Characteristic features of Silja Rantanen as an artist are her exceptionally acute powers of observation and deep ability to assimilate things. She is continuously internalising information, visual stimuli and experiences, moods and memories. From there she goes on, partly unconsciously and partly in highly explicit ways, to analyse this store of information and emotion to find ideas for her new paintings. It is also typical of her that she continues to develop, daring to step off the beaten track and take risks. Therefore, her paintings are always truly interesting. Their visual layeredness and references to the forms of everyday life and culture alike naturally fascinate viewers interested in life and cultural history. But these properties are mainly an incentive and starting point leading to her paintings. The deepest content of her works lies in their sensory synthesis, the legacy of painting coming alive once again in a new way.
Silja Rantanen is one of Finland’s most highly regarded painters. She has received the Ducat Prize of the Finnish Art Society, the Nordic Art Prize of the Edstrand Art Foundation, the Ars Fennica Prize, the Second Prize of the Carnegie Art Award and the Culture Prize of the Finnish-Swedish Cultural Foundation. Rantanen has also been awarded the decoration of Commander of the Order the Lion of Finland and the Pro Finlandia Medal. She has represented Finland at the Venice Biennale and has been Artist of the Year of the Helsinki Festival, Artist Professor, and professor at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm and the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts. The Sara Hildén Art Museum held a Silja Rantanen retrospective in 2011. Her thesis for the Doctorate in Fine Arts was officially inspected at the Academy of Fine Arts of the University of Arts in 2014.
Art integrated with architecture is associated essentially with Silja Rantanen’s core idea of art, and several public works of art have been commissioned from her, including ‘Kuvan ylitys’ (Beyond the Image) at the Uusimaa Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (architect Pekka Helin); ‘14 pysähdyspaikkaa’ (Fourteen Stations), a series of paintings for Hämeenkylä Church (architect Olli-Pekka Jokela); ‘Colour Chart’ at the Finnish Embassy in Berlin (architects Rauno Lehtinen, Pekka Mäki, Toni Peltola); ‘Var är du, Jacques Bernis?’ (Jacques Bernis, Where Are You?) on the Arlanda airport air traffic control tower in Sweden and an 80-metre long work for the façade of the Emporia shopping mall in Malmö, Sweden. Both of the buildings in Sweden were designed by Gert Wingårdh.
The Kvarteret Victoria Foundation has commissioned a total work of art from Silja Rantanen and Carolus Enckell for the façade of its new building at Jätkäsaari in Helsinki. The individual pieces are in an area 70 metres wide and 15 metres high, and the work will be completed at the end of August this year. The architect of the building is Stefan Ahlman.
’Serenissima’, the title of the present exhibition, is the traditional sobriquet and term of praise for Venice, the superlative of ‘serene’, ‘calm’ and ‘majestic’. The word clearly corresponds to Silja Rantanen’s ideal of painting. Many of the paintings in the exhibition represent the lagoon of Venice in bird’s eye perspective and are a continuation of the memory maps that Rantanen has previously painted. The new paintings are clearly more colourful than the ones of recent years and they have been executed freely with forms emerging instinctually from dots of colour. Rantanen observes: ’These paintings have come about in a state of great concentration and inspiration. Since I am both critical and self-critical, this feeling is rare and joyful.’