Esko Männikkö’s (b. 1959) photographs take us on a journey into the depths of the backwoods, featuring images of trees in remote regions beloved to the artist around Lake Inari and North Finland. Untouched by human hand, the wizened, contorted trunks offer a commentary on the wood processing industry and heavy-handed commercial harvesting. The trees portrayed in UUPUU are one-of-a kind, old elders, each one unique – as opposed to the uniformity of the young trees felled for commercial processing.
Männikkö describes his works as character portraits with a visual and environmental message. They are also self-portraits of a kind – the artist personally identifies with the tenacious old trees that struggle to survive until the very end; even when they are dying, small sprigs of leaves still sprout from their gnarled trunks. Nature is the underdog with whom Männikkö seeks to identify. Time seems to be frozen on the bark of the primordial trees, which nevertheless convey a sense of nature’s vulnerability and the inexorability of time’s passage.
Männikkö is a self-taught artist who was chosen as Finland’s Young Artist of the Year in 1995. He has won numerous awards both in Finland and abroad, including the Ordonez-Falcon International Photography Award in 2007 and the Deutsche Börse photography award in 2008. His work is found in many famous museums including the Los Angeles MOCA, Fondation Cartier in France, Moderna Museet in Stockholm and the Helsinki’s Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art.