Juhana Blomstedt
1 Dec  2011 – 8 Jan  2012
Works from the 1960s to 2010
Juhana Blomstedt was born in 1937. His father was the architect Aulis Blomstedt and his mother was the ceramist Heidi Sibelius, daughter of Jean Sibelius. Blomstedt belonged to the second generation of Finnish modernists together with Tor Arne and Paul Osipow, among others. Of this group, he was the one who lived and worked abroad for the longest period. Blomstedt studied at the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts from 1957 to 1961. Sam Vanni, who was one of his teachers, had a decisive influence on Blomstedt's conception of art.

Vanni also served as a gateway to Juhana Blomstedt's early interest in Kandinsky, Klee and Vasarely.

During the early stages of his career, Blomstedt wrote many art reviews for the publications of the student unions of the University of Helsinki and the Helsinki University of Technology. Writing became a permanent part of his thinking.

In 1966, Juhana Blomstedt moved to Paris with his family, remaining there until 1981. He participated in the student uprising of May 1968 with the painting Hommage à la Sorbonne Libre, which he made together with Paul Osipow. The painting was on the wall of the university until it was destroyed by the police. Paris become Juhana Blomstedt's second home town and an important factor of his international career.

In Paris, Blomstedt came to know many renowned artists, both French and artists from other countries residing in the city. The Parisian art world gradually became an integral part of Juhana Blomstedt's life. Here he could familiarize himself with the whole tradition of European modernism and contemporary art. At the same time, Blomstedt established contacts with Parisian galleries, where he held several exhibitions. In 1968, he was given the opportunity to represent France at the Sao Paulo biennial in Brazil.

From 1971 to 1972, Juhana Blomstedt was a visiting professor at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in the United States. He became interested in kinetics and the optics of perception. A natural outcome of this interest was the introduction of a strong kinetic dimension into his art. According to his own words, Blomstedt, however, soon tired of this type of visual language and felt that he was on his way back to a strict constructivist visual idiom. This turning point was followed by a period of searching for different visual forms of expression – ranging from colourism to semi-figurative abstraction.

Experiments with different forms of visual expression are a predominant characteristic of Juhana Blomstedt's later painting. After his return to Finland, his most important achievements were participating in the 1982 Venice Biennial, the distinction of the Artist of the Year in 1989, and a major retrospective held at the Tennis Palace venue of the Helsinki Art Museum in 2007. Blomstedt was also for many years senior teacher at the Department of Visual Arts of the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts.

Over the past decades, Juhana Blomstedt and his wife Jertta spent a lot of time abroad, above all in Africa. In his last years, he would return to Paris for the winter seasons. Despite his severe illness, he would work there on his art actively and untiringly.

Juhana Blomstedt was particularly interested in the visual language of art. His motifs ranged from phenomena of perceptual psychology and optical illusions to mythical conceptions related to forms and colours. He was also interested in the possibilities of stylized form in figurative motifs. The importance of legibility as a particular quality of painting can be regarded as a core element of Juhana Blomstedt's art. The duality created by viewing as both an experience and a process of reading is characteristic of Juhana Blomstedt's art. According to him, human interaction can exist only with the aid of a language in which the visual represents its own, given idiom. In this sense, abstract forms, according to him, have their own place as a universal language.

Juhana Blomstedt was also well-versed in art history, literature and music. His views were wide-ranging, liberal and undogmatic. He strongly supported the values of European art and culture while not underestimating more exotic cultures and their significance. He had a particularly warm attitude to African cultures, which were close to his heart.

Over the years, the creation of art as a moral attitude became increasingly important for Juhana Blomstedt. In his last years, he consistently refused to surrender to his coming fate and devoted himself completely to his work in art, which he understood as life's own way of combating death.

Carolus Enckell, artist
Friend of Juhana Blomstedt