Toni Vallasjoki (b. 1984) uses the tension between casual observation, repetition and change to explore issues related to measurement. He has developed his own system for counting and measuring time, and his practice typically adheres to a system or rules. The works in the exhibition echo such practices, although Vallasjoki’s style has developed in a freer direction recently, and there is humour in the works. Presented at Anhava Underground, Notes on Space consists of bronze sculptures, photographic prints and structural elements.
The individual works are all part of the whole, yet each has its own independent character. Where the first observation ends, another one continues. The large-format black-and-white photographic prints in Siilitie Note (2017, 2022) present two versions of a work exposed on paper: a positive and a negative. The works are based on an observation made in 2017, a visual note whose potential has been teased out with darkroom methods.
Vallasjoki observes his surroundings constantly to acquire the elements needed for his art. Searching for a suitable diameter for a steel pipe, he may find it in the railing of a stairwell that he uses every day. Coincidence, too, plays a part. The structural elements in the exhibition, such as wall panels and pipes, alter the viewer’s experience of the space and spawn new perceptions.
The concept of measurement is also present in the details of the structural elements. One of the pipes installed in the gallery has been cut shorter, and the cut-off piece has been placed inside a carmine-red pedestal on the floor. The internal dimensions of the pedestal are just right for the pipe segment to fit inside. The setup is a concrete embodiment of Vallasjoki’s aesthetic of observation and measurement: in order for something to be accomplished, it must first have a function and a continuum.
The cast bronze sculpture Vessel (2019, 2022) is a continuation of the previous photographic series Attempt (2019–2020), in which the shape of an object – a kind of jar – was constructed piece by piece in the images. The shape of the jar was determined by a set of measured time for each layer. Whereas the experience of viewing the photos in the Attempt series was very much affected by the numbers inscribed on the jar, the presence of the new sculpture consists of a concrete, independent shape. Yet the sculpture would not exist without the photographic series, because its size and shape are determined by the measurements performed for the photographic series.
The works in the exhibition are based on measurements embodied in the shape of the works. The routes of everyday life, the time spent traversing them, moments of departure and arrival, these are all yardsticks for Vallasjoki, just like classic units of distance, such as a cubit or a foot.
Toni Vallasjoki lives and works in Helsinki. He graduated with an MFA from the Academy of Fine Arts at the University of the Arts in 2021. Vallasjoki had previous solo exhibitions at Project Room (2020) in Helsinki and Photographic Centre Nykyaika (2018) in Tampere. In recent years, he has participated in group exhibitions in Finland and abroad, the latest being Drawing a Tiger (2021) at Galerie Anhava, curated by Jyrki Siukonen and Marko Vuokola.
– Ulla-Maija Pitkänen