Niina Tervo’s (b.1983) works bring together various forms of caring, experiencing, and investigating. The processes underlying Tervo’s practice are connected to different events and invisible communication. Tervo has shaped the exhibition space by making use of her own movements and given the food she has prepared for someone else to eat. Intuitive interactions with the materials are also a form of communication. In the works exhibited at Galerie Anhava, Tervo examines the ways in which the works’ content may be affected by the matter accrued in the body and the mind during one’s lifetime.
Tervo is fascinated by the information that has built up in a space over time; the way in which prior occurrences and events have become part of something intangible. What are the viewer’s impressions upon entering a space, and how do they start communicating with the space? The spaces used for art exhibitions are almost invariably bare, and you cannot see traces of past exhibitions in them: the space has been stripped clean in order to welcome a performance of another kind. Tervo wanted to change this through her own actions and decided to organise a performative moment in the exhibition space. Ultimately, the traces left behind by Tervo and the ones produced by the exhibition guests become merged, which makes the question of authorship lose its significance.
In addition to examining her own behaviour while moving in the space, Tervo is also interested in the experiences and reactions of the guests who visit the space. The floor of the room is covered in black plastic, with a layer of transparent plexiglass installed on it. Oil and other organic materials have been spread underneath the glass. When the guests walk on the plexiglass, their movement causes motion in the underlying materials, thus creating an experience of the space. This motion generates new events that are no longer under Tervo’s control.
Tervo’s glass sculptures have also taken shape without a carefully conceived plan. The sculptures are blown from a clear glass mass, and they allude to tiny organisms that exist at the margins of human vision. The sculptures are placed on the floor where they are connected to the ground. Tervo started the working process with clay, creating the outlines of the sculptures and using them to make plaster moulds. The glass mass was then blown into the moulds, which created cracks in the plaster. Next, Tervo poked the molten mass with twigs, which resulted in the formation of new, surprising shapes. Tervo made the glass sculptures by acting in the spur of the moment and carefully listening to her personal needs. The finished works also contain things that were whispered into them during the working process. After sharing these things with the sculptures, Tervo sealed them with natural materials.
Part of nonverbal communication is a work by Niina Tervo and poet Milka Luhtaniemi (b.1992). The work makes use of food as a medium: Tervo had toasted a piece of aubergine, scooped off the soft interior, and made some baba ganoush for Luhtaniemi to enjoy. This act of caring for another person was the starting point for a text written by Luhtaniemi, which can be heard in the gallery space. The text describes the various stages of preparing the aubergine from the perspective of the cycle and transformation of matter. The dry shell of the aubergine was used by Tervo to produce another sculpture. The artists examine the information transmitted through the baba ganoush from their own perspectives – what exactly is conveyed to the paste in the making process, and what will Luhtaniemi be able to get out of it. The work investigates how thoughts can be shared and taken in new directions, which opens a new avenue for the narrative.
Niina Tervo earned her MFA degree from the Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki, in 2018, and a BSc degree in biology in 2010. In the last three years, she has participated in exhibitions in Galerie im Körnerpark, Berlin, The Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki, Helsinki Art Museum, Helsinki, and Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art, Turku. She has also organised a solo show in the gallery space of the Helsinki Art Museum. Tervo has just finished a year-long residency at the Jan Van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, where she participated twice in the Open Studios event and organised a duo exhibition with Youngeun Sohn as part of the Environmental Identities series. Her works are included in several collections, including Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma and HAM Helsinki Art Museum. She is also a member of the artist-run SIC gallery in Helsinki.
– Ulla-Maija Pitkänen