This solo exhibition by Jorma Puranen continues the accomplished artist’s sustained investigation of the themes of colonial history and Arctic exploration. The title of the show is a quote from a poem by the Greenlandic poet and human rights activist Aqqaluk Lynge about caribou hunting in the old days, when the people could sometimes hear a sound like faraway thunder a few days before the arrival of caribou herds. Caribou hunting has since been discontinued and the sound of thunder these days resonates with the threats and uncertainties facing Arctic indigenous peoples.
The scale of many of the new works is extensive. The large format is paralleled by large themes, yet the photographs of archival materials also feature minuscule specks of dust, particles that are barely visible. The central components of Puranen’s art – shadows, dust, scratches and reflections – have featured in his photographs for decades; in the new series they are now joined by liquid. Constructed of superimposed layers of images, the works invite the eye to look both near and far. The layers are like maps – maps of the past and of the future, of their reciprocal and oscillating motion.
They Could Hear a Faraway Thunder transforms eerie Arctic landscapes into otherworldly vistas that are almost like moonscapes. Through the combination of found imageries, experiments with pigments, and randomness, Puranen’s new works conjure up a world that is fragile and fleeting. The series is inspired by experiments joining 19th-century science with photography and by fleeting encounters between light and matter. As the author John Berger once remarked: “What makes photography a strange invention is that its primary materials are light and time.”
Using imageries from archival and museum sources, Puranen investigates cultural memory. His practice is driven by a sensitivity to issues of history, time and place. The exhibition presents his photographs in interconnected wholes that give rise to poetic as well as narrative possibilities.
Jorma Puranen (b. 1951) studied photography at the University of Art and Design Helsinki (UIAH) from 1973–1978. He has work in numerous museums and collections, including the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, Moderna Museet in Stockholm, and the Stedelijk in Amsterdam. From 1995–1998 Jorma Puranen served as professor of photography at UIAH. Puranen has held solo shows most recent at Purdy Hicks Gallery, London (2023), Aboa Vetus Ars Nova, Turku (2020), Persons Projects Gallery, Berlin (2019), Harewood Contemporary, Leeds (2016), Bunka Gallery at the Higashikawa Photo Festival, Japan (2014). He has participated in numerous group exhibitions, including Mythos Wald. Das Flüstern der Blätter, KunsthalleEmden (2022); Spaces of Uncertainty, Kunsthalle Helsinki (2022); Ink Dreams, LACMA, Los Angeles (2021); On Disappearance and Appearance, AlfredEhrhardt Stiftung, Berlin (2018); Zwischen Licht und Dunkelheit. Licht in der finnischen Gegenwartskunst, Stadtgalerie Kiel (2017).