Toni R. Toivonen: The Last Presence
Galerie Forsblom Stockholm
October 4–November 10, 2019
Opening in the presence of the artist, October 3, at 5–7pm
Toni R. Toivonen’s work stem from a physical process, a process of decay, where deceased animals like dogs, hares, cows and horses are transformed into artworks. The process is action-based and Toivonen is working physically, moving and placing the animal onto the canvas, which in this case is a sheet of brass. When composing the animal and putting it to its final rest, the procedure becomes a burial, where the brass function as a grave cloth. By time, the animals decompose into a nature morte – a still life, where they are captured in their last presence.
The gold-tinged works varies in size, some of them are monumental and measure up to three meters wide, often due to the natural scale of the animal. The brass-works bring to mind Andy Warhol’s historical piss or oxidation paintings, using bodily fluids on copper painted canvases. Even though both artists worked with the oxidation effect, Toivonen’s artworks are made with a unique technique invented by himself. In his work the physical transformation, the process of time and decay of the animal body, is as much part of the artwork as the final aesthetic image perpetuated on the brass.
Also on display in the exhibition are animal sculptures made of beeswax, a process where the mold is formed directly of dead animals. Another references that comes to mind is Damien Hirst’s animals in tanks of formaldehyde or the work of a taxidermist, although the final expression is nothing alike. In contrast, Toivonen’s sculptures rather show the carnal underneath the flesh such as muscles and tendons of the corpus. In almost semi-abstract sculptures, he seems to re-create the concealed structures inside the dead bodies.
At first thought one might think that Toivonen is an artist who wants to provoke the viewer. However, Toivonen has a lot of respect for the animals and for death, and the animals used in his works either died a natural death or had to be put down because they were ill or suffering. Even though death is a part of life, it nevertheless feels far away and evasive for most of us. Toivonen captures the existence of life and its counterpoise death – the dichotomy of life.
Toni R. Toivonen (b. 1987) graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki, Finland, in 2016. He has been exhibited extensively in Finland, as well as internationally in Berlin, Germany, Vienna, Austria, London, UK and New York, USA. His works are represented in public collections as the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art and the Sara Hildén Museum of Art in Finland and at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków, Poland. In 2018 a semi-documentary film HEAVY, directed by Theo Bat Schandorff, about the artist life and work, was produced and screened at Chart Art Fair in Copenhagen, Denmark. Toivonen recently received a grant from the Greta and William Lehtinen Foundation in 2019.