For Jaakko Niemelä (born 1959 in Rauma), the wreck is also a symbol of a life lived. It carries memories while simultaneously breaking down and fading away. Sea, ships and seafaring have been important to the artist since childhood. A deeper exploration of them began in 2012, when Niemelä started a research project named Nostalgia to get to know his late sea captain father better.

“I am the son of a sea captain. My father was at sea a lot when I was little. This is why I never knew him very well. When my father retired after his career, he soon developed dementia and lost his ability to speak. He died in 1985 when I was 26 years old. Later I have come to realise that my father’s absence and death have had a considerable impact on my life.”

Jaakko Niemelä builds spatial installations that often resemble landscapes of light and shadow. His work moves between themes of loss and longing on an individual level and destruction and decay on a societal level. On one hand, Niemelä’s works frequently imagine and model structures that feel both utopian and dystopian, while on the other hand showing their collapse, destruction and disintegration.

The exhibition at the Oulu Art Museum is accessed via a lowered space. The large Gallery A houses a multimedia selection of works that continues thematically into Gallery C in the form of drawings and archive materials. Black Motor, a work created for the present exhibition focusing on the notion of evil, is built in the dimly lit Pocket exhibition space.

Based in Rauma and Helsinki, Jaakko Niemelä has worked as a visual artist since the 1980s. He cites light, shadow, scale and structure as his principal tools. In addition to spatial installations, Niemelä is also a printmaker and creates light art and video works. He has studied fine arts at the Kankaanpää Art School and light architecture at the Aalto University. He was awarded the State Prize in 2005 and has also created numerous public works.

The works in the exhibition were created in Niemelä’s studio at the Rauma shipyard, where ocean-going cruise ships are also built. The video animations have been made in collaboration with Paula Lehtonen, Antti Laakso, Kai Kostack, Oliver Walter and Martin Felke, while the soundscapes of the works are created by Verneri Pohjola, Antti Niemelä and Alessandro Scarlatti.

The exhibition is made possible with the kind support of the Finnish Heritage Agency.

The exhibition is curated by Selina Väliheikki, curator of temporary exhibitions at Oulu Art Museum.

Visit artist’s website.