Finland’s landscape inspires many artists, but few more than Ruut Veenhoven, one of the country’s most respected sculptors. He has carved and laid down hundreds of sculptures on wood in the frozen lake of Madisomu. This is his fourth year of making images that disappear by night and reappear the next day. He has used red clay, bricks, wire, iron, bronze and wax to create photos, much of it inspired by nature.
The 50-year-old’s works are intricate and moving, made up of hundreds of colourfully placed props. He shows me around the monumental structures carved in the snow and mud with light beams projected on their faces by long sticks and even balloons. Their sizes vary: for a portrait of a novelist, he used 90 balloons tied to a trunk. I stand in the window of his studio, looking out across empty concrete-like buildings in the woods. The lights fire up in front of me. I start to run as soon as the silhouette of a figure pops up, hands on hips, dramatic gaze staring back into the darkness. The figure turns, the object bursts into light, and its shadow appears on the screen. The winter scene instantly jumps out at me. Every time I’ve walked by Ruut’s work, I’ve been moved. It has been a shock to see it suddenly in a high definition frame.
Finland’s landscape offers rich imagery, but it is not a place one expects to see the setting of an artist’s work. This spectacle is much more intimate than the work of a graphic artist like Henry Moore or Jeff Koons, who often travel across vast expanses of outdoor space for his work. Ruut has his own company, ANS Escapes, and performs the labour of artisans by hand. The sculptures are reassembled around his home, where he now lives.
Ruut has created this unusual work in an almost monochrome colour palette, using the great masters of 19th century Germany, such as Gerhard Richter, John Chamberlain and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. ‘They are the images that keep coming back to me,’ he says. ‘I wanted to write some kind of music. When I do work in the winter, it makes me feel like I’m in a silent movie.’
In an environment devoid of light or oxygen, the artist has escaped into the iconic artworks of his era. In fact, the official name of the outdoor installation which will be replicas are ‘Deutschwet!’ (German for ‘sleeping in’) but the work really belongs to the 1920s, in which German Expressionism was a fleeting phenomenon.
Together with actors, Ruut has spread out layer upon layer of white and red – the colour of humans – until he reaches the end where two icebergs emerge on to the water’s surface. The sparseness of this video installation feels like the best part of the project, which is how I like to feel when I see Ruut’s works.
Find out more about Ruut Veenhoven at ans-pres.fi/en