Anu Tuominen

Ars Fennica 2003

born 1961 in Lemi, lives in Helsinki

Anu Tuominen graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki in 1995. She had already completed a degree at the University of Art and Design Helsinki UIAH in 1992. Tuominen’s object works have their points of departure in visual ideas and thinking. Her art links together objects, words and images into a single rich jigsaw puzzle of ideas. In her hands, everyday utility objects, metal kitchen utensils, broken crockery or ordinary buttons from flee markets are miraculously transformed into something else, but without losing their original nature. Via small additions, the use of colourful balls of wool and skilful crochet-work, or simply by sorting and combining, realisations of the artist’s ideas in visual form grow organically out of them. A subtle addition brings about an unspoken metamorphosis. The works return to presence the colour of blueberry milk, the sounds of manual work, the chalk-smell of the school classroom, what it tastes like, what it feels like to the touch.

As with conceptual artists, Tuominen uses words, images and objects to bring out connections that are inaccessible to rational thought, and apparently semiotically impossible events that are nevertheless possible in the world of art and poetry. In the book Kuvan sijamuotoja (grammatical cases of the picture) the objects are concretised using purely verbal instructions – there is no need to fabricate these works, since words alone have the capacity to make them visible. In Magritte-esque fashion, the pictures, too, live out, their own visual truth; in Tuominen’s works a burning candle in a postcard really does burn, a picture of a hawk breaks free form a page in an encyclopaedia to ascend onto a hillock made out of the page, and so on. The boundaries between the true and the imagined, the seen and the thought, the said and the manufactured begin to waver. Tuominen’s works open up an exhilarating domain of insights, play and wonder, a world that would be impossible for rational logic, and which eludes explanation. The tangled continuum of the works forms a kind of metaphor for creativity and art that is bound up with a long tradition in art.

Marja Sakari

Aine Art Museumen taidemuseo, Tornio 22.8.-5.10.
Amos Anderson Art Museum, Helsinki 16.10.-9.11.
Salo Art Museum 22.11.2003-4.1.2004

born 1961 in Lemi
lives and works in Helsinki


1990-95 Academy of Fine Arts, Master of Fine Arts
1984-92 University of Art and Design, Helsinki, UIAH, Department of Interior Architecture and Furniture Design, Master of Arts


2002 Gallery AMA, Turku
2001 Nordic Council of Ministers, Copenhagen
2001 Galerie Anhava, Helsinki
2001 Rogaland Kunstsenter, Stavanger, Norway
2000 Forum Box, Helsinki
1999 Café Ateneum, Helsinki
1998-99 South Karelian Art Museum, Lappeenranta
1998 Galerie Artek, Helsinki
1998 Push Firma Beige, Helsinki
1998 Petite Galerie, Pariisi
1997 Galleria Titanik, Turku
1997 Collected works, Mänttä
1997 Voipaala, Valkeakoski
1996 Galerie Artek, Helsinki
1995 Findings, Finnish Forest Museum Lusto, Punkaharju
1995 Ministry of Education, Helsinki
1994 Galerie Artek, Helsinki
1994 Wunderkammer, Voipaala Cultural Centre for Children, Valkeakoski
1993 Artek Shop, Helsinki
1992 Cube, Diploma Work Exhibition, University of Art and Design UIAH, Helsinki


2002 An der Schwelle des Unbekannten, Kulturabteilung Bayer, Leverkusen, Germany
2002 Fluxus und die Folgen, Wiesbaden, Germany
2002 Biennale Balticum, Rauma Art Museum
2002 Unique 2002, Fiskars
2001 Association of Finnish Sculptors, Summer Exhibition, Korkeasaari, Helsinki
1999 Umedalen Skulptur, Sweden
1999 Laterna Nordica, AIFACS, New Delhi, India
1998 Purnu, Orivesi
1998 Ahjo, Joensuu
1998 Stone Sculpture, Galerie Artek
1998 Hyvinkää Art Museum
1997-98 Growth of Mind, Helsinki
1997-98 Conception, Cultural Centre of Eastern Helsinki Stoa
1997 Sex, Snack’n Pop, Galleria Titanik, Turku
1997 Muuntamo, Helsinki
1997 Gävle Art Center, Sweden
1996 Amos Anderson Art Museum, Helsinki
1994 Forest and Mountain Project, Academy of Fine Arts Gallery and Gallery Wang, Oslo
1993 Wunderkammer, children’s exhibition Toisin , Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki
1993 TEXO ry, Gallery Otso, Espoo
1992 Voipaala Cultural Centre for Children, Valkeakoski
1989 Ekobäng, Vanha ylioppilastalo, Helsinki
1986 Young Sketches, Furniture Fair in Copenhagen


