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Images from a vanishing factory

The Centre for Creative Photography, based in Jyväskylä, has for already 25 years promoted photography and the networking of photographers both in Finland and internationally. The anniversary exhibition presents five photographers’ interpretations of the significance of a paper industry area in Tourujoki in Jyväskylä and its transformation into a new urban space. The photography exhibition Kangas – The Vanishing Paper Mill commemorates the power of creative photography employing moderate experimentation and a restrained stylishness.

The exhibition is held in two locations: the gallery space of the Alvar Aalto Museum and Galleria Ratamo which is run jointly by Jyväskylä Art Museum and the Centre for Creative Photography Association. There does not seem to be any clear difference of emphasis between the two parts of the exhibition. The factory allows itself to be photographed from many different angles, but each of the five artists selected for the documentation project receives two democratic slices of white gallery wall to hang their photographs.

The division is successful, however, because the approximately twenty-minute walk between the exhibition spaces helps in clearing both the mind and gaze of those nuances that the romantic theme and personal architecture of each space add to the whole. The overall exhibition has been realised in a quite unnecessarily neutral way. Mikko Auerniitty’s analysis is so “white-collar worker” distant, Rune Snellman’s working class romanticism so Kaurismaki-like, Martti “Kapa” Kapanen’s approach so painterly, Jyrki Jäppinen’s devotion so reductive, and Jyrki Markkanen’s use of the camera so poetic that each of them could have received even more visual support for their own personal expression. Markkanen’s pinhole camera takes muscular, greasy and sweaty dream images; it is like watching stop-motion images of an early 20th century Soviet realist silent movie. The choice of a fairly narrow horizontal print format places the observer in the role of a voyeur.

Jyrki Markkanen. Alakerta [Downstairs], 2014. Photo: Alvar Aalto Museum.

Jyrki Markkanen. Alakerta [Downstairs], 2014. Photo: Alvar Aalto Museum.

In regard to their themes and colours, Kapa’s colour photos seem carefree and arbitrary, but the carefully composed and precisely framed observations give to the images a sharp irony and even a 1960s Pop Art feeling. The images look closely and directly towards a tiled wall, a curtain composition or the traces of dried glue on a yellow wall. The eye creates deceptive illusions: are we actually looking at a photograph of something real? Even the light in his photographs is unusually soft. It is as if it was a beautiful spring day outside and the workers who had bid farewell to their factory were outside celebrating their new freedom.

Kapa. From the series “Archeological findings" (Arkeologisia löytöjä)”, pigment ink print, 2014. Photo: Alvar Aalto Museum.

Kapa. From the series “Archeological findings” (Arkeologisia löytöjä)”, pigment ink print, 2014. Photo: Alvar Aalto Museum.

The difference in mood between the two exhibition locations is due to the differences in architecture of the two galleries. The rhythm of the display in the Alvar Aalto Museum is both distinct and serious in tone and it resembles what one would expect in an art exhibition. The fairly small size of the photographs creates a distance from the viewer. The overall appearance of the exhibition is so uniform that the different approaches of the artists barely stand out. The images are placed so accommodatingly on the wall that the expressive power of the photographic art shrinks to that of hygienic observation, while the theme withers into the cliché of the romance of ruins.

The exhibition is at its best, however, in the gallery of the Ratamo Printmaking and Photography Centre. The photography’s message is more concise and intensive and the setting, in the former locomotive stables, emphasises the connection between the tool- and technology-centred photograph and the dying factory. An exhibition book and the slide show displayed on a screen in the gallery’s small lobby contribute their own chapters to both the annual report of the Centre for Creative Photography Association, which is carrying out important and interesting work, and the overall experience created by the two gallery episodes.

Kangas. Katoava tehdas / Kangas. The Vanishing Factory
25.9.–16.11.2014 Alvar Aalto Museum gallery, Alvar Aallon katu 7, 40600 Jyväskylä, www.alvaraalto.fi.
25.9.–19.10.2014 Galleria Ratamo, Veturitallinkatu 6, 40100 Jyväskylä, www.jyvaskyla.fi/ratamo.

Text by Anni Vartola.
English translation by Gareth Griffiths.

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