The curator of the Mänttä Art Festival 2024 is Heli Ryhänen, a Tampere-based sculptor, who boasts a long and impressive career. Ryhänen has a long-standing and warm relationship with the Mänttä Art Festival. She visits the exhibition every summer, and she has also exhibited her works at the Art Festival several times, last in 2013.
“I hail from a small town myself, so I respect the way Mänttä has firmly established itself as an interesting art town. I think of the Art Festival extremely highly, and being invited to curate it is a great honour”, Ryhänen says.
“The world of art is so vast that it fascinates me endlessly. I visit exhibitions often, and I always look forward to the moment I find something surprising in a piece. One thing I love about art is how a piece can kind of re-calibrate my brain through fresh insights. They drive my own work, as well”, Ryhänen explains. Another thing that has also helped her to keep her mind open is teaching at the Kankaanpää School of Fine Arts.
Human life and its phases form a common thread that runs through Ryhänen’s entire portfolio and colours the way she creates art. Ryhänen’s sculptures are often installations that affect the entire exhibition space. New materials are a source of inspiration for her, and working with them feels like an endless adventure.
Ryhänen is currently working on several pieces for public city premises. The first such piece, Lentoratoja (“Trajectories”), created for the adult psychiatry clinic of Tampere University Hospital, is almost finished.
From the point of view of spatiality
At the time of writing, approximately half of the artists for next summer’s exhibition have been chosen. “I have been thinking about the whole exhibition from the point of view of spatiality. I’ve chosen artists whose practice is spatial one way or another – who take strong possession of the space or make use of different scales and perspectives in their pieces.”
“Being a sculptor has, of course, affected my choices, since three-dimensional thinking is in my blood. So I can guarantee that there’ll be plenty of sculptures and spatial art, but in a light style. When you look back at the practice of sculpture in Finland, the touch has been quite heavy and masculine. The exhibition I’m curating won’t be like that”, Ryhänen promises.
“And since I now have the opportunity to have a say, I’ve also chosen people whose art enchants me personally. I’ve invited artists that I think other people should get to know, too. I also want the artists to be of varying ages and to come from different parts of Finland – that is another important criterion. I feel somewhat troubled by the Helsinki-centricity of the Finnish art scene, and my aim is to bring together an array of artists that will attract exhibition visitors from all over Finland”, she continues.
Ryhänen also guarantees that you won’t need to be familiar with art theory or to follow scientific discussion to experience the works of arts she has chosen, although they will comprise some dimensions of the pieces. “Seeing and feeling will be enough to understand the pieces”, she states.
Ryhänen hopes that visitors to the XXVIII Mänttä Art Festival will experience surprises and insights similar to those that inspire her, and that they will take with them an understanding of how versatile modern art can be: “I hope that exhibition visitors will experience advantageous twists of the mind that will help them see things from a slightly different perspective.”