Antti Laitinen (b.1975) creates his works in truly memorable ways. Many of us recall, for instance, how the artist set sail to Estonia in a boat made of bark. Or the work where he cut down a 10 x 10 metre forest plot, spent months sorting the resulting material (including the soil), and then put together an installation the size of the original plot. In another work, he cut a dividing line into ice with a chainsaw, and once he became submerged in a cold swamp.
Laitinen’s practice has long revolved around trees and the forest. He may, for example, cut a tree to pieces and then reconstruct it, encase the tree in a piece of armour made from sheet metal, or cover the tree with nails. In the summer of 2019, Laitinen carried out a project called Nail Trunk in the Tournay-Solvay Park in Brussels. The work was based on the six-metre trunk of a fallen beech tree, which Laitinen covered with nails that he painstakingly hammered in place with a group of volunteers. Laitinen will return to this theme in the exhibition organised at Galerie Anhava. The exhibition includes a new piece by Laitinen, who has built a scale-like guard onto an old tree stump that he found. The stump was previously used for chopping wood, and you can see different traces left by people and nature on its surface – growth rings, axe cuts, holes drilled by insects, and finally, thousands of nails hammered onto the trunk by the artist.
In this exhibition, as the name of the exhibition already implies, Antti Laitinen focuses on photographs from the Broken Landscape series. The first of these photographs was on display in Laitinen’s previous exhibition at Galerie Anhava, and two others were included in Laitinen’s solo exhibition at Paris Photo 2018. Laitinen’s works can be regarded as pieces of dialogue with the trees and the bushes. On the one hand, Laitinen uses the bushes as visual elements; on the other hand, he lets us see things which would normally remain out of sight. By cutting holes into the bushes and forming circles by bending the branches, he lets us look either through the bushes or straight into the forest. The overall shape of the work is memorable, balanced and absurdly beautiful. In these works, Laitinen uses plants that look so vibrant that it would be impossible to destroy them even if you tried. In other words, we realise that the bush shown in the photograph can only remain in that condition for a short while. Nature will soon claim back the space that belongs to it, covering the man-made marks with new growth.
The exhibition also includes a video work Fall and Rise where an illuminated pine tree stands in the middle of a dark forest. Suddenly, the tree collapses, but then it laboriously gets back up. The work is a good example of the tragicomic and humorous qualities that are characteristic of Laitinen’s works. The humour is targeted both at common occurrences in life and at the artist himself.
Antti Laitinen graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki, in 2004. His has recently organised solo exhibitions at e.g. Galerie Valérie Bach, Brussels (2019), Günter Grass Gallery, Gdansk (2016), and Galleri Andersson/Sandström, Stockholm (2013). Laitinen has also taken part in various important group exhibitions internationally, including e.g. the Beijing Riverside Art Gallery (2019), Savina Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul (2019), Salon Dahlmann, Berlin (2018), Art Gallery of Alberta (2017), “Utopia/Heterotopia” Wuchen, China (2016), Istanbul Modern, Istanbul (2015), MAC/VAL, Val-de-Marne, France (2015), “Treasure of Lima: A Buried Exhibition” and Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Academy, Wien (2014). In 2013, Laitinen represented Finland together with Terike Haapoja in the Venice Biennale, and he also took part in the Liverpool Biennial in 2010. Laitinen’s works are included in several collections both in Finland and abroad, including the Saatchi Collection, London, the Saastamoinen Foundation’s art collection, ArtCenter/Istanbul, Helsinki Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art/Turku Art Museum, and Zabludowicz Collection, London.