Dark Days, Bright Nights: Contemporary Paintings from Finland
Dark Days, Bright Nights: Contemporary Paintings from Finland gathers together and investigates the inspirations, methods, and practice of Finnish painters. Dark Days, Bright Nights presents 43 works of art—stylistically disparate and often visually dazzling—from 13 artists ranging from the post-WWII generation to those who have come of age squarely in the 21st century. The exhibition features 41 two-dimensional paintings, a sculptural installation, and a projected video installation.
Dark Days, Bright Nights: Contemporary Paintings from Finland will be on view at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art from October 2, 2015, through February 21, 2016. With days of 24-hour darkness in the winter months and 24 hours of sunlight during the summer, what is real and what is a dream can seem a narrow distance apart in this most northern of the European countries. Dark Days, Bright Nights is curated by Barbara O'Brien, executive director Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri. “My travels in Finland allowed the opportunity to create a portrait of a time and place where support for the arts has been strong, and the notion of the painter as a respected cultural worker is palpable,” said O’Brien. Admission to the Kemper Museum and this special exhibition is free.
The 13 artists represented in Dark Days, Bright Nights were all born in Finland, and now work in locations including the city and countryside of Finland as well as Berlin, New York City, and Stockholm. Artists include Jani Hänninen, Heikki Marila, Marika Mäkelä, Jarmo Mäkilä, Rauha Mäkilä, Reima Nevalainen, Leena Nio, Vesa-Pekka Rannikko, Mari Rantanen, Mari Sunna, Nanna Susi, Sirpa Särkijärvi, and Anna Tuori. The artists selected represent a wide range of experiences and painting styles, but are connected by the Kemper Museum’s philosophical focus on investigating the history of the gesture in painting and in creating a conceptual and art historic bridge from the 20th to the 21st century in both exhibition program and the Permanent Collection.
Jarmo Mäkilä’s narrative tales of country life in the shadow of WWII are a counterpoint to the 21st-century inspiration of cityscapes and graffiti in works by Jani Hänninen. The relationship to the natural world, so important to the Finnish people, is vividly realized in the paintings by Lapland artist Sirpa Särkijärvi. The space between waking and sleeping seems to come to life in the snow-globe-like paintings by Anna Tuori. The desire to control and genetically manipulate nature is explored in a video installation by Vesa-Pekka Ranniko. Exhibition artist Reima Nevalainen was recently selected as Finland’s Young Artist of the Year 2016.
A full-color catalogue accompanies the exhibition, and is available for purchase in the Kemper Museum Shop. The catalogue provides art historical scholarship and cultural context to the exhibition and includes essays written by Peter MacKeith, Honorary Consul General to Finland; Timo Valjakka, an independent writer, curator, and critic based in Helsinki and London; and curator O’Brien.
To hear insight from the artists themselves, an exhibition audio tour is available inside The Kemper app. Download the app via iTunes or the Android marketplace to hear the artists speak about selected works.
Support for the Kemper Museum is generously provided by members and donors, especially Frame Visual Art Finland, and The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Consulate General of Finland. Financial assistance for this project has been provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency. This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.