Candidates for the Ars Fennica 2023 Award

The candidates for the Ars Fennica 2023 award have been selected and they are Henni Alftan and Tuomas A. Laitinen from Finland, Lap-See Lam from Sweden, Camille Norment from Norway and Emilija Škarnolyté from Lithuania. An exhibition presenting the candidates will be held at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma next autumn.

The Henna and Pertti Niemistö Art Foundation – ARS FENNICA sr was established in 1990. In alternate years, the Foundation awards Finland’s most significant visual-art prize – 50,000 euros. The prize goes to an artist in recognition of individual artistic work of outstanding quality. An award committee appointed by the Foundation nominates the candidates and also an international art expert, who then chooses the prize winner from among these candidates. The candidate artists have variously been from Finland, the Nordic countries and the Baltic States. 

The exhibition of the Ars Fennica candidates has previously been seen at Kiasma five times in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2014 and 2017. An exhibition presenting the candidates will be held at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma 8 September 2023 – 29 January 2024. 

Henni Alftan  

In Henni Alftan’s canvases, an entwined sense of the familiar and the uncanny keeps viewers actively looking and guessing. Everyday subjects such as domestic interiors, outdoor scenes, personal belongings and figures appear anything but commonplace through the artist’s precise manipulations of paint and composition.  

Alftan creates her pictures from a rigorous process of building form and color from personal observations; working in the studio, she constructs each image from notes and sketches, generating closely cropped scenes that challenge us to contemplate not only what we are seeing, but also what we cannot see beyond the canvas edge.  

By nature figurative, Alftan’s works also play with abstraction, exploring the elusive point at which paint is perceived to depict things other than itself—dashed strokes take on the guise of knitwear, black curves turn into eyeliner, and thin washes of color become reflections in a mirror, or in a knife. Recurring windows, doorways, and other framing devices also point literally and metaphorically to the act of viewing, in intimate paintings that describe, rather than represent, the visual world.  

Tuomas A. Laitinen  

Tuomas A. Laitinen is an artist who works with video installations, sound, glass as well as chemical and microbial processes. Laitinen is interested in ecological issues, the formation of proposals for knowledge, and porous systems. Laitinen works across and fuses together moving image, 3D-animation, light, sound, and installations. He often collaborates with different actors from glass artists to neural network researchers. Laitinen has been working around questions of ecology, the notion of the extended mind, and processes of knowledge production. The works are often made with transparent and translucent materials in order to find ways to layer different epistemological systems and narratives.  

Laitinen’s work escapes dualistic thinking and aims at opening up models of diversity, where the idea of interconnectedness of beings is at the core. This means rethinking the epistemological assumptions underpinning Western capitalism, which sees these distinctions as the basic organising principle of the world. Describing how his art attempts to refute such value systems. 

In recent years, Laitinen has been working extensively with octopuses, making biomorphic glass habitats for these lifeforms. The multifaceted starting points emerge as layered and multisensorial installations that ask questions about the activity and reactions in different ecosystems, moving seamlessly from microscopical particles to society’s power relationships to mythologies. Laitinen´s works are proposals for contact zones, where different lifeforms and materials are entangled in shapeshifting continuums. Continuous change and material transparency are key features of the works. Laitinen has been influenced by science fiction and philosophies that seek to outline a new foundation for coexistence on Earth. 

Lap-See Lam  

The installation artist Lap-See Lam explores the Cantonese diaspora in Sweden. She uses technology like 3D-scanning, Virtual Reality and animation to tackle different projects like cataloging the interiors of quickly disappearing Chinese restaurants in Stockholm.   

She frequently draws on her family’s history, as in Mother’s Tongue (2018), a video installation created with her cousin, Director Wingyee Wu. The film captures the interiors of endangered Chinese restaurants; drawing on her own family’s experience as restaurant owners in Stockholm, she combines the visuals with fictionalized monologues by three generations of women who discuss their working experiences.    

Lap-See Lam continued the theme in Phantom Banquet (2019), produced for the Performa 19 Art Biennial in New York, to examine how artificially created environments can have the power to shape identity.  

In 2020, Lam was named by American Forbes as one of Europe’s most promising young people in art and culture. 

Camille Norment  

Camille Norment is an interdisciplinary multimedia artist, composer, and performer whose art and performance works are exhibited and performed worldwide.  

Cultural psychoacoustics is both an aesthetic and conceptual framework for much of her practice – the investigation of socio-cultural phenomena through the sonic as a force over the body, mind, and society. Composing artworks through forms including recorded sound, sculpture and installation, drawing, and live performance, she applies this concept towards the creation of critical artworks that are preoccupied with the way in which context, form, space, and the body of the viewer create experiences that are both somatic and cognitive.   

Norment has a strong backround in dance and music.  She completed her Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in Comparative Literature and Art History at the University of Michigan, Honors College. She also completed both her Masters of Fine Art and a second Masters in Interactive Telecommunications at New York University, and she is a Whitney Independent Study Program Fellow. 

Emilija Škarnulyté  

The multidisciplinary artist and filmmaker, Emilija Škarnulytė has long been attuned to the stories that have shaped the transition from modern humanism to the post-human condition of perpetual crisis, critical hope, and a return to allegory as a means of comprehending the self and the Other.  

Škarnulytė is a consummate explorer—a role necessary for an artist whose primary concerns are global concerns. She draws inspiration from ecologically unique locales as  the Arctic Circle, the deserts of the American West, the deserts of the Middle East, nuclear power stations of Europe, Cold War bases, ancient civilizations lost to the seas, and aphotic zones. And, in a vertiginous sense, she links the historical significance of these locales to the quantum and microscopic phenomena that constitute the infinitesimal building blocks of the world.   

These geographical locales and dimensional layers serve as the contexts for her speculative “archaeological” films that reflect on the current world from an imagined future perspective in which the conscious being critically investigates the long-term ecological ramifications of the anthropocentric present. As such, they appear as points of reference in her meditative works, which often position modern myths—like the mystique of the nuclear age—within the grander context of geological deep time in order to ask how did we get here? 

More information for the media   

Päivi Rajakari, info@arsfennica.fi, tel. +358 40 708 4469, Henna and Pertti Niemistö Art Foundation sr  

Curator of the exhibition Piia Oksanen, piia.oksanen@kiasma.fi tel. +358 50 4620 309, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma 

Communications Officer Reetta Haarajoki reetta.haarajoki@kiasma.fi, tel. +358 50 4786 861, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma 

Photos for the press 

Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma is part of Finnish National Gallery together with Ateneum Art Museum and Sinebrychoff Art Museum.