Always seeking to further his conceptual approaches and working methods in the production of artworks, Jyrki Parantainen’s creative process has undergone significant transformations throughout his now over twenty-year long career. A continuous red line in Parantainen’s oeuvre is the importance of conceptualization and preparation in producing a new work. Critical introspection and methodical accuracy are crucial aspects to this process, which the artist likens to writing a film-script. The implementation of the work reveals itself as a stage on which personal emotional endeavor, precise technique, and perfect timing engage in a forceful intimate dialogue, palpably described by Parantainen as a form of “wrestling”.
As an image, the artistic act of wrestling is particularly applicable in the case of the Earth series, which, consisting of landscape photographs taken exclusively during the nighttime, presented a challenge of sorts to Parantainen’s “strong and personal fright towards darkness”. With reference to the visual and conceptual traditions of Land Art, or Earth Art, beginning in the 1960s in North America and Europe, Parantainen followed the idea of isolating specific natural landscapes and topographies for use as sites of artistic production. Land Art practitioners like Robert Smithson (1938–1973) and Michael Heizer (b. 1944) had sought to express a social critique of the commercialized art gallery system, thus relocating the sites of their artistic production to far-off geographical areas; to deserted, ‘unruly’ wastelands, beyond the realm of public exhibition.
In the Earth series, Parantainen’s artistic intervention into the Finnish landscape takes place in a highly individuated way. Indeed, the sites are chosen and staged as subjects within the idiom, or genre, of Land Art. The work process involves a careful integration of various organic media, ranging from torches with live flames, over liquids like milk, to dry materials like chalkstone. Unlike traditional approaches, however, Parantainen’s landscapes are captured and reproduced visually in form of photographs, thus adding a new aspect of mobility to the otherwise site-bound location of the physical landscape.
Jyrki Parantainen, born 1962 in Tampere, Finland, lives and works in Helsinki. He graduated from the University of Art and Design, Helsinki (now Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture) in 1992, where he is Professor of Photographic Art today.