Good is Up
Painting / Sculpture / Animation
Good is Up, the title of Jouni Toni’s (Finland, 1984) solo exhibition at WOW, is an example of a primary metaphor. This concept refers to a concrete experience, for example the movement to a higher point in time and space, which forms a basis for thinking about abstract concepts like good and evil. The primary metaphor is closely related to the way in which Toni approaches art. For him, these metaphors are the starting point for all visual expression.
The practice of Toni has recently broadened to include animation and sculpture, but painting remