Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Mundus" by Finnish artist Ilkka Väätti opens Jan. 20

HANCOCK -- The Finlandia University Gallery will display a series of carborundum-silkscreen prints by Finnish artist Ilkka Väätti Jan. 20 to Feb. 19, 2011. The gallery is in the Finnish American Heritage Center, Hancock.

The artist Ilkka Väätti. (Photo © 2009 Marja Väätti)

An opening reception for the exhibit, which is titled "Mundus," will take place at the gallery from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. TONIGHT, Thursday, Jan. 20. Väätti will speak at 7:15 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

Väätti has been described as a pictorial kleptomaniac, and the artist himself would be the first to admit his guilt.

Choosing details from the pictorial languages of the past and from varying cultures, Väätti incorporates into his modernist compositions fragments from, for example, medieval paintings, Asian mandalas, or a mosaic floor in Istanbul.

Sura, 2010, carborundum-silkscreen, 75 x 75 cm, edition 6. (Photo courtesy Finlandia University)

After choosing a pictorial detail, Väätti borrows its theme and reinterprets its form. These fragments from history, ornamental and seemingly irrelevant, take on a new dimension when isolated from their original context.

"Although my pictures seem very abstract," notes Väätti, "each of them has its origin in some art historical image. My works can thus be regarded simultaneously as abstract and figurative."

"Väätti’s work respects the modernist tradition, but still dares to speak on behalf of the decorative and ornamental," notes Otso Kantokorpi in a catalog essay for Väätti’s Mundus series.

Väätti refers to his work as "world pictures." Kantokorpi explains this term: "Väätti’s works are involved in a constant dialogue between particular and universal, between emotional and intellectual, between art and religion, between different cultures….together they all make up a world picture, a particular and a universal one."

Väätti began working with historical art references in 1992 when he was commissioned to create artwork for the Messukylä School in Tampere, Finland. Rather than create a pure abstraction for the school environment, Väätti decided to find a visual framework from the school’s immediate surroundings.

He chose the ancient symbols found in a medieval stone church in Messukylä, and this method of working with reference material became the starting point for his Mundus series.

The Square of Einhard, 2008, silkscreen, 60 x 60 cm, edition 20. (Photo courtesy Finlandia University)

Väätti has been working on the Mundus series since 1993.

"I want to make personal interpretations of the images that already exist in the world," Väätti says. "My pictorial themes come from the collective memory of mankind. I consider myself a cultural nomad and a follower of an old geometric tradition. From the standpoint of an artist I am making a survey of the pictorial archetypes, as well as the legacy of the collective memory of the mankind."

Ilkka Väätti has a bachelor of arts from the Lahti Institute of Fine Arts and a master of fine art from the Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki, Finland.

His work has been featured in numerous solo exhibits in Finland and in group shows in Finland, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, and Russia. His work is included in the collections of the State of Finland, Tampere Museum of Contemporary Art, Kuopio Art Museum, and other regional and municipal art museums in Finland.

Väätti is working with Finlandia University International School of Art and Design BFA students this week, through Jan. 24.

"Mundus" is on display at the Finlandia University Gallery through Feb. 19, 2011.

The Finlandia University Gallery is in the Finnish American Heritage Center, 435 Quincy Street, Hancock. Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday noon to 4 p.m., or by appointment.

Please call 906-487-7500 for more information.

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