Tanja Koljonen — Between the Linguistic and the Visual by Christoph Tannert
An heiress of the surrealist tradition of "objets trouvés,” tanja Koljonen works with objects she finds. She reworks, revisits, and rearranges them before reproducing them as photographs and printing the pictures she creates as pigment prints. The kinds of items she currently prefers to work with include sets of small slides, playing cards, and small objects that have been particularly marked by the patina of use. Fragments of text, writing, prints, and arrangements of words and numbers play an additional role. Her work is highly poetic and addresses questions such as the perception of image and text, the function of pictorial or symbolic media, and questions relating to empty space, which can (metaphorically speaking) be a "spiritual space” containing the reader’s or spectator’s expectations. The graphic notations she uses create a link between her work and the characteristics of scripture and concrete poetry.
In her series Anywhere Recollections (2012), the artist uses standard sets of small slides with cardboard frames, the sort one used to be able to buy in tourist shops as a reminder of a favorite holiday location. she breaks the slides out of their frames and reduces the description of the picture imprinted on the frame to its bare minimum by crossing out words. More often than not, only one recognizable word remains on the frame, sparking images in the spectator’s mind and conjuring up his or her own holiday memories. In this way, Koljonen manages to bypass the slides and instead uses the medium of writing as a visual component. She moves between de-materialization and re-materialization, between the linguistic and the visual. In the end, each piece in the series Anywhere Recollections reproduces photographically the possibility of forming imaginary images, which refers to the spiritual realization of mental constructs.
The crossed-out text interrupts the flow of the observer’s reading, and the explanatory function of the text on the slide frame is eliminated. We read words such as "Wall,” "River,” "market Place,” "La mer,” "Palace,” "Rock,” "Bird’s-eye view,” "General view.” The lines of text become part of a composition in the photographic image, which in turn paraphrases the textual content or contradicts the text completely. The appearance of words that are crossed out and those that are not lends weight to their specific quality as something visible. As part of the picture, they become bearers of information carrying an aesthetic message. The crossed-out words alter the text of the original slide description. After undergoing the process of artistic alteration, the description ceases to be helpful. At the same time, the crossing out of words gives the text new life as a visual element. It becomes an integral part of the photographic image.
Viewed from a distance, the crossed out words create a grid that at first glance seems devoid of meaning. nevertheless, this grid acts as an iconic sub-symbol in the photographic image, creating the impression that it is trying to send the viewer an encoded message—perhaps via morse code. With these photographs, which combine grids of words with empty yet specific forms, the artist reflects on the creation and perception of images and the role of art.
Koljonen’s work is also an example of how creative processes can turn practical, everyday contexts into works of art that refer only to themselves—to themselves as flat structures, and to photography as a medium for conceptual decisions and poetic intervention. In reworking found objects and declaring them works of art, she works with the principles of montage and decomposition, as well as with the spoken reference to what is contained in thoughts. She has a preference for poetry, operates confidently on the level of aesthetics and philosophy, and knows how to get our thoughts flowing through various allusions.
Playing cards play a prominent role in her work. to this day, fantasies concerning the secrets of playing cards and their connection to the "unfathomable wisdom of providence” are common worldwide. "Fate shuffles the cards and we play,” as Schopenhauer once remarked. In Oneself (2013), a shape in the middle of a playing card that resembles a keyhole lends irony to the general expectations of what lies hereafter by promising a mysterious "beyond.” The works On Constant Practice (2011), Hands Full of Futility (2012), Remembrance of Trial and Error (2013), and Possession (2013) provide a breathtaking range of concise, conceptual designs. Koljonen is methodical yet highly flexible in her way of thinking, and often comes up with delightfully subtle ideas. The fact that she has a penchant for the art of verse brings a pleasant lightness to her work. The world is not enough, according to this talented Finnish artist, and when- ever she wants to look beyond her horizon, she invites you on a journey through the parallel universe of her art. The ascending row of cards featured in As Much As the Horizon Allows (2011), which measures a full 150 x 320 cm, is a free-flowing and at the same time coherent piece that contains a clear message. The way Koljonen traces fate’s constellations in gestures that offer new and surprising turns on an upward curve displays a reassuring wit and self-confidence.
This text is an excerpt from: Christoph Tannert: Fostering Young Talent, published in: Helsinki School, From the Past to the Future, Vol. 5. 2014.