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Fused with Nature

The experimental, labour-intensive and nature-informed practice of Finnish visual artist Antti Laitinen takes over Brussels with exhibitions in Tournay-Solvay Park and La Patinoire Royale/Galerie Valérie Bach.

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Every year, marking the Finnish presidency of the Council of the European Union, the European Space for Sculpture and the Embassy of Finland that is based in Brussels work in close collaboration to host a rotating presidency. The selected artist is then invited by the Brussels based association to exhibit in the Regional Tournay-Solvay Park. This year, the invitation was handed to none other than Finnish visual and land-artist Antti Laitinin.

Linking to the long list of Finnish land artists that came before him, most of Laitinen’s work is primarily made up of staged performances of experimental or durational activities that take place in nature, which he then documents. Mostly taking place in isolated landscapes in Finland, his works often directly deal with fundamental issues of Finnish identity and cultural imagery. Laitinen’s performative work can take place over the course of a few hours, days or weeks, at times staying naked in a forest for days on end dragging heavy sand sacks into an open body of water, only to see them carried away by the waves. Requiring not only physical but a lot of mental strength, his documentation captures the result of his laborious practice whilst also making the viewer acutely aware of his efforts. As an artist, Laitinen wants his work to speak directly to the viewer — which is probably why many of his works often have a straightforward name and explanation. Take for example the work ‘Marionette’, which involved him tying strings to a leafless bird cherry tree. “I have turned a tree into a marionette. With strings I tried to imitate real wind.”, is Laitinen’s explanation — do we really need to know more to experience and understand the work?

At Tournay-Solvay Park, Laitinen presents two new site-specific installations that focus on tree trunks. In the first, titled ‘Broken Landscape’, the artist removed isolated parts from a tree trunk and reassembled it with metal rods between the branches to maintain the shape of the tree. In the second artwork, which is ‘Untitled’, involves the hammering at a trunk with steel galvanised nails to create a kind of armour around it. This artwork, which is still in process, was started by Laitinen, but will be continued during the entirety of the exhibition by master art students form LUCA School of Arts of Brussels and visitors that are invited to actively participate in a hammering session every Sunday from 2 to 4 PM.  Both artworks have been realised with vegetal material, trees and wood cut down and put at the disposal of the artist by the IBGE (Institut Bruxellois pour la Gestion de l’Environnement) in the mark of their good park management and installed in the Tournay Solvay Park.

Running almost simultaneously with the installation at Tournay-Solvay Park, the European Space for Sculpture will also present an exhibition of Laitinen’s photographs and video works in close collaboration with international gallery La Patinoire Royale/Galerie Valérie Bach, Located in the heart of the galleries’ quarter of Brussels, the artist will present a selection of works that refer to his performances in nature in Finland. His work portrays masculinity set in a context of nature and culture, but more importantly attests to the presence and attitude of an artist who is aware of the tradition of experimental performance art, and skilled in representing his often-extreme experiences in nature in different media. Curated by Patricia de Peuter, works such as ‘It’s my Island VI’, ‘Broken Landscape II’, ‘Lake Shift’, ‘Forest Square’, ‘Lake Deconstruction’ and ‘Green Square, Brown Square, White Square’ have been selected to offer visitors an overview of the artist’s prolific, laborious and multi-media work.  

Cover Photo: Three Stones, 2004 © Antti Laitinen

In Three Stones (2004) the artist presents the viewer with three stones he has excavated, one he found after digging for seven minutes, one after seven hours, and one after seven days. Their appearance is very similar but is the last stone more precious? Does the increased labour affect its value? Laitinen is inviting us to consider larger questions about how we assign auratic power to objects once we designate them artworks and how we then position them within value systems.

Extra Information:

Tournay-Solvay Park

Chaussée de la Hulpe 201 in Watermael-Boitsfort (1170 Brussels – Belgium)

Opening: July 3rd 2019 at 6 PM

Exhibition on view from 4th of July until 29th of September 2019

Free access every day from 8 AM till 8:30 PM (till 7:30 PM in September)

Hammering sessions open to the public: every Sunday from 2 PM – 4 PM

Finissage: Friday, September 27th 2019 (date & hour to be confirmed)

La Patinoire Royale / Galerie Valérie Bach

Rue Veydt 15 in Ixelles (1050 Brussels), Belgium

Opening: 6th July 2016 10:30 AM

Exhibition on view from the 6th until the 27th of July 2019.

Free access from Tuesday to Saturday from 11 AM till 6 PM

It’s my Island VI, 2007 (photograph), © Antti Laitinen - This body of work consists of a series of photographs, a video-triptych depicting Laitinen builds his own island in the Baltic Sea by dragging two hundred sandbags into the water over a period of three months - using nothing but a spade, sand and sacks.
Broken Landscape VI, 2019, © Antti Laitinen.
Broken Landscape II, 2017, © Antti Laitinen. "The artist has removed isolated parts from a willow tree trunk that was reassembled with metal rods between the branches to maintain the shape of the tree. The gaps among the branches are unnatural, with the tree appearing to hover in assembled form in the landscape. The viewer’s eye finds the metal frames constructed between the branches to maintain the shape of the tree."
Untitled (nails and wood), 2012 (sculptures), © Antti Laitinen. "Laitinen is inviting us to consider larger questions about how we assign auratic power to objects once we designate them artworks and how we then position them within value systems. This exploration extends into the series of Untitled (nails and wood), totemic objects whose pristine beauty belies the painstakingly difficult circumstances of their production. Every inch of the surface of these pieces of wood is covered by nail heads, until they resemble artifacts recovered from some remote forest tribe."
Still from the video Marionette, 2017, © Antti Laitinen. "In this work, Antti Laitinen turned a tree into a marionette and tried to imitate real wind by using strings. The viewer confronts a leafless bird cherry tree on the edge of a field, with strings tied to its branches. The strings extend to the left edge of the image, where someone or something that is cropped out of the picture is drawing on them to make the branches move. The tree, lit in the dark evening, moves back and forth as if giving a small performance to the viewer."
Broken Landscape, 2017 © Antti Laitinen. "In this photographic work, Laitinen has removed isolated parts from a tree trunk. The gaps among the branches are unnatural, with the tree appearing to hover in assembled form in a white winter landscape. The viewer’s eye soon finds the metal frames constructed between the branches to maintain the shape of the tree. In keeping with the title of the work, Laitinen is interested in making landscape images, ‘to be broken a little bit’."
Lake Deconstruction II: These photographs show a monolithic formation of ice blocks appearing as the lake is changed from its natural state, and place, to a new location and form.

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