23 November 2018 - 5 January 2020
The four classical elements set the tone for the collection exhibition in the upstairs galleries at Turku Art Museum. Presenting classical and contemporary art side by side, the hanging offers new perspectives both on iconic works of Finnish art and on recent acquisitions. The show comprises more than a hundred works by established artists, most of them Finnish, in a variety of media ranging from painting to sculpture, from assemblage to photography and video. Old masters featured in the show include Werner Holmberg, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Eero Järnefelt, Magnus Enckell, Alfred William Finch, Juhani Harri, Ismo Kajander and Kain Tapper, whose works engage in a fascinating dialogue with recent acquisitions of contemporary art by such names as Petri Ala-Maunus, Emma Helle, Sasha Huber, Jouko Korkeasaari, Esko Männikkö, Umppa Niinivaara and Miikka Vaskola.
Four Elements presents an opportunity to see how artists over the centuries have conceived of the relationship between humanity and the elements, or physical reality in general. Earth, air, water and fire can be found in both the motifs and the materials of the works. The title of the exhibition Four Elements is a reference to the ancient Greek theory of the structure of the universe. The theory survived as a starting point for European scientific thinking up to the beginning of the modern age. Today the theory has been replaced by the atomic theory, yet earth, air, fire and water remain fundamental ideas in our everyday conception of the world. The opposites that attach to their qualities – hot and cold, dry and humid – correspond to our immediate, bodily experience of the world.
Each selection of works providing a thematic gloss on one of the four elements establishes a space with a specific mood, commenting on the element from a natural-scientific as well as a mythological perspective. From an ecological viewpoint, the classical theory of elements contains wisdom that is highly relevant to today’s situation. The classical elements, such as water and earth, are not only depositories of material and energy but also indispensable parts of the global ecosystem. The exhibition also resonates powerfully with this perspective critically commenting on the precarious balance between humanity and nature.
The themes of the exhibition will be examined in greater detail in a series of special guided tours with experts representing different disciplines, to be held in spring 2019. The exhibition will be complemented in early 2019 by the addition of video interviews with ten of the featured contemporary artists.