Terhi Heino’s body of work can be seen as a vortex delving ever deeper into themes of cultural ecology. She utilizes similar materials time and again, bringing to her artworks content layers from previous exhibitions, while small changes and gestures deepen her message towards new possible interpretations.
Heino utilizes materials that have their own history. They haven’t been created for the artworks, but gathered, found and received. The idea is that in the end of time, these artworks will not exist anymore. They aren’t preserved forever, but they will decompose with all the other natural elements. This cycle is a natural motif in Heino’s vortex, the artworks created from used materials full of visible but also forgotten stories. It is also clear that this story does not end with the artwork. Heino does not finalize anything but leaves the material ‘alive.’ Everything is fragile and will continue its journey in another physical state. Not immediately, but after a century or two, these artworks will only exist as documentation or memories.
One might think that it’s not wise to say this aloud in a gallery selling artworks. But I feel just the opposite. In these times, art often deals with environmental issues. Yet, artworks that have truly internalized ecological themes are far and few between. It feels significant to collaborate with an artist who has throughout her career dared to focus on the world’s most important themes in such an intimate way. Dared to be fragile in a time when screaming gets you the most attention.
What is the theme that carries on from year to year, from one exhibition to the next? Heino depicts people’s relationship to their environment; humanity’s ability to understand and respect nature. She skilfully combines humane themes with ecological thinking, gently depicting childhood and the gender conventions related to it. In her art, she dares to utilize nostalgia and aesthetics that delve into a time before the all-piercing ironic gaze.
In Heino’s most recent artworks, she moves across the boundary between public and private more intimately than before. She depicts the death of her father in a manner where textual memories effortlessly touch upon current global topics. Terhi Heino has created an exhibition where material meets text, creating into the gallery its own journal-like reality, an invisible space to roam back and forth in.
She also depicts the shallowness of people’s relationship to nature, transforming the documentary into decoration in a way that reveals how far representations of plants can be removed from nature. Heino’s materials, such as pages from old herbaria, fish fins, used teabags and old cardboard are all visually subtle. Their appearance is sunburnt and redundant since decades ago. They yield to the visual play of art only because Heino treats them with the required respect.
She does not force or pretend command anything. The viewer senses the kind of appreciative touch these fragile materials need. What Heino has accomplished feels dignified and beautiful at this moment.