THE INTEPRETER OF DREAMS
One of the most prominent visual artists in Finland, Anita Jensen, has brought her recent works to Pictor Gallery. Today is the opening of her exhibition, Dreams of Order.
Jensen graduated in 1986 from the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts and continued her studies at the University of Art and Design in the 1990s. She has worked and studied extensively in several countries, including Italy, France, India, Thailand, South-Korea, Burma, Japan, and the U.S.A. Her list of exhibitions in both Finland and abroad is impressive, indeed. She has participated in major international graphic art biennials and triennials in Poland, France, Spain, the former Yugoslavia, Japan, Sweden, and Estonia, for example. The most important Finnish art collections and museums have purchased her works, and she has been granted a number of awards, among them the Premier Prize in the Tallinn Graphic Art Triennial, Estonia, in 1998.
As an artist, Jensen has always preferred to use large scale – something larger than the average, something larger than life. She started out by making big painting-like prints with the aquatint etching technique, which stood out from the mainstream graphic art style because of their monumental size and free, expressive forms. From early on, color also played a major role in her works. During the 1990s, new photographic techniques further enhanced her repertoire. Advanced visual technologies opened a completely new and exceptional direction to her expression. Several visits to Asia and serious studies on its cultural heritages continue to add to the complexity and layers of meaning of her images.
In her art, Jensen interestingly combines old photographs plus other pictures found in archives and flea markets worldwide with materials that she has photographed and scanned herself. The latter are mostly salvaged from her backyard, she claims. These combinations produce amazingly intensive visual effects. The viewer experiences a flood of associations hard to describe – the images seem to touch the unconscious without any mediation. The powerful dark contrasts behind the natural forms make the objects stand out as almost three-dimensional, figurative and abstract simultaneously, and strangely organic. Detached from their natural environment, they no longer look like plants or mushrooms, but turn into something almost unrecognizable. Incorporating old photographs, the images espouse surrealism, dreams, and unconsciousness, awakening the spectator’s unconscious feelings. Jensen mentions that all of her works deal with “naming, classifying, ordering, sorting out, and evaluating,” through which, paradoxically, we struggle to control and master reality.
Jensen treats the pictures she uses with respect; she has documented the people who created them and the places where they come from. Artists have always used citations from earlier historical times. In the long tradition of making art, Jensen seems to suggest, everything transforms into common property. Medieval and Renaissance art, for example, recycled a familiar pool of images, which was shaped by each artist in her/his own personal way. Today, this exchange of influences applies also to Japanese art, which has lately become a source of inspiration to Jensen, too. In her long pictorial collages, the spectator can sense the influence of traditional Japanese picture rolls. For example, the three-dimensional effect characteristic of the work, The Dictionary of Youth, emerges from the way that the pictures and writings alternate with each other. The composition stirs up the artist’s personal history, too, as the writings come from the encyclopedia owned by her father. Thus the art work suggests an interplay between the personal and cultural spheres, capable of giving rise to an entirely new aesthetic form.
The art works in this exhibition also display strong contrasts of light and dark, adding an element of drama and staging. Dark elements seem to unfold before the spectator, disclosing other scenes with different stories. New dimensions come into sight as the images at the same time reveal and conceal meanings, and the spectator is lured to look afresh at the world within. In a strange way, Jensen’s works manage to bond beauty and horror; that is what makes them so fascinating. What do we find behind the mask of beauty?
One of the most important elements of graphic art is light. It has marked the history of print making since Rembrandt and Goya, the great masters of the 17th century. In Jensen’s art, too, the presence of light is almost tangible. The red color burns like a flame against the black background. Jensen invites us to join her on a journey to experience the world around us with that kind of intensity, guided by her impressive art works that help us perceive deeper and step beyond the ordinary.
Inari Krohn’s speech at the opening of the exhibition Dreams of Order, Pictor Gallery in Helsinki, October, 2008. Trans. Asta Kuusinen.