Jan-Erik Andersson Handwriting Has Died


Invited: Sound artist Shawn Decker

With this exhibition, Jan-Erik Andersson celebrates his artistic career of four decades. He shows new works in which recognizable elements in his art – a narrative and organic artistic idiom and an interest in ornamentation – meet each other. Although his artistic production has followed diverse paths from performance and environmental art and video and media works to spatial installations and architecture, the whole ouevre shows an exceptional logical continuity.

The basic reasons for this lay on the personal level and stem from a severe stuttering, which developed in his childhood. The exhibition Handwriting Has Died honours the style of joint writing which is no longer taught at Finnish primary schools. When a child, youth joint writing was for Andersson an important counterweight to teaching based on language and speech as his communication was undermined by the difficulties with speaking. The meditative rhythm and repetition of handwritten words and the small illustrations he added on the pages created a mental space of his own: “I tried to make the curved lines as smooth and beautiful as possible.”

The installation Handwriting Has Died shows authentic handwriting exercises as well as drawings made by Andersson while attending primary school in the beginning of the 1960s. They bear evidence of a natural and aesthetic approach, possible in childhood, which can offer tools for future creativity and for eventually being able to fully express an own inner world that allows contacts to the surrounding society.

Andersson’s ouevre culminates in the Life on a Leaf house in Hirvensalo, Turku, completed in 2009. Its rich world is visible also in the new works in the exhibition. They reflect his commitment to aim at a total artwork: two-dimensional digital wall works expand into a whole interior consisting of a table, benches, a shelf, and a swing, which all have been created during the planning process of a new house Andersson intends to build for him and his family as a postdoc researcher, the Nut-house.

The Handwriting Has Died theme continues in a group of works called Fire. Our surroundings and our civilisation are burning on many different levels; we can see wildfires threatening also affluent abodes as well as almost buried old cultures of learning, depicted in phantasms of decayed temple ruins. Some of the temples Andersson has assembled digitally, using photos he took of medieval illustrations in the manuscript museum in Jerevan.

Jan-Erik Andersson was born in Turku in 1954. He graduated as a Bachelor in Science in 1981 with Organic Chemistry, Biology, Botany, and Art History. At the same time, he studied in the Turku Arts Academy and graduated in 1982. In 1996 he began collaborative projects with sound artist Shawn Decker, professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, who has made the sound for the Mouse installation. A similar type of collaboration, for almost a quarter of a century, with architect Erkki Pitkäranta, has resulted in a series of architectural interventions and buildings conceived under Rosegarden Art & Architecture, including the already mentioned Life on a Leaf house, which also was the production part of Andersson’s doctorate at the Academy of Fine Arts (University of the Arts, Helsinki). The house is the home of Andersson’s family and will in the near future be transformed into a residency for artists and researchers, facilitated by a newly founded company.

Andersson was awarded the Finnish state’s artist pension in 2015. His works are in the collections of the most important museums, cities, and foundations in Finland.

-Marketta Haila

The exhibition has been supported by the Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland and the Arts Promotion Center.


Artist meeting on Sunday, 4 October 2020, at 2–4pm

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