Irene Suosalo: REMIX

ARS NOVA
8.6.-15.9.2024

Artist Irene Suosalo works in between established art forms. She has an original approach to animation and illustration that is more reminiscent of experimental video art or, more broadly, aspirations to an abstract art that combines the senses.

The majority of her work comprises short animation loops or video installations that consist of hundreds of animated elements. Suosalo creates art from scanned paper cuts and digital vectors by animating them with image editing and video software. Making animations is a time-consuming craft requiring process that combines analogue and digital material experiments. The image material is processed and compressed using video synthesizers and played with a VJ software. Similarly electronic music is made.

Suosalo’s animations are closely related to VJ art that is based on improvisation. VJ art stems from club culture and emerged in the mid-70s. A VJ (video jockey) creates video animations to enhance the musical experience. They mix curated video material and live performance. VJ art is a phenomenon in the history of abstract experimental art, creatively combining abstract expression, technology, moving image and multi-sensory experience.

Techno music and the club culture that evolved around it clearly influence Suosalo’s work. They are the origin and milieu of her art. Techno is her second nature. A VJ performance creates stimulating video art that interacts with music. The beauty of a live performance is in the ease of the expression. The imaginative animations emerge partly from the VJ’s sensibility, the skill to mix various sources of inspiration into a whole.

Suosalo’s aesthetics sublimates error – the imperfect beauty of ‘lo-fi’ and ‘glitch’. ‘Lo-fi’ (low fidelity) is productive DIY art where the creativity of a singular visionary is not tied down with big production or endless finishing. ‘Glitch’, on the other hand, refers to various computer system errors that are associated with existential reflection on beauty. In Suosalo’s work, the built-in weaknesses of technology are elevated to virtues: noise, moiré patterns, pixelation and lens distortions are central stylistic devices and, in a way, the subject itself.

Internationally, Suosalo is known for her animated photojournalism based on modern retro aesthetics. For this illustration genre, it is essential to distil an idea in an insightful manner, like in conceptual art. The stylistic references of the illustrations are the animation films, console and board games, toys, fun fairs and outdated technology of the young-at-heart. All that uncanny, joyful stuff that forms the collective sediment of our memories.

Allegedly, Suosalo has a digital archive of 8,000 animations and a clipart library of thousands of her own patterns. There are endless possibilities to create new artwork. Suosalo’s REMIX at Aboa Vetus Ars Nova is her first solo exhibition in a museum. The exhibition is a playful mix of animations that build connections between the history of animation, experimental video art and VJ culture.

Irene Suosalo is a video artist and illustrator from Helsinki. She graduated as a photographer from LAB Institute of Design and Fine Arts in 2019.

Her first large video installation is Collisions, inspired by the Northern Lights, for a modern dance festival at AuditoriumArte in Rome in 2019. The abstract 20-minute installation consists of animated video projections and a soundtrack. Nonsense Reality (2020), a video work in the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, is a playful mix of abstract shapes, early console game aesthetics and psychedelic visuals.

In 2018, she gave her first performance as a VJ artist at Club Kaiku. Through this, Suosalo’s experimental animations found their way to Helsinki clubs at the heart of the techno culture such as Club Kaiku, Ääniwalli and Post Bar, as well as Rex Club Paris. She has also created music videos and show visuals for multiple artists and performed at festivals such as Retriitti (in Raasepori), Flow Festival (in Helsinki), Ruisrock (in Turku) and Turku Modern.

In 2023, she created the visuals for the Oracle concert piece in collaboration with composer Lauri Supponen and percussionist Kalle Hakosalo. Oracle’s premier was at the Concert Hall of the Royal Danish Academy of Music (DKDM) in Copenhagen. Her latest visual artwork is for Cecilia Damström’s accordion concerto Permafrost that premiered at the Kokkola Winter Accordion festival in 2024.

In 2022, the Finnish Illustration Association chose Suosalo as Illustrator of the Year. Her experimental approach and success in the field of journalistic animation are noteworthy. In a short time, she has forged a prolific international career as an illustrator. Her clients include The New York Times, Bottega Veneta, Burberry, The New Yorker, Wired, Bloomberg Businessweek, Suomen Kuvalehti, Helsinki Design Week and Post Bar.