New Wave Finland: Contemporary Photography from the Helsinki School features the work of young photographers and video artists from Finland’s distinguished Helsinki School. Established in 1995, the Helsinki School comprises selected alumni and faculty from the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture (formerly the University of Art and Design, Helsinki) and is internationally recognized for its innovative approach to photography and inspiring roster of artists. Co-curated by Timothy Persons, curator of Gallery TAIK, and ASF consulting curator Pari Stave, the exhibition brings together over 40 recent works by nine of the School’s early to mid-career artists, of both emerging and international caliber: Pasi Autio, Joakim Eskildsen, Tiina Itkonen, Hannu Karjalainen, Kalle Kataila, Anni Leppälä, Niko Luoma, Riitta Päiväläinen, and Mikko Sinervo.
Considered one of the premier photography schools in the world, the Helsinki School is not defined by a specific discipline, nationality, or geographic region. Rather, it represents an approach—an innovative way of thinking that has evolved out of a process of teaching at the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture. Here the camera is simultaneously a conceptual tool and thinking eye; each generation of artists is encouraged to reinvent itself and push the boundaries of the photographic process.
The Helsinki School is similarly distinguished by a collective spirit and support that goes beyond the studio to include an exclusive built-in, permanent exhibition space in Berlin—Gallery TAIK. The gallery is led by founder and curator, Timothy Persons, who is also Director of Professional Studies and a Senior Lecturer at the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture. Helsinki School artists—now numbering in the 40s—are introduced to the international community through Gallery TAIK, as well as a rigorous process of promotion and publication.
The nine artists exhibited in New Wave Finland illustrate the diversity of the School’s distinctive artistic and pedagogical approach. Curator Persons elaborates: “What distinguishes the Helsinki School artists is their ability to use the photographic process as a conceptual tool. Collectively, their ideas are as varied as their raw materials, yet all seemly share a fascination with the passage of time through the measurement of light and self-reflection. The shared dialogue between students, teachers, and alumni has formed the foundation for an open environment that has produced four volumes of the Helsinki School books and over 60 individual publications worldwide. Aalto University’s School of Arts, Design and Architecture is committed to finding new innovative approaches to address education in the future. The Helsinki School is a good example of how an educational model became an international standard by encouraging its students to close their eyes to see.”
Pasi Autio (b. 1974, Vaasa, Finland): In his video works, Pasi Autio explores the connections between conscious and unconscious thought — specifically, the complex network of conscious and involuntary functions that make simple human activities—like walking—possible, and yet at the same time difficult to fully understand. Autio graduated with a BA in Photography in 2000 from the Institute of Design, Lahti Polytechnic. In 2007 he received an MA in photography from the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture. Autio has had numerous solo and group exhibitions in Finland, Sweden, Germany, and France. The artist lives and works in Helsinki.
Joakim Eskildsen (b. 1971, Copenhagen, Denmark): Primarily interested in exploring the visual poetry of identity and place, Eskildsen’s work is painterly and intimate – a thoughtful survey of the six different homes his family has lived in over the last six years. After serving as an apprentice in 1992 for the Royal Court photographer Rigmor Mydtskov, he moved to Finland in 1994 to study the craft of photographic book-making under Pentti Sammallahti at the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture. Eskildsen earned his MA from the institution in 1998. His publications include Nordic Signs (1995), Bluetide (1997),iChickenMoon (1999), which was awarded Best Foreign Title of 2000 in the Photo-Eye Books & Prints Annual Awards, the portfolioal-Madina (2002), made in collaboration with Kristoffer Albrecht and Pentti Sammallahti, and the highly-regarded book The Roma Journeys (2007). Eskildsen currently lives and works in Berlin.
Tiina Itkonen (b. 1968, Helsinki, Finland): Chosen as the Young Photographer of the Year in Finland in 2003, Itkonen began her photographic studies in 1992 at the Turku School of Art and Communication and received her MA in 2002 from the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture. Itkonen first traveled to Greenland in 1995 for her studies; the empty and tranquil beauty of Greenland and its icebergs, rather than the island’s remote exoticism, informs and dominates her work. She has had numerous solo exhibitions both in Finland and abroad. Itkonen’s works reside in numerous permanent collections around the world, including the Statoil Art Collection in Norway, Moderna Museet in Stockholm, DZ-Bank Collection in Frankfurt, and the Finnish Museum of Photography. The artist lives and works in Helsinki.
