Toni R. Toivonen »Madness Invited«


»Madness Invited«

Visual artist Toni R. Toivonen (*1987, Helsinki) examines the duality of life and reflects on the different sides of existence. He is best known for his gold-hued brass works created by composing animal carcasses on sheets of brass and letting the process of rotting oxidize the brass. A dead animal’s body breaks down and ceases to exist, but it still leaves its presence, and “a painting reveals itself”. His process is physical and may be regarded as grotesque or even macabre, but the trace seared into the brass plate creates an aesthetic image that is peaceful and dignified.

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In cooperation with Galerie Forsblom Helsinki and the Finland Institute in Berlin, Collectors Agenda is introducing Toni R. Toivonen’s work for the very first time to the Austrian public, showing a series of small format works with hares, mice and other small animals.

Toni R. Toivonen believes in the reality of materials, also in the painterly context in which he moves. According to the artist his brass works are no depictions of an animal, they are in fact the animal, its salt, grease, and other fluids entering a chemical reaction with the brass plate, conserving the animal’s “last presence”.

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At the heart of Toivonen’s practice is a concern for the duality of life: “You need to have shadows in order to understand the light. You need to see death to understand life in a way.”

His practice may be discussed in different contexts. The chemical reaction on brass is reminiscent of early photo-graphy which works with gelatin silver prints. His work may also evoke a graphical approach involving the making of prints. And the highly bodily aspect that is linked to the production of the work and carried forward in the work itself suggests a sculptural approach.

“If pushed to give (my practice) a name I would call it conceptual painting or conceptual art”, Toivonen comments on his work, “because the art involves the process.”

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Especially to an Austrian audience, viewers may be reminded of the practice by the painter Hermann Nitsch, who belongs to as group of Viennese Actionists, who took up the concept of the “Happening” and the Fluxus movement in the United States of the 1960s. For his “events” Nitsch orchestrates disturbing orgiastic scenes that are reminiscent of pagan rites, using the blood and bodies of slaughtered animals.

“I feel almost the same with regards to my own works. The artwork is a place of action. For each work there’s a different act. The artwork – or what you see – is a relic of something that happened. And that ‘something’ that happened is art.” says Toivonen.

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Toni R. Toivonen has graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki in 2016. He started off as a painter but has since worked with different techniques, experimenting towards a more conceptual outcome. His work has been exhibited in Finland, London, and New York, and his work can be found in public collections such as the MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow, the Kiasma Museum of Contempo-rary Art, the Saastamoinen Foundation, the Sara HildénMuseum of Art, the Heino Art Foundation Collection and Vantaa Art Museum Artsi. He has won The Art of Basware 2014 global competition, held for artists under 30 years old.

Toni R. Toivonen in represented by Galerie Forsblom, Helsinki and Stockholm. He lives in the middle of a forest somewhere in Finland.

Text: Florian Langhammer
Photos: Florian Langhammer

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