Minna Suoniemi and Petri Ala-Maunus
Artists Minna Suoniemi (b. 1972) and Petri Ala-Maunus (b. 1970) have been chosen as curators for the XXVII Mänttä Art Festival, to be held in 2023. The couple follow the world of art actively and are involved in it in many ways. They are excited about the selection:
“We have a close and warm relationship with the town of Mänttä, and we know many people there. The role of curator is a task of honour for us, and we are inspired by it”, Minna Suoniemi says.
“Mänttä is a quite specific place, with an interesting past as a hub for the forest industry before becoming a famous art town. This context is an inspiring background for us as well as the artists’ work.”
“The Mänttä Art Festival is an event where artists’ works will be seen. We believe that we will put together a surprising exhibition that might even be a bit wild.”
Both artists have participated in the Art Festival exhibition themselves, Ala-Maunus in 2007 and Suoniemi in 2009. They have also visited Mänttä nearly every summer. “The years we haven’t been to the Art Festival can be counted on one hand. Petri was chosen as the visitors’ favourite in 2007, which was a great honour. Now we have the opportunity to curate the exhibition together.”
The best ideas are found by doing
Petri Ala-Maunus is one of the best-known contemporary Finnish painters. Some of his works are currently exhibited in the Makasiini Contemporary gallery in Turku. In autumn 2021, his extensive retrospective exhibition La La Land was on display in the Salo Art Museum, from where it then moved on to the Jyväskylä Art Museum.
Ala-Maunus paints impressive landscapes that, at first glance, bring to mind Romantic era nature depictions, such as the landscapes of the Düsseldorf school of paintings. A certain strangeness and unreality are fundamental qualities in his work – their mood is suggestive of the beginning of time, or the end of days. In his work, Ala-Maunus has dealt with the meanings that landscapes can provide as the subjects of paintings.
“I find the best ideas by doing. When I start working, the process fuels itself and gives rise to new ideas for pieces”, Ala-Maunus says.
Minna Suoniemi’s works of art consist most often of moving images and installations. She is interested in themes such as families, inter-generational and bodily experiences, control, and class. Suoniemi works as a lecturer in Aalto University’s Department of Art. Her exhibition Dense Water, a spatial installation consisting of two video pieces and pinhole camera photographs, was displayed in the Forum Box gallery a year ago. Suoniemi also participated in the Pehmee, pehmee, pehmee (“Soft, soft, soft”) exhibition held in Gallery Halmetoja last year.
“My ideas evolve through doing, too. Somehow, my work always seems to derive from what I’ve done before. The themes arise from my own life and experiences. The process also involves contemplation, discussion, reading, and writing.”
Co-curating calls for dialogue
This isn’t the first time that Ala-Maunus and Suoniemi have curated an exhibition, and they have acted as curators both individually and jointly. In 2017, the couple put together a summer exhibition for ONOMA, the Cooperative of Artists, Designers and Artisans in Fiskars, which was called Greetings from SUOMI.
According to Ala-Maunus, collaboration between the two curators was smooth. “With two curators, you will of course have to make compromises, but that might even be a good thing. We visit exhibitions often – it’s our shared interest and passion. One of us might suggest an artist, and the other one knows immediately what they are talking about, so conversation comes pretty naturally”, he explains.
“We have similar ideals and tastes in art. We like to work through discourse. Our purpose is not to curate the works of art, but to engage in a dialogue with the artists. For us, discussion with them is a fundamental part of the process”, Suoniemi says.
The theme for the exhibition also takes form through discussion
“Now that we have an idea of who the artists will be, the theme is also emerging. Our choices of artists are perhaps affected by a certain narrative quality in their works. That is something we both often take notice of. Another thing that attracts us is a passion for making, and we believe it will also be sensed through the exhibition pieces next summer.”
The 2023 exhibition will include paintings, moving images, and installations, at the very least. The number of artists showing their works at the Art Festival varies from one year to the next. In 2021, it was 67; last summer, there were 38.
“We want to give each artist their own space, their pride of place in the exhibition. For the pieces to have space around them.”
Ala-Maunus and Suoniemi believe that artists are at their best when they are allowed to work the way they wish, without being forced to do something a certain way. When they are given free rein, the results may surprise both curators and visitors.