Andersson x Ars Nova


Andersson & Ars Nova go way back! Turku-based artist Jan-Erik Andersson (b. 1954) and Aboa Vetus Ars Nova have a lot of history in common. The connection between the artist and the museum first developed in the 1980s and 1990s, a time when the museum was vigorously expanding its art collection. At the time, Andersson was a thirty-something art practitioner who was already working on Baby Retrospective (Pori Art Museum and Turku Art Museum, 1990), so as to thereafter “be free to do whatever I like”.

The late 20th century art movement known as “postmodernism” opened up Western art to diversity. It critiqued the universal ideals and grand narratives of modernism and underlined the hierarchy between fine art and popular culture. It embraced intertextuality, art historical pastiche and a playful and subjective attitude. New forms of art emerged between and alongside the traditional mediums of visual art, sculpture and architecture, such as performance, installation, media art, conceptual art, multimedia and assemblage. Although contemporary art is a later phenomenon, only some of it can be accurately be described as being “postmodern”. One might say that although postmodernism was a kind of “big bang of contemporary art”, at its core it is conceptual art founded and commenting on the history of art.

Andersson is an exceptionally wide-ranging and productive artist. His practice is a combination of intense theorising and multi-medial approach, ranging from digital video and visual art to environmental artworks. Since the 1980s, he has held exhibitions regularly, created numerous public artworks, obtained a doctorate in fine arts (2008), and designed and built two houses (Life on a Leaf, 2009, and Kuusi-o, 2023). A significant part of his practice consists of international cross-disciplinary collaborations between science and art, as well as all sorts of participatory and performative works.

In spite of their playfulness, the distinctive and expressive style of Andersson’s works is far from superficial. Art labelled as postmodern has proved to be more complex than originally realised. Behind the aesthetic choices lies a deep-diving, analytical approach that seeks to understand history and the spirit of place and time. The references in Andersson’s art are wide-ranging, involving motifs from philosophy, art theory, literature and architecture. Engaging in dialogue with stylistic genres, he especially likes to challenge ideals of modern art that are generally perceived to be neutral. Moreover, environmental and ecological themes have been at the heart of his art throughout his career.

The exhibition features Andersson’s works from a period spanning almost forty years, as well as works by other artists in the collection. The Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova collection comprises around 650 works of art, with a focus on modern and contemporary art. Development of the collection has followed a postmodern “eclectic” or diverse approach. The selections for the exhibition follow the same idea, establishing variously humorous, thematic or formal links between the works from the collection and Andersson’s works.

This exhibition is curated by Jan-Erik Andersson and curator Niina Tanskanen.

Life on a Leaf house project