Kansas City’s renowned free contemporary art museum, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is opening an extensive painting exhibition Dark Days, Bright Nights: Contemporary Paintings from Finland on 2 October. The exhibition, curated by Kemper’s executive director Barbara O’Brien, gathers together and investigates the inspirations, methods, and practice of Finnish painters.
Dark Days, Bright Nights presents 43 works of art – stylistically disparate and often visually dazzling – from 13 artists ranging from the post-WWII generation to those who have come of age squarely in the 21st century.
With days of 24-hour darkness in the winter months and 24 hours of sunlight during the summer, what is real and what is a dream can seem a narrow distance apart in this one of the most northern of the European countries.
“My travels in Finland allowed the opportunity to create a portrait of a time and place where support for the arts has been strong, and the notion of the painter as a respected cultural worker is palpable,” said O’Brien.
The 13 artists represented in Dark Days, Bright Nights were all born in Finland, and now work in locations including the city and countryside of Finland as well as Berlin, New York City, and Stockholm. Artists include Jani Hänninen, Heikki Marila, Marika Mäkelä, Jarmo Mäkilä, Rauha Mäkilä, Reima Nevalainen, Leena Nio, Vesa-Pekka Rannikko, Mari Rantanen, Mari Sunna, Nanna Susi, Sirpa Särkijärvi, and Anna Tuori.
The artists selected represent a wide range of experiences and painting styles, but are connected by the Kemper Museum’s philosophical focus on investigating the history of the gesture in painting and in creating a conceptual and art historic bridge from the 20th to the 21st century in both exhibition program and the Permanent Collection.
Jarmo Mäkilä’s narrative tales of country life in the shadow of WWII are a counterpoint to the 21st-century inspiration of cityscapes and graffiti in works by Jani Hänninen. The relationship to the natural world, so important to the Finnish people, is vividly realized in the paintings by Lapland artist Sirpa Särkijärvi.
The space between waking and sleeping seems to come to life in the snow-globe-like paintings by Anna Tuori. The desire to control and genetically manipulate nature is explored in a video installation by Vesa-Pekka Ranniko.
The exhibition is supported by members and donors, especially Frame Visual Art Finland, and The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Consulate General of Finland. Financial assistance for this project has been provided by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency. This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The exhibition will be on view at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art until February 21, 2016.
The Photo: Sirpa Särkijärvi: Viides sukupolvi (Fifth Generation), 2011.
Read more: Kemper Museum