2000 L’Art dans le Monde, Pont Alexandre III, Paris
2000 Art Forum Berlin, Galerie Anhava
1999 5th Textile Triennial, Museum of Industrial Arts, Helsinki
1999 Aquarium, Museum of Architecture, Tallinn
1997 Exhibition of Finnish Artists, Kunsthalle Helsinki
1995 Mänttä Art Festival
1995 Regional Exhibition of Greater Helsinki and Uusimaa, Kerava Art Museum
1992, 1991, 1989
The Young Artists’ Exhibition, Kunsthalle Helsinki
1992 Nordic Drawing Triennial
1986 Nordic Furniture Design, Form/Design Center, Malmö, Sweden


2003 ARS FENNICA, Henna and Pertti Niemistö Art Foundation
1999 Aquarium, Tallinn, Association of Estonian Sculptors
1995 Mänttä Art Festival, 1st prize
1992 Wood Product Competition, 1st prize, Finnish Crafts Organization
1990 Art competition for the main entrance of the University of Industrial Arts, 1st place, University of Industrial Arts, Helsinki
1986 Furniture design competition, 2nd place, Finnish Furniture Exporters and University of Industrial Arts
1986 Grave monument competition, 1st place and honourable mention, Church House, SKSK, Union of Helsinki Evangelic-Lutheran Parishes, Finnish Association of Designers Ornamo


1998, 1996 Villa Lante, ROME
1995 Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris
1993 4th Biennial of European Art Schools, Maastricht, pupil of Hidetoshi Nagasawa
1992 Strata, assisting Alan Sonfist , Tampere Art Museum
1991 Puu vain, assisting Helen Escobedo, Helsinki City Art Museum


Helsinki City Art Museum
Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki
City of Espoo
City of Tampere
Sara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere
Henna and Pertti Niemistö Contemporary Art Collection
Saastamoinen Foundation
Collection Swanljung
Finnish Art Association

National Public Art Council, Sweden
Nordic Water Colour Museum, Sweden
Malmö Art Museum, Skärhamn, Sweden
Gävle Municipality, Sweden
Art Association of Apoteksbolaget, Sweden
Provincial Administration (Landstinget), Gävle, Sweden
Provincial Museum of Gävleborg, Sweden
Collection René Block


Children’s Clinic, HYKS, Helsinki 2000
Korttelitalo, Veräjälaakso, Helsinki 1999


Kuvan sijamuotoja, Jack-in-the-Box, 2001


Association of Finnish Sculptors
Finnish Painters’ Union
Textile Artists TEXO, Finnish Association of Designers, Ornamo


Dr. Borovsky is an art critic, consultant, lecturer and columnist Head of the Contemporary Art Department, State Russian Museum , St. Petersburg.

Alexander Borovsky’s Statement

“I have chosen Anu Tuominen as the winner of the ARS FENNICA 2003 prize. This decision was not an easy one, as the standard of nominees this year seems to be especially high.

As for my reasons for giving Anu Tuominen the first place, I would like to formulate them in the following way. I regard Anu Tuominen as an artist who is absolutely free of all the clichés of form and meaning construction, which have become widespread in contemporary art recently. In this epoch of total deconstruction, games and parodying of contexts she creates unusually and even frighteningly profound, serious art aimed at achieving a certain syncretism, the unity in the “nature of things”, and not at deconstruction. I realize that some might see too much pathos in this statement, but I will prove my claim.

On the surface of it, Anu Tuominen works within a long-standing tradition of breaking traditional statutes and media stereotypes of art with the use of found objects, which, as a rule, are everyday items; she appropriates trash: base objects from different levels (in an analogy with the famous High and Low exhibition at the New York’s MOMA), or, as philosophers put it, she valorizes the profane. This tradition goes back to DADA and the revived Fluxus tradition. The profane here is the objects and materials of the kitchen and of “feminine” everyday life in general: pottery, thread, buttons, postcards, books, etc. and archaic everyday rites associated with the domain of the House – sewing, cooking, taking care of children, maintaining communication between the members of the family (sending postcards etc.). It also includes trash, the refuse generated by these activities.

I must say that the feeling of handicraft, or, to be more exact, of something homemade, was my first impression, and one that had a rather leveling-down effect: it looked like some raw, homemade version of Fluxus… Then an idea struck me, that this accent on leveling-down is not accidental, that it is intended, programmed.

Maybe she is concentrating on the gender themes that are is still in fashion today? No, that is perhaps the topmost and not the most important stratum. And then the profound depth of the artist’s intentions was revealed to me. Yes, Anu Tuominen author-izes the everyday, the trite, the profane. Yet, the author is initially, as Ortega y Gasset recalled the word, an “auctor”, someone who expands things. And this is the main thing, to my mind. Anu Tuominen works with the sign, with what it denotes, its denotate, with the process of signification proper, with the sign as an element of communication. And she treats all these aspects expansively. As an author. As an auctor.

