Summer of Feminism


Feminism spotlighted in the Pro Artibus summer exhibition at Gallery Elverket.

Gallery Elverket kicks off its summer season with Summer of Feminism, an exhibition featuring the work of five contemporary Finnish artists: Birgitta Ara, Cris af Enehielm, J. A. Juvani, Reija Meriläinen and Lena Séraphin. The social theme continues our 2017 tribute to the centenary of Finland’s independence, shedding light on the significance of feminism as a thematic catalyst for contemporary art. The artists featured in the show all draw inspiration from feminist concerns such as hidden power structures, corporeality and the politics of identity. The critical, questioning mindset of feminism ultimately underpins all art that embraces new incursions and fresh ways of seeing the world. The feminist tradition in contemporary art sees the personal as political, recognizing the significance of the body and corporeality, while also taking an incisive interest in the politics of identity.

The featured artists spans many generations and work in different mediums, ranging from painting and sculpture to video and installation. Their work pays homage to feminism as an underlying foundation for the politics of identity, while also saluting Finland as a champion of gender equality. Contemporary artists continue to draw inspiration from subversive feminist tactics, the need for critical re-evaluation being an eternal impulse in contemporary art.

Birgitta Ara (b. 1934) will exhibit her playful, exuberant sculptures celebrating corporeality and shedding light on how the human body can be rendered completely abstract whilst nevertheless retaining its recognizable human quality.

Cris af Enehielm (b. 1954) was an active member of Homo $ and Jack Helen Brut, two Finnish performance groups that critically engaged in themes related to the politics of identity in the 1980s. Readily identifiable by their expressive vigour, her monumental paintings mix motifs ranging from the sublime to the carnal, echoing the feminist agenda of questioning established categories of good taste and value.

The whole basis of reality is questioned by Lena Séraphin (b. 1962), as exemplified by her video Watchmaker, which forces the viewer to repeatedly double-back and question what is real and what is not. Séraphin takes a special interest in narrative strategies, which are the theme of her recent PhD study approved earlier this spring. The key to reading her works is to view them through the lens of feminist subversion and the complex relationship between representation and reality.

Reija Meriläinen (b. 1987) in turn fuses the human and digital worlds in works engaging in a feminist analysis of power mechanisms. Meriläinen will exhibit a video installation and sculptures blending readymade and hand-made elements.

J. A. Juvani (b. 1988) meanwhile addresses the queer tradition, interrogating our established notions of identity and sexuality. Juvani engages in a dialogue with feminist art traditions, occasionally spiced with elements of parody.

To coincide with the exhibition, a number of well-known Finnish writers will contribute blog texts under the title My Feminism, and a panel discussion on the topic of feminism will be hosted in Tammisaari’s town square.

Juha-Heikki Tihinen, PhD, curator