Janne Räisänen’s exhibition XANADU – Hän ottaa maailman avosylin vastaan, which opens at Helsinki Contemporary on 8 September consists of the artist’s latest paintings with their rough, humorous take on life. In addition to recording everyday observations and people, his gaze takes a self-ironic turn, and the glint in his eye is also directed at himself: in his works spectral self-portraits roam around in their own idiosyncratic garb.
The orange-overalled figure in Hän ottaa maailman avosylin vastaan, which is a reference to the title of the exhibition, is an example of a self-portrait painting created from daily drawing. In its lightness this work also aptly encapsulates the spontaneous tone of the exhibition as a whole. The sources of the figures that appear in Räisänen’s works might be Polish building workers enjoying life around the local kiosk in the evening, the residents of the neighbouring monastery, or a skylarking football-team trainer, while the atmospheres of the artist’s home city of Berlin are combined with references to the region of his birth, Lapland. Everyday elements are mingled with a playful contemplation of humanity, of existence, in places via a sexually charged humour.
In addition to the spontaneous tone, randomness and evocation of associations Räisänen’s working process is guided by technical solutions. The human figures and views arise in an alternation between the drawing and priming stages, each layer and drawn impression completes the tale and takes the artist forward on the canvas. In these new works the drawn impression is increasingly visible and liberates the artist to tell a story lightly by means of the line. These are kinds of spiritual self-portraits. I have not done them much before. Although there is always a clear continuum in what I do, but now some instinct is guiding me towards these organic figures. My previous works had a more abstract impression. In practice instead of thick paint, it is a matter of how the line, the drawing, takes hold of you and guides you. At the same time, this is done more freely and in a more relaxed way…Räisänen muses over his new paintings.
Calamity-Janne ja perinteinen lappilainen kullihame, John the Ejaculator and Der Löwe, der Löw… Giving titles to his works is a central part of Räisänen’s working process and an element that weaves the private and the public into a mesh, and yet so loosely that many questions and a certain bemusement are left up in the air. Thus, the titles do not give any readymade answers for interpretation, rather they provide more of a humorous glimpse into the artist’s realm of experience: sometimes comments plucked from pals’ stories or things shouted out on busses have ended up in the titles of the works, and occasionally good, old song titles or lyrics, as in the title of this exhibition XANADU, which refers to Olivia Newton-John’s disco hit of the 1980s. Even if these ingredients are mixed up in the names of the works and free association knows no limits, the titles also serve the artist as a means of bringing his thoughts and the exhibition together.
Janne Räisänen (b. 1971), who works in Berlin, graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki, in 1998. In the following year, he was named Young Artist of the Year, along with Janne Kaitala and Jukka Korkeila, and awarded the Finnish Art Society’s Ducat Prize. In 2001, Räisänen was a candidate for the Carnegie Art Award and, in 2008, he received the main William Thuring Prize. In recent years, Janne Räisänen’s has regularly had exhibitions in both Germany and Finland, and his works are in Finnish and foreign public collections, including Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Saastamoinen Foundation, Sara Hildén Art Museum and Swedish State Art Collection.