Besides being an organic part of the internal world of the artist, the material of the House and everyday life has the most stable and persistent sign content in all cultures, and that is why Anu Tuominen works with it. She works with this stability, destroying persistent associations and balances, revealing the profound, ontological, basic associations through paradoxical and provocative moves.

Here is an obvious example of her work with the persistence (“sluggishness”, as Nietzsche put it) of associations between the sign and its denotate (i.e. the object which is substituted or represented by the sign). The sign as a copy or reproduction is the simplest case of such an association. Anu Tuominen takes a simple postcard with a photograph of an interior or landscape. And then she replaces the reflecting surface depicted there (a mirror in the room or a water surface in a landscape) with a real mirror surface. That is, she inserts a piece of a real mirror into a postcard with a “mirror”. It is a very simple move, but it immediately disrupts persistent associations. What represents what? Does the sign replace what is denoted, or vice versa? What is communication when the postcard has a message to convey? And what is the message? What is being offered to the addressee of the postcard? Is he or she to look at the view, which was important to the sender? Or is he or she to look at his or her own self in the mirror?

And here is a more extended example of work with the material of signification. We see a set of paints in round cavities. The circles of color represent and imply the process of painting a picture, of mixing pure colors. There are analogues of these circles of color nearby. But they are crocheted, made with a crochet hook and threads of different colors. So the mixing of primary and secondary colors has already been completed here in the paradoxical, “objectified form”. The persistence of the scholarly, routine approach to painting as a technical method is overcome…

The metamorphoses of color creation are particularly exciting for the artist. A traditional kitchen utensil is lying on a flat surface. It is a wooden masher. On one side of the masher there are colored balls of thread (crocheting in general is Anu Tuominen’s favorite technique, it is even a medium for her), on the other side we observe the same balls, but here they have been crushed into flat circles of color. Once, when I was at elementary school, I was shocked by the understandability of a simple scheme: the circulation of water in nature. Here we have a no less striking image of the circulation of color in nature.

The sign is not always immediately bound to the phenomenon it represents: a certain convention, a treaty on values defining their correlation, is worked out by society. Thus soap represents (and not just metaphorically, but also technically) the notion of cleanness, sterility, the processes of purification, of removing dirt etc. Anu Tuominen uses trivial plastic soapboxes, but she does not put soap in them, she puts seashore pebbles there, their round streamlined form being literally created by a millennium of water working in the surf. The persistent, “sluggish” metaphor (representation, bond) is replaced by a different one, which is paradoxically fresh and unexpected. This results in the emergence of a striking, powerful image of organic purity…

It is difficult to find analogies to Anu Tuominen’s new metaphors, to her search for new fundamental associations between the phenomenon and its sign. Only J. Beuys comes to my mind, or rather one of his multiples: a lemon and an electric lamp of striking yellow color. The saturated color, the “charge” of the lemon seems to be a source of energy. Perhaps, only Beuys in his works of this sort and with his astounding talent for finding associations between phenomena, which are more convincing and fundamental than merely physical ones, can be regarded as Anu Tuominen’s predecessor…

The paradoxicality of Anu Tuominen as an artist lies in the fact that she is an indisputable master of conceptual pragmatic play, and this is the only possible option for a person who works with signs and modes of objects and phenomena, reconstructing systems of bonds that have a long history. That is why she is so much inclined to systematization, to the creation of visual alphabets… The objectification of her intentions in media that are warm and gentle to the touch (crocheting, appropriation of household utensils and rites) is not accidental – she gives vent to her emotionality in this way.

It is symbolic for her to articulate a colored photograph as an amateur shot, there is no special composition, just a fragment of country life – a clearing in the forest, a farmer near a firewood barn. And all of that appears against the background of classic Finnish autumn with its yellow, green, bright-red colors… An everyday object looks quite natural in this environment: it is a clothes line with plastic pegs for drying linen. But the pegs are of various colors. They represent spreads of color, a paradoxical analogue to the natural spectrum. It is difficult to make out whether this chromatic scale is a sign of natural color variety, or whether the natural, “accidental” colors of autumn represent, signify, symbolize certain ontological regularities of systematicness… I believe this is an image of Anu Tuominen’s art with its paradoxical relationship between conceptuality and lyricism.”

Translation: Andrei Patrikeyev


The articles have been written by art critic Pessi Rautio, Dr Alexander Borovsky, Head of the Contemporary Art Department, State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, and Anu Tuominen

120 pages
Richly illustrated
Size: 260 x 210 mm
Languages: Finnish, Swedish and English
Editor: Kirsti Karvonen
Graphic design: dog design
ISBN 952-471-227-X
Price: 29 euro

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