The Tyres for the Summer and The Hoods 2 © Rantatorikka 2015
The Tyres for the Summer and The Hoods 2 © Rantatorikka 2015
The 18th Haihatus Summer exhibition in Joutsa 18.6. - 25.8.2017 deals with landscape and the environment. As usual, the exhibition is situated in and out; in the house, in the outbuildings - out in the garden and in the field. Curators, visual artists Tiia Matikainen, Pasi Mälkiä, Pauliina Turakka Purhonen and Kalle Turakka Purhonen gathered the exhibition with the name Sisään-Ulos/ In - Out.
Theresienstadt © Pirkko Rantatorikka 2016 pigment ink on canvas size 200 x 170 cm
Theresienstadt © Pirkko Rantatorikka 2016 pigment ink on canvas size 200 x 170 cm
  To See Near and Far at Gallery Forum Box April 2016 in Helsinki Finland. Read more:  
Painting installation in Gallery Forum Box © Pirkko Rantatorikka 2016
Painting installation in Gallery Forum Box © Pirkko Rantatorikka 2016

To See Near and Far
Painting, drawing and photography are inseparable aspects of Pirkko Rantatorikka’s art. Together they constitute surfaces, and if you look close enough, you see that the surfaces swarm with detail. Motifs interpenetrate and grow out of one another, and scales clash. Built almost in the manner of collages, the paintings are full of action. Yet, the events are not necessarily simultaneous, nor do they form continuous narratives – instead, the paintings point to distant places and times.
In her works, Rantatorikka depicts the structures and patterns of formation in society, the social foundations of life. Often her landscapes consist of abstracted schemata: historical maps of Europe, hinted-at urban spaces, layouts of buildings that resemble fortresses. They touch upon questions of how our life is regulated by spaces, and how different structures and systems both reproduce and are born out of power. Particularly in those made in the mid-1990s, Rantatorikka’s works capture views of the development of the European Union and the process of its unification. The issues raised by them now prove to be more topical than ever: What is European identity? What is it like to live in Europe? Who is allowed inside its borders, and who is to be excluded from the collective space? The views resembling satellite images and maps in the paintings hint at the construction of scale and perspective, but also at the potential of surveillance and control.
It is not always clear whether things can be better seen close up or from far away. How do we perceive a continent or a region or things that are familiar to us? In Rantatorikka’s series entitled On the History of Corporeality, an individual’s life is set against larger dimensions: the past and the present of cities, countries and continents. These encounters expose the components from which identities are constructed and how they unite the individual and the personal with universal and timeless influences. The changes and power hierarchies of the present always derive from the past, but history is often repetitive as well: change is permanent, and only its random components vary.
In her later works, Rantatorikka has turned her gaze from continents to cities, and from cities to buildings. The works are now populated by ever-smaller units, interiors, and details from the domestic sphere. In the large paintings, however, the scale of reality changes and loses its literal meaning, because within the pictorial space, images and texts possess an equal intensity; they are part of the indivisible surface of the work. In this sense, one can detect a similarity between these paintings and the Neo-Expressionist style born in the 1970s. Their common features are the density of the pictorial surface, its layers and the lavishness of the palette – Rantatorikka’s previously dark tones have slowly become brighter, evolving into tones of yellow, orange, blue and black.
Colour is the element that creates the space in Pirkko Rantatorikka’s paintings. In them colour is light and space – it is what determines the reality of the works. Rantatorikka previously painted with acrylic but in the 2000s replaced it with pigment ink. Creating a sense of lightness and transparency, the ink leaves the surface texture of the canvas in view without covering it over like acrylic or oil paint would do. Randomness plays a large role in the use of colour in the works, because no matter how careful she plans the piece, the artist can never know exactly how the ink will spread, and the translucent washes or tiny details that she executes in ink cannot be adjusted once they are made.
Pirkko Rantatorikka’s work is therefore bounded by the intractability of the medium but also by its dependence on seasons: works executed in the summer and winter are distinguished by their palette, as are the motifs. Without imitating anything they emerge from the world and create endless new ones.
Martta Heikkilä

translation Tomi Snellman

Painting installation in Gallery Forum Box © Pirkko Rantatorikka 2016
Painting and photo installation in Gallery Forum Box © Pirkko Rantatorikka 2016


Bypass surgeries and Fuchsias © Rantatorikka 1999 size 175 x 135 cm
Bypass surgeries and Fuchsias © Rantatorikka 1999 size 175 x 135 cm


