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Esko Männikkö, "Flora & Fauna"

Berlin, January 12th - February 26th, 2002
Image No. 1 of Esko Männikkö

Esko Männikkö, "Flora & Fauna," installation shot, 2002.

 
Esko Männikkö's new series of photographs, "Flora & Fauna," are almost abstract but nevertheless reveal figurative forms after a closer scrutiny. Nothing is quite what it seems here: animal shapes suddenly rise from an amorphous mass, confront us with a frozen stare only to disappear into a maze of colours and reflections.

Esko Männikkö is well known for his photographs of bachelor men living alone in small cottages on the Finnish countryside, as for his "Mexas" series that explores a border zone in Texas with a predominately Mexican population. These portraits are imbued both with references to classical portraits, where attributes and setting are playing major roles, and with a deep respect for the persons depicted. In his series "Flora & Fauna" (the title is nicked from an independent whiskey producer in Scotland famous for their hunting scenes on the labels), it is the elements behind the scenes that are explored. As in all works by the artist it becomes apparent how meticulously composed they are. Each element, colour, light, texture, and metaphorical incidents challenges our will to see photography as a faithful reproduction of reality. Also in his "Organized Freedom" series (1999-2000), that shows front doors of old houses and abandoned cottages, the threshold between Nature and Culture was explored; and in a recent expansion of this series, "Organized Freedom Edition 2," he has photographed newly arrived immigrants to Finland inside these deserted houses. He thereby challenges our concept of the acute "Finnishness" of his bachelor series and manages to treat an extremely complicated content with grace.

On one level these photographs are only compositions in which the portrayed is only one of many interacting elements and on another he makes our prejudices of the picturesque crumble. Somehow old Finnish men left behind and living in their Nordic oblivion can be seen as typical and interesting while an African immigrant in the same setting creates an uncomfortable stir. However, Esko Männikkö's photographs do not take a political stance. They are born out of an interest for human beings, wherever they live, and for how people create their living environment - in a way similar to how the artist himself composes his images. Esko Männikkö's works are compositions of a multitude of elements in the same way as the human life itself is a weave spun out of many threads. In his work he stresses the local as opposed to the global, and perhaps the allure of the pictures lie in how they line up with how we today tend to take interest in the small stories and not in History understood as a great narrative. It seems to be the minute scale that tells us the truth about ourselves and in which we believe as a beacon for the future to come.
  
Image No. 2 of Esko Männikkö

Esko Männikkö at Galerie Nordenhake, January 11, 2002

 
Image No. 3 of Esko Männikkö 
Image No. 4 of Esko Männikkö

Esko Männikkö, "Flora & Fauna," installation shot, 2002.

 
Image No. 5 of Esko Männikkö

Esko Männikkö, "Flora & Fauna," installation shot, 2002.

 
Image No. 6 of Esko Männikkö

Esko Männikkö, "Flora & Fauna," installation shot, 2002.





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