• Timo Heino: Gravity (photo: Jussi Tiainen)

    Royal British Society of Sculptors presents Skulptur, an exhibition of Nordic sculpture opening 5 February in three locations in London. Finnish artists Timo Heino, Anne Koskinen, Maija Närhinen and Jarno Vesala are showcasing their work in the South Kensington premises of the 110-year-old Society, while Prince’s Gardens will present pieces by the grand old lady of Finnish sculpture, Laila Pullinen, as well as by young artist Otto Karvonen.

    Whilst Nordic television programmes, literature and design have gained recognition in the UK in the recent years, sculpture has received less attention. “Skulptur isn’t only the largest exhibition of Nordic sculpture, but also the first exhibition of this scale in London to present sculpture from any geographic area”, says Hannele Tilles, Finnish-born art aficionado and patron who was also a member in the jury that selected the exhibition’s artists.

    Finnish sculpture is of a high quality, which was reflected in the selection process. “The aim wasn’t necessarily to find a group of artists that best represent their country, but artists whose quality of work made them stand apart. The Finnish artists chosen for the exhibition also represent the expanding concept of sculpture”, Tilles describes. As a result, Skulptur offers a wide range of art from classical sculpture to video installation.

    Artist Timo Heino’s work Gravity is made out of room dust. "I’m interested in the symbolism of matter and the beliefs attached to it, but also in the tangibility of the material itself. The dust in my work depicts materialized time. My art merges together ingredients that are traditionally seen as belonging to different categories. These contradictory comparisons can be room dust and clinically clear mirrors, hair and car tires, or bone, plastic, foodstuff, and stainless steel." Jarno Vesala, who the British audience has become familiar with from other exhibitions, has used video and audio installations to research the theme of exclusion.

    Set in the public space and interweaving with everyday routine, Otto Karvonen’s subtle work reflects the widening of the idea of sculpture. “My work on display is a part of the series Alien Palace Birdhouse Collection, which was inspired by European immigration policy. Detention centres, where paperless foreigners waiting for deportation are locked in, acted as the premiss for the series. I use recognisable everyday elements such as birdhouses, which I built from materials borrowed from these detention centres and which are simultaneously fully functioning nest boxes for birds”, Karvonen describes.

    Maija Närhinen creates art that maps the finiteness of the image. In her work, small and originally two-dimensional images form a three-dimensional piece. “My works always have a connection to everyday life both through their topic and material. In addition to collage, I’ve also merged painting and watercolour with three-dimensional work.”

    The choice of material also influences the content of Anne Koskinen's work, whose material of choice is natural Nordic stone. “I’m fascinated by the pivotal idea of sculpture: how does material become an image? I look for natural stones in which I see emerging images. Questions of power and eternity are connected to my work through my choice of material. In my art, using local stones links with global questions of identity and origin.”

    Tilles brought her artistic expertise to the exhibition that took two years to build. “I have developed an interest in sculpture over the last 12 years since moving to my current house with large almost park-like grounds making it the perfect environment for sculpture”, Tilles explains. “Most of the works in the sculpture park are custom-made and introduced me to the Royal British Society of Sculptors.”

    The Finnish artists feel the exhibition is a great opportunity to familiarise Londoners with Nordic art, but also to find new contacts and collaborators. “London is a fantastic city for art. It has such a large range of institutions, galleries, events, and makers. Having a showcase in a metropolis like London always inspires you”, Karvonen says. “My own work deals with global topics and that’s why it’s very interesting to present it in London”, Närhinen ponders. Hannele Tilles is happy to get the opportunity to support especially young artists. “I believe the exhibition will open doors for much wider job opportunities for them.”

    The exhibition is supported by the Nordic embassies in London, Danish Agency for Culture, The Swedish Arts Grants Committee's International Programme for Visual Artists, Goethe-Institut London, Imperial College London, FRAME Visual Art Finland, Nordic Culture Fund, Nordic Culture Point, and two anonymous, UK-based patrons.

    5 February 2015-15 May 2015
    RBS Galleries, 108 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 3RA
    Find out more about the exhibition here

    Otto Karvonen
    Maija Närhinen
    Anne Koskinen
    Timo Heino
    Jarno Vesala
    Laila Pullinen