Elina Vainio Uterra

Elina Vainio:
Uterra, 2020.
Installation (detail).

The word uterra is Old English, with the meaning ‘outer, exterior, external’, but it also shares roots with the verb ‘to utter’ in the sense of articulating either verbally or with a cry, shout or noise, or to put into circulation.[1]


Elina Vainio’s (born 1981) spatial artwork Uterra  addresses the passing of time and the ways of measuring it. As her own means of measurement, she has used fictional ghost nets drifting in space. They hover in weightlessness, fraying and gradually breaking down into pieces. The delicate mycelia and phonetic signs drawn in freehand by Vainio with wax on linen have caught in the nets, from which they slowly disentangle themselves after travelling through time. The sounds ai ja aem are released into the atmosphere, achieving autonomous status. Vainio has broken down the question of existence into its constituent parts with the aid of sounds.

The linen textiles extending from the ceiling down to the floor glow in the various hues of yellow, blue and green of the oxides of iron, cobalt and chromium, while the waxed mark of the drawing shines brightest on the fabric. In places, the lines of the nets are emphasised by the blue wax. The textiles are suspended from an acrylic structure in the shape of a reversed letter ‘S’ that is attached to the ceiling. Two fabrics form a pair; without the other one they would not exist, for together they constitute a meaning: I am.

In the scream aimed at eternity, Vainio’s source material was the text ‘I felt the great scream throughout nature’ printed on a lithographic print by Edvard Munch. The scream dies down quickly. The air tremors for a moment from the force of the scream, to be followed by silence. Employing strip-like signs drawn on the fabric, Vainio explores different emotional states, for the signs open up a connection with sounds. What kinds of emotions do the sounds represent? What are the sounds of desperation and hope like?

Elina Vainio graduated as Master of Fine Arts from the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts in 2013, having completed a bachelor’s degree at the Chelsea College of Art & Design in London in 2006. In recent years, her work has been on show in exhibitions including Open Studios, HIAP – Helsinki International Artist Programme (2020); Senses of Sustenance,  Seinäjoki Art Hall (2020); In Various Stages of Ruins: Part I Denial, Galleria Alkovi (2020); Coexistence, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art (2019); Fictional Frictions, Gwangju Biennale (2018) and The rights of things, Artspace Ideas Platform (2018). Works by Elina Vainio are included in the collections of the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art and EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art.

– Ulla-Maija Pitkänen


Please note that owing to current special requirements no opening reception of the exhibition will be held. The exhibition opens on June 4th at 11am. We kindly ask that you keep safe distances and maintain hand hygiene when visiting the gallery. Please refrain from visiting the exhibition if you have any symptoms of illness.


[1] Online Etymology Dictionary, etymonline.com


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Uterra, 2020
installation (detail)

Uterra, 2020
installation (detail)