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Eeva-Leena Eklund lives and works in Helsinki, Finland.

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Eeva-Leena Eklund
b.1972 in Pori, Finland

Education

1998-2003 Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki (MA)
1993-1997 Turku School of Fine Arts

Solo exhibitions

2011 Gallery Sculptor, Helsinki
2008 Huoltamo, Tampere
2004 Gallery Sculptor, Helsinki
2003 season mix, Kluuvi Gallery, Helsinki City Art Museum, Helsinki
2001 voyage voyage, Gallery of Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki
1997 Gallery Titanik, Turku

Selected group exhibitions

2010 Diamond palaa!, Pori, Finland
2009 Eeva-Leena Eklund and Maiju Salmenkivi, Taidesalonki Husa, Tampere, Finland
2009 Supermarket, Stockholm
2009 Megalomania, Huoltamo, Tampere, Finland
2009 Eeva-Leena Eklund and Milla Toivanen, Forum Box, Helsinki
2008 Fennofolk, Design museum, Helsinki
2008 Ihmisiä niityllä, Gallery Huuto, Helsinki
2008 Piirtäen, Gallery Rajatila, Tampere and Taidepanimo, Lahti, Finland
2007 Piirustus, Gallery Huuto, Helsinki
2007 Eklund, Salmenkivi and Toivanen, City Hall, The Hague
2006 Eklund, Salmenkivi and Toivanen, European Parliament & EESC, Brussels
2006 Eklund, Salmenkivi and Toivanen, Studio, Turku Art Museum, Turku
2006 Eklund, Salmenkivi and Toivanen, Forum Box, Helsinki
2006 Exät, FAFA, Helsinki
2005 Vasta maalattu – peinture fraiche!, Kerava Art Museum, Kerava, Finland
2004 Happy mix!, with Kati Immonen, Gallery Huuto, Helsinki
2004 vasta maalattu – peinture fraiche!, Le Triage, Paris
2003 Meat Lovers, Gallery Just, Turku
2002 b.1972, Kunsthalle Helsinki
2002 enter. painting, Finnish Embassy in London
2002 MA-exhibition, Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki
2001 Xanadu, Forum Box, Helsinki
2001 Situaciones, Cuenca, Spain
2000 Summer Holiday, Poriginal gallery, Pori, Finland
2000 Eklund, Salmenkivi, Toivanen, Galerie Anhava, Helsinki
2000 lesmiserables, Hanna Heinonen and Eeva-Leena Eklund, Titanik, Turku
1998 Artgenda-Retro, Stadtgalerie, Kiel, Germany
1998 Artgenda, Kulturhuset, Stockholm

Artworks in collections

Helsinki City Art Museum, Helsinki, Finland
Espoo Museum of Modern Art
Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation
The State Art Collection, Finland
The State Art Collection, Sweden
Finnish Art Association, Helsinki, Finland
Turku School of Fine Arts
Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art, Turku, Finland
Åbo Akademi, Turku, Finland

A Spoonful of Sugar

Ever since the avant-garde embraced an anti-retinal stance based on strict conceptualism, figurative painting has been under attack. Art and pleasure have become estranged, and painting has been forced into a ghetto. And because ideas of beauty form an indefensible, subjective minefield of cultural assumptions any emotions other than the most abject are rarely taken seriously.

But as with any contested area, from the apparent wreckage of classical values arises a perfect opportunity for the emergence of a new avant-garde that makes the current guardians of taste turn pale in the most delightful way.

The dominant strategy for most has been to make paintings that have a conceptual underpinning yet remain solidly based in process. But Eeva-Leena Eklund has found another way to make painting matter. Confronting viewers with something that they find trifling, uncomfortable-making or wholly unacceptable, she takes her garish palette and kitsch-tinged subject matter and incorporates it into a rigorous project that draws on process art as well as installation, appropriation and photography.

With Eklund’s work it is sometimes difficult to make out the connection between paintings of amiably naïve fawns, acid-toned housecats, and bilious floral patterns that are as gargantuan as they are expressive. That they are scattered across the walls and floor in tenuously linked groupings only makes the task more challenging. But once the connection is made, a whole sweetly perfumed garden of enchantment becomes accessible to those with the willingness to behold it.

When looking at contemporary art, confusion about the artist’s intention or the form the work takes are some of the most unambiguous signals that what one is looking at is probably valuable and worthwhile. And with the work of Eeva-Leena Eklund, viewers are confronted with a pronounced disquiet which is especially powerful because of its perceptible tenderness.

The fact that Eklund embraces her subject matter without a trace of irony makes it a powerful force for change and extremely difficult for some to take seriously. But just because it is without irony is not to say that it is without a sly, charming, and often biting sense of humor. Her evident sense of joy and affection for the subjects she chooses to paint makes for a project that causes as much consternation as the work of Duchamp or Picabia did in the last century.

As an artist who understands and works with opposing tendencies, exploring the area where high and low meet, Eeva-Leena Eklund balances her passion for her project with a keen understanding of the way in which art functions in society. And it is this that gives the work its power. It is because a way into the work is offered that can be taken by the viewer in numerous ways – as avant-garde strategy or slightly naïve kitsch with a heart – that it satisfies on many levels. This is good news then for anyone who might like to have their cake and eat it too.

Christopher Gordon, New York
December 2010