For much of the 20th century, art in Finland was characterized by a certain isolation, due to political, cultural and linguistic reasons. Compared to other Nordic countries, traditional themes have resisted longer, with particular emphasis on nature, mythology and national folklore, and with a marked preference for expressions of a realistic type.
The sixties and seventies saw the debate between two main currents: the proponents of social realism, who insisted on a production committed to social issues, and the promoters of abstract constructivism, who were above all concerned with the formal quality of artistic works. In the 1980s, while social realism lost its vigor, a strong constructivist current continued to persist, with a contemporary openness to foreign art that gave the Finnish art scene a more international aspect, and with influences that characterized in a sense pluralistic the decade.
Postmodernism has left its most visible imprint in the transavant-garde paintings of L. Luostarinen (b. 1949), which represent exotic creatures and landscapes of violent colors. Even the works of S. Rantanen (b.1955) show a marked sensitivity of the ” Eighties ” in their simple and discontinuous references to Western culture and history of art, in which silence and emptiness are combined with a high structural quality.
According to topschoolsintheusa, figurative expressionism, whose history in Finland dates back to the 1920s, has had new vitality thanks to the feminist themes of M. Tapiola (b.1951) and the strange combination of mysticism, surrealism and ironic background characteristic of O. Lyytikäinen (1949-1987), while abstract expressionism is represented by the “ mental landscapes ” of M. Mäkelä (b.1947), clearly derived from the observation of nature, and J. Mäkelä (b.1949), whose paintings have gone from the contemplative lyricism of the seventies to a more dramatic and solidly structured expression in the eighties. A similar love for nature is manifested in the sculptures of K. Tapper (b. 1930),
Lyricism and naturalistic sensitivity can also be found in many constructivist works, eg. in the paintings of J. Blomstedt (b. 1937), rigidly structured and characterized by light and transparent brushstrokes, apparently random, in reality repeated rhythmically. M. Kujasalo (b. 1946) works rationally in series of rhythmic optical structures, both in painting and in sculpture. A more severe constructivism, probably linked to the strong Finnish tradition of architecture and design, is represented by the paintings of P. Osipow (b. 1939), C. Enckell (b. 1945) and J. Hautala (b. 1941), with works characterized by the economy of forms and a restricted chromatic scale. M. Rantanen (b. 1956), on the other hand, brought pure form into the era of postmodernism by making use of signs and decorations with no apparent meaning and painted in fluorescent colors, completely unusual for Finnish art.
The sculptures and installations by M. Aiha (b.1952) and K. Cavén (b.1954) both originate from constructivism and arte povera, but the choice and preference for materials such as wood and stone show the will to maintain a fundamental relationship with nature.
Social interest, which was previously expressed with direct forms of realism, in the 1980s was channeled into less aggressive forms and in the direction of ecological problems. While most Finnish painters and sculptors still work traditionally, there is no shortage of examples of environments, installations, performances and conceptual art. Pioneer in the technique of ritual installations in nature was P. Nevalainen (b.1951) who, with other artists such as H. Väisänen (b.1951) and JO Mallander (b.1945), took part in the outdoor exhibition Mobile land of death (Helsinki 1983), in which interest in ecological problems was proclaimed. One of the few Finnish artists to consistently practice conceptual art is L. Anttila (b. 1938), while T. Valjakka (b. 1953) has approached conceptualism in his photographic close-ups of assembled or manipulated natural objects.
Some of the newest trends can be seen in the experiments of some performance groups (Ö-group, Homo ] and Jack Helen Brut) and the Record Singers / Bellini Academy, in which any distinction between art forms appears to be abolished. The leader of the latter group was the mystic O. Heiskanen (b. 1939), author of traditional lithographs, who had a great influence on the younger exponents of the avant-garde. In general, however, artistic associations and groups did not represent an important element in the Finnish art panorama of the 1980s, in which individualism and the proliferation of different forms of expression appear to prevail; a plurality, however, always characterized by a predilection for naturalistic inspiration and a marked sensitivity for materials.