Born in 1956 in Ylitornio, Finland, Pirkko Rantatorikka graduated from the School of the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts in 1982. In her art, personal and universal history becomes one and a purely private experience confronts the prevailing ontological, normative or merely wishful interpretations of how things stand. Equally significant is, how these interpretations linger on in the past and present. More often than not, her artistic practice arises from a private experience, whether a childhood memory, a piece of news read in the daily paper or a view opening from the window of a landing plane. For her, e.g. the war in the Balkans is being represented as a simultaneous experience of sitting at the breakfast table, a child’s reminiscence of war stories told by her father, as well as a geopolitical matter, something the artist’s conscience is compelled to relate to. Thus the artist starts to resemble an optic, through which both grand and small tales focus. In this manner, for example a war does not belong solely to the world of men, or remain a tale only they could tell. On the basis of everyday history, childhood memories, worry felt for the world, and diverse emotive states we all are familiar with, Rantatorikka produced e.g. an extensive series of paintings, the War Stories (Sotajuttuja). Quite tellingly, in 1993 the exhibition was shown in Mikkeli, where the Finnish headquarters was situated during the war.

Although Rantatorikka’s themes are in many cases highly personal, they are not reduced to mere sentimentality. Her memories are not distorted by nostalgia, nor does she emphasise her experiences in a narcissistic way. The starting point of her works may seem rather prosaic. Yet the intellectually attuned artist readily finds a direct – and sometimes surprising – link e.g. to the tradition of the Enlightenment. Denis Diderot, Jaakko Juteini, and the Finnish elementary school system suddenly share the same space. In her hands, a personal experience is always elevated onto a more general level, which is open to us all. Even a less sophisticated viewer will not find it difficult to get into touch with her works.

It does not follow, however, that the multilayered approach so proper to Rantatorikka’s working method would render her works difficult to interpret or conceive. Her palette is a combination of historical imagery, signs, ornaments, maps, and photographs. She deals with common symbols, i.e. the Western cultural conventions of depicting the structures of the world as well as those of the creatures that inhabit it.

Despite the fact that several perspectives or models of interpretation are simultaneously present in nearly all of Rantatorikka’s works, the paintings are never based on a random play of unrelated elements. It is through her workmanship as an artist that the very simultaneity is brought about. Amidst the multitude of materials available to contemporary art, we must not forget that painting is one of the traditions, towards which every artist has to take a stand. At the end of the day, Rantatorikka is a painter, for whom a canvas is not only a meeting place of tales but also a crossroads of the basic problems in painting.

Translation Antti Saarela  from Otso Kantokorpi´s article Isot ja pienet tarinat kohtaavat 

publication Pinx Maalaustaide Suomessa osa 5 Tarinankertojia WG

From Series Where Homes Come from - Suburban Growth Forecast pigment ink on canvas 2013
From Series Where Homes Come from - Suburban Growth Forecast pigment ink on canvas 2013
"There are powerful emotional charges, expectations and dreams attached to all the stages of building a house and to these homes-to-be – these are the themes that I am trying to observe and visually weave together."
Some kinds of house drawings
Pirkko Rantatorikka has become known as an artist who ponders and examines her environment and its phenomena precisely, analytically, even critically. The changing structures of our social living interest her as a visual artist and have often given the subject for thematic approaches.
In her series of works to be shown at EMMA, Where houses come from, (with the working title Some kinds of house drawings) she is commenting on town planning. She does this by combining and juxtaposing a new neighbourhood in formation and visual elements that expand on and comment on this process of urbanisation. The slow stratification of the works can also be found in the artist’s painting technique. She uses pigment inks to draw with a brush slowly rippling surfaces made up of coloured lines to attain a matt colour effect reminiscent of egg tempera.
The tangible starting point for this series of works was the new neighbourhood built on the cliffs and forest clearings of Myllypuro, which continues the new Finnish tradition of wooden towns already familiar to Rantatorikka. The first series of photographs that comments on this upcoming building process was completed by Rantatorikka in 2003–2004. She decided to return to the “site” when construction of the new neighbourhood started in 2010.
She has been collecting graphic material straight from the area for years – at all times of day and at all times of the year – which grew to have a significant role in the creation of her series of works. The material incorporated into the paintings is based on elements of nature, art and the built environment, such as the town plans of historic towns, old maps, botanical illustrations, as well as artistic interpretations from different ages.
The private experience of the artist becomes, through the creation process, a public one that can be shared. The subject of the series is not so much the new residential area in East Helsinki as generally the relationship between human beings and the environment they live in.
Pirkko Rantatorikka (b.1956) is a visual artist from Ylitornio who works in Helsinki. She graduated from the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts in 1982. Rantatorikka has held many solo exhibitions of her work in domestic and international galleries and museums. She has also taken part in group exhibitions around Finland and in international exhibitions in Denmark, France and Germany. Her works can be found in the collections of several museums.