Naamiaiset – veistoksia ja piirustuksia
Tommi Toija is one of the best-known and most loved contemporary artists in Finland. His humane and sympathetic figures are instantly recognizable. Bad Bad Boy, the gigantic urinating little boy in Helsinki’s Jätkäsaari has in a short time become an established landmark.
Gallery Halmetoja’s Masquerade is Toija’s first gallery exhibition in the Helsinki Region in more than a decade. His previous solo exhibition at the Amos Anderson Museum was held seven years ago. Toija’s idiom and themes are still recognizable, but the material of the exhibition isn’t ceramics anymore. This new exhibition presents bronze sculptures and drawings all made this year.
The central piece of the exhibition is the large bronze sculpture, Family Tree. The sculpture consists of faces clustered together, where it is impossible to see if the figures are bare-faced or covered with masks. The piece can be seen to depict humankind at a general level. There is the competition for attention and living space; one can see how some are seeking the light by any means necessary and some voluntarily hiding in the shadows. On the other hand, the sculpture can also be seen on a more intimate level. It is a family tree of a family, its hierarchy and power, intimacy and trust.
Family Tree as well as the smaller sculptures speak in a substantial way to the modernist core issues of the art of sculpture. Their insides and the outer surfaces work together to create contrasts for the viewer. The abstract structures make for a formalist backbone for the sculptures, often aesthetically resembling informalist sculpture and its nature-influenced idiom. This is particularly gloriously evident in the Family Tree, where different viewing angles alternately highlight either the expressive representational expression or informalist abstract composition.
The view of humanity in Toija’s artworks is wretched, but still holding on to some human sensitivity. The many facets of humanity manifest as nuanced, nothing is polished or slicked over. Both the inner world and outward appearance exude actual experiences and real life. The drawings have the same sense of materiality as the sculptures; the multi-layered line and the figures’ eyes, at times quizzical and at times desperate, appeal deeply to the viewer’s instincts.
The exhibition includes several artworks with clear references to busts known from art history. These busts were often sculpted from historical figures, and powerful people have often commissioned such portraits of themselves. Regular people have only seldom served as models. Toija’s busts are weathered, often suspended in movement and melancholy in spirit. They remove any masks of power, not aiming to be sublime or presentable. They are in their element in the throes of life, with no honorary speeches or decorations of order.