Pekka Nevalainen

Nature Document
1996. Wood, earth, iron, video, 350X500X500 cm. Photo: Pekka Nevalainen

by Minna Trmä

Nature document

In Western art landscape representations have been in the form of pictures, rather than as three-dimensional sculptures. Gardens may be viewed as three-dimensional landscape art pieces, though traditionally this viewpoint has not been taken, and gardens have been the domain of architecture. The Chinese and the Japanese, on the other hand, have a long tradition going back over a millennium in creating three-dimensional tray-gardens or bonsai. To make small is to make more comprehensible, to reveal the essential processes in nature. It is here, in the Nature Document, a series of installations first exhibited in 1993 by Pekka Nevalainen, that both of these traditions - landscape painting and cultivation of bonsai - cross each other and take the form of an installation.

Traditional art-materials have had in them the eternity-aspect; art objects were made to last forever. Here in these works the emphasis is on transience, on "natural time." Some of these materials are alive, the pile of earth changes its shape or a group of butterflies may hatch out of their cocoons hidden in the tree trunk. The image on the video included in these Nature Documents displays movement/action as slow and at times barely perceptible.

The appearance of elements from nature - piles of earth, stones, trunks of trees - in a museum, in a space dedicated for high culture, inevitably refers to our relationship with nature. That relationship revolves around the notions of our alienation from nature.

Landscape as an idea or as a concept already holds in it a degree of artificiality, man-madeness. The emergence of landscape is just one mark in the history of alienation from nature. The domination of picture-making has created a situation, where landscape is viewed from outside (as if through a frame) and, what is seen and represented, is also glorified or, rather, views allowing sublimation are chosen for presentation. Viewed through this dominant tradition, with the additional reference to the fictive elements used in some of the nature documentaries shown on TV, this Nature Document series by Pekka Nevalainen calls into question the prevailing image of what nature in its pure state is. We, human beings, are also an integral part of nature and so are all our creations.

Alienation is not necessarily a negative mark of degeneration or the product of urbanization. It may, actually, be essential for our survival: the structure of human consciousness has to cope with the need to comprehend longer temporal sequences, for example, in order to bring up a family.

The contradiction illuminated by this work is made explicit, if we take note of the working method of Pekka Nevalainen, which can be likened to the performing of a ritual. This way he works to overcome the myth of death, the fear that nature may be extinguished. It seems that we are not, though we wish to be, certain if the sun will rise or if the spring will come, and that certainty has to be somehow regained everyday. One may accept, through reason, alienation as a matter of course, yet emotionally it is traumatic.

Nature Document pieces are born from the reflections on these matters. The works are not very informative, though, in the sense that they do not reveal to us explicitly which answers the artist has found. There are some elements of nostalgia here, which may strike a familiar chord in our minds. In the simplicity of their elements these installations rather create spaces for the viewer's own thoughts. In these spaces the viewer may contemplate the character of his own alienation.

Born 1951, in Tyrvää, Finland. Lives and works in Kisko, Finland.

Solo exhibitions

Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, Finland; The Art Academy, Stockholm, Sweden.
Galerie Artek, Helsinki, Finland.
Galerie Artek, Helsinki, Finland.
Galleria Pieni Agora, Helsinki, Finland; Gallery of The Kotka Artist's Association, Kotka, Finland.
Kluuvin Galleria, Helsinki, Finland.
Oulu Art Museum, Oulu, Finland.
Finnish Painter's Society, Helsinki, Finland; Book Cafe, The New Studenthouse, Helsinki, Finland;
Kluuvin Galleria, Helsinki, Finland.
The Old Studenthouse, Helsinki, Finland.
The Cheap Thrills Gallery, Helsinki, Finland.

Group exhibitions

Taidetta, traveling exhibition in, Sweden; Offside, Bergen, Norway
Tapko, Overgarden, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Art by Air Freight - Contemporary Art from Finland, Museu de Arte Contemporénea, Sâo Paulo, Brazil; Metsä, Sara Hilden Art Museum, Tampere, Finland; Air, Earth, Water,The Azabu Museum of Arts and Crafts, Tokyo, Japan; Ten makes ten, Galleri Ahnlund, Umea, Sweden.
Transit, National Museum of Finland, Helsinki, Finland.
Documenta IX, Kassel, Germany; Ute - inne, Vasaparken, Stockholm, Sweden; Rakkautta Raunioilla, Museum of Contemporary Art, Tampere, Finland.
Free Zone, traveling exhibition in two places: Helsinki, Finland; MÆcsarnok, Budapest, Hungary.
New Nordic Art, The Artist's Central Exhibition Hall, Moscow, Russia; Distances, Biennale Balticum, Rauma Art Museum; Nach den Regeln der Kunst, Contemporary Finnish Sculpture, Karmelitenkloster, Frankfurt, Germany.
Borealis IV, Louisiana Museum, Humlebaek, Denmark; 125th Anniversary Exhibitions of the Artists' Associations of Finland, The Ateneum and Kluuvin Galleria, Helsinki, Finland.
L'Esprit Finlandaise, Centre de Creation Contemporaine, Tours, France.
Streif, Kunshallen, Odense, Denmark; Suomenlinna, Finland.
Attityder, Nordjyllands kunstmuseum, Denmark; Sdertälje Konsthall, Sweden; Kjarvalsstadir, Iceland; Concrete, Art in the Streets, Helsinki, Finland.
Saarivala Environmetal Art Project, Bockholm, Finland.
Flyvende Beton, Copenhague, Denmark; Utopiary, Munchenbryggeriet, Stockholm, Sweden.
AKT 83, The Ateneum, Helsinki, Finland; Utopiary, Galleria Katariina, Helsinki, Finland; Siirrettävä Tuonela, The City Art Museum of Helsinki, Finland; Finsk kunst na, Kunstsenter Henie-Onstad, Norway.
Nordic Environmetal Art Symposium, Lehtimäki, Finland.
ã-group Exhibitions, The Old Studenthouse, Helsinki, Finland; Kotka library, Kotka, Finland; Jyväskylä Talvi, Jyväskylä, Finland.
Elonkorjaajat & Record Singers, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden.
The Artists' Association's Annual Exhibition, The Art Hall, Helsinki, Finland.
Young Artists' Exhibition, The Art Hall, Helsinki, Finland.