Hannu Karjalainen (b. 1978, Haapavesi, Finland): An interdisciplinary artist whose concept of film and photography intersects and intertwines, Karjalainen makes video and visual art, with a marked influence by the cinema. In his recent work, Karjalainen explores the ways in which color is coded and branded, particularly for commercial purposes. By de-contextualizing colors from their respective brands, he uses them and their attached meanings as tools to investigate the world. He has participated in numerous video screenings, festivals, and group exhibitions since 2001 in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Karjalainen graduated with an MA from the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture in 2005. He lives and works in Helsinki.
Kalle Kataila (b. 1978, Helsinki, Finland): Kataila’s work is based around concepts of landscape, awareness, and personal stories. His photographs, contemporary illustrations of the sublime, call to mind 19th-century Romantic landscapes: solitary, melancholy subjects stand in awe of nature’s spectacle. In 2010 he received his MA in Photography the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture. Kataila has exhibited with artists from the Helsinki School at the National Museum of Photography, Copenhagen (2011), Daegu Biennale (2010), École des Beaux-Arts, Paris (2008), and the Finnish Museum of Photography, Helsinki (2007). His works are in permanent collections at the Helsinki Art Museum and the Finnish State Art Collection, as well as in several private and corporate collections in Europe and the United States. The artist lives and works in Helsinki.
Anni Leppälä (b. 1981, Helsinki, Finland): Anni Leppälä’s photography exists in a realm of contradictions and metaphors, where dream-like narratives toy with ideas of memory, nostalgia, and the intersection of the momentary and the constant. There is a child-like nature about her work – executed through traditional forms of photography like portraiture, landscape, and interiors – with currents of symbolism running throughout. Leppälä graduated from Turku Arts Academy/Polytechnic in 2004 and continued her MA studies at the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture. From 2001 onwards, she has participated in various group exhibitions in Finland and abroad. In 2010 Leppälä was named Finland’s Young Artist of the Year and consequently held a solo exhibition at the Tampere Art Museum. Her work is found in numerous collections in Finland, France, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. The artist lives and works in Helsinki.
Niko Luoma (b. 1970, Helsinki, Finland): Primarily interested in light and its movement, Niko Luoma’s work focuses on energy and is about the process as much as it is about the result. He combines mathematics and geometry, symmetry and chaos – both found in nature. Over the past ten years, Luoma has repeatedly found new ways to manipulate and challenge the photographic process: his use of multiple exposures – sometimes numbering in the thousands – layered on single negatives creates a map of time and chance. In essence, he “draws” with light. He studied photography at the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, the SMFA School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the New England School of Photography, Boston. The artist has participated in numerous group exhibitions, as well as held solo exhibitions. In 2003 Luoma started teaching photography at the University of Art and Design, Helsinki (renamed Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture in 2012) and lives and works in Helsinki.
Riitta Päiväläinen (b. 1969, Maaninka, Finland): Päiväläinen creates site-specific photographic sculptures using discarded clothes from second-hand shops and flea markets. The old garments carry silent, unknown stories that are brought to life by the landscape, subtly distinguishing between absence and presence, memory and personal history. She lives and works in Helsinki.
Mikko Sinervo (b. 1981, Helsinki, Finland): Sinervo takes as his starting point the optical term “afterimage” – the visual apparition generated by the overstimulated eye. In his works, saturated, pulsating bodies of color read as a visual metaphor for the persistence and changeability of memory. In 2010 Sinervo received his MA in photography from the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture. Since 2004 he has participated in numerous exhibitions throughout Europe and the U.S. His works are part of the Colleción Olor Visual, Barcelona and the Kouri Collection, New York, as well as selection of private collections. Sinervo is included in the catalogue Edge of Vision – The Rise of Abstraction in Photography (Aperture Foundation, 2009). Earlier in 2012 he was nominated for the Victor Fellowship Award. Sinervo lives and works in Helsinki.
Gallery TAIK was established in 1995 in Helsinki, Finland. It is the primary gallery for those selected artists who now make up what is known as the Helsinki School. Gallery TAIK has grown into one of the leading photographic galleries in northern Europe with its permanent exhibition space situated in Berlin’s Mitte since 2003.
Gallery TAIK regularly participates in several international art fairs and actively works with publishing houses in creating books and touring museum exhibitions for its primary artists.
Its creator and director Timothy Persons is also a senior curator for the Kulturhuset in Stockholm and the Danish National Museum of Photography in Copenhagen.