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Sometimes an art exhibition is particularly pertinent. The new show opening this weekend at Shetland Arts' Bonhoga Gallery is appropriate considering the weather we have experienced over the past two months. Northern Traces introduces the extraordinary practice of Timo Jokela, a leading pioneer of Environmental and Community Art in his native Lapland.  Many of the images featured are of dramatic snow sculptures which, could start a new trend in the isles.  The exhibition runs from 13 February – 7 March with the exhibition preview on Friday 12 March at 7.30pm and an invitation is extended to all.

Timo Jokela was born, and has lived most of his life, in Lapland, Northern Finland and the ways in which Northern art and identity are affected by the Arctic landscape are central to his research and artistic practice.  In territorial terms, the landscape of his identity is extensive; it ranges from the forests and rivers of Lapland, to its fells, and the shores of the Arctic Ocean.

Jokela works intuitively, responding to the environment and incorporating natural and found materials: wood, willow, stone, ice, water, snow, but he is equally sensitive to the lifestyles and traditions of the communities living in remote areas of snow-covered Finnish Lapland, Northern Scandinavia and Russia.  Often created with the co-operation of villagers and reindeer herders, his work references their history, mythology, culture and politics, whether subtly or through the obvious integration of ancient Sami symbolism.

He has worked in the area since the mid 1970s, initially drawn by the marks people left on the landscape, reindeer fences, lumberjacks’ cabins, villages along a river, and fishery buildings on the Arctic Ocean.  Timo wanted to experience the narratives infused in these objects and explore how such structures could be interpreted not only as manifestations of commercial history and material cultural heritage, but also, as reflections of how people regarded their place within this natural habitat.

As an environmental artist, Timo Jokela seeks an inner landscape; one which can be experienced through all the senses.  He is particularly interested in the relationship between traditional, physical work within the environment and the aesthetic.

His site-specific artwork is influenced by location but also serves as an expression of values held by the local community.  Jokela balances between mainstream art and local culture.  As a product of a Western artistic education and a native of a northern village, he tries to place himself midway between the two.  He tries to examine the North - his own phenomenal world - as an inter-textual narrative; one in which Western art and science are interwoven with the stories, the histories and the beliefs of the local people.

This exhibition documents selected projects and commissions undertaken over the past ten years, ranging from site specific, monumental sculptures in the Arctic landscapes of the Northern hemisphere, to fully operational hotels built entirely from snow and ice.  'It is inspiring to see snow and ice used in these dramatic works.  A snowy landscape is often beautiful but with the effect snow has on our daily lives it is often viewed in a negative way.  Timo will be working with pupils in Shetland schools so we may even see some actual pieces in the Shetland landscape.' commented Mary Smith, Curator at Bonhoga Gallery.  In addition to the photographs there are a series of collages, and a large floor sculpture.

Timo Jokela is both an artist and an academic researcher who has developed his studies on the relationships between art, nature and community.  He is Dean of the Faculty of Art and Design at the University of Lapland and a visiting Professor in the Department of Sport, Culture and the Arts at the University of Strathclyde.  Both organisations are internationally recognised for their degree courses in Environmental and Community Arts and it is fitting that this exhibition includes new artwork created at Ardmore Point, near Helensburgh by Jokela and his long term colleague Glen Coutts, Reader in Art & Design, University of Strathclyde.  Both will be spending time in Shetland and attending the exhibition preview.

Bonhoga Gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10.30 to 4.30 and on Sunday from 12.00 to 4.30.

See a photo of the poster on Flickr

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