Ms. Saskia Bos, Director of De Appel, Centre for Contemporary Art in Amsterdam, who selected the award winner, made the following statement on her choice:
Dear Mrs Niemistö and members of the Ars Fennica board, whom I would first like to thank for the confidence they have placed in me. I also wish to encourage the Ars Fennica Foundation in its wonderful and generous work. The winner of the Ars Fennica Prize for 1999 was selected out of only eight artists, but all eight nominees were well chosen and engagingly different from each other. I was pleased to have the opportunity to speak extensively with each of the nominees and also to study their works in advance through the use of slides and catalogues. As always, the studio visits and personal encounters were crucial and formed a key factor in determining whether my intuition was correct and in hearing the answers to more cognitive questions.
After long deliberation, I have chosen a young and tumultuous artist who is driven by a need to understand the world and has to make things himself in order to grasp it better. To some, he might seem to be an artist of the past: he is not interested in the newest techniques, nor does he want to sell or to be ‘in vogue’. This searching might appear to be idiosyncratic, yet his apparently autistic, heavy-handed and sometimes rough sculptures speak to the other senses: they speak of inner fears about refined technologies that we cannot control, about animal urges and mythologies that continue to haunt us in dreams, in books, in movies. The Whale, now in the Chiasma collection, has such power. It demonstrates vulnerability and strength at the same time, bulky and motionless, as a natural form conquered by man. If this is a work that reflects the artist´s relationship with nature, then that relationship has certainly changed; respect for what nature has created is not at stake here, nor emulation through imitation of fragments of matter, moss or skin. Here the animal is conceived through found objects – the pipes of a demolished church organ – and through this recreation of form, a fusion takes place of the organic and the man-made.
The Iron Maiden or the Ducks of Tuonela also speak of the struggle of man and his haunting dreams. In his more recent work, Big Bang Echo, the artist looks for a more spiritual path, a path which the ‘singing’ whale may have initiated. How contemporary is the work? Contemporary enough to speak to many of our senses, its visual presence full of movement and sound. With his rough aesthetics Markus Copper is essentially ‘modern’ and coherently ‘against the grain’, as was expected from artists in the twentieth century. Is it then maybe the lack of cynicism and the true search for pure poetry that come across from his sculptures and performances that make him somebody to believe in for the next millennium?