statements about the authentic nature of nature with its flaws and oddities.” — Virpi Vihervuori, Forest Wall, 2022, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 30 cm
35 Kati Peltola, There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in, 2022, glass, plaster, 23 x 16 cm
36 “I have to live with you no matter how much it hurts. I don’t feel sorry for you, but it takes time to accept it. I can’t close my ears because the sound is coming from somewhere inside me.” — Siigri Aaltonen, Like Two Legs (Kuin kaksi jalkaa), 2022, fabric, cotton 2 x 50 x 20 cm
37 “Crossing a canary with a red siskin has been done to achieve the desired red-white color variant. The bird is a cross, a hybrid and a mixture. In terms of the identity theme of the exhibition, it is interesting to think about the role and identity of the bird in a situation where new species are created by manipulating genetic factors and largely for visual reasons. What is the bird in this situation in the end? As a pet, it is acquired for its plumage appearance or singing ability. It has a role as decoration and its appearance is determined by external actions. What is its identity as a bird in the end?” — Vesa-Pekka Rannikko, Mosaic (Mosaiikki), 2022, colored plaster, 70 x 50 x 30 cm
38 “I can’t tell you who I am as I still don’t know that. […] I describe human figure through abstraction. My paintings are like a diary.” — Helena Tuura, Child, Balloon, Collapse & Home Sweet Home, 2020-2022, oil pastels on paper, 15 x 21 x 2 cm
39 “My perception of myself in relation to the world and other people is changing, like a liquid or a gas. Sometimes even to the point where my being is completely in doubt. It depends on the weather, the company, the environment and the context. Whether my identity is liberated or just scattered and dissolving, I can’t say.” — Nikki Jääskeläinen, A5, 2022, ink on paper, 42 x 32 cm
40 “Identity in my works is outlined through the surrounding objects and the associations that arise from them.” — Laura Hetemäki, Composition (Asetelma), 2022, oil on mdf board covered with linen, 6 x 7 cm
41 “As a starting point the simple idea is transformation. The old wooden potato masher turns into a wild, everyday party, like people often want to realise themselves in different life stages and change.” — Antti Raitala, Party (Juhlat), 2017, wooden potato masher, mirror 43 x 8 x 8 cm
42 “What my works in the exhibition have in common is the idea of different roles that we are constantly placed in from the outside. And on the other hand, inner strength, freedom and imagination, which make it possible to play with those roles and thereby dive into and liberate yourself in a multifaceted being. I think that everything alive is fundamentally changing, flowing, growing and renewing itself. And sometimes also uncontrollably gushing.” — Miisa Mäkeläinen, The Source (Lähteikkö), 2022, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 20 cm; Tear Duct (Kyynelkanava), 2022, acrylic and water-soluble oil pastel on canvas, 24 x 20 cm
43 “For others, identity is flexible and adapted to fit the times and life, while for others the skin is scratched all the time from rubbing.” — Johanna Kestilä, The Way Out (Reitti ulos), 2022, acrylic on canvas, 95 x 87 cm
44 “What affects listening to one’s own voice and truth?” — Paula Talvikki, Truth Is My Identity (Totuus on identiteettini), 2022, aquarelle on paper, 30 x 20 cm
45 “A home garden populated by plants lives through the seasons and tells about a different way of experiencing time while everything grows — nothing alone but together.” — Noora Sandgren, Dialogue 19.9.2017 (30 min), 2017, pigment for aluminum, floating image, 73 x 61,5 cm
46 ” The work lives in the space between the edges of the paper, on the plane of the fabric and sides of the frame. Traces in the work are both a record and a witness of the conditions that have created it. They are reflections of the surrounding world, part of it, and the world itself.” — Emilia Tanner, Shadows (Varjot), 2022, laser etching on paper 37 x 63 cm ; Andreas Behn-Eschenburg, Frame , 2021, oil on canvas, 15 x 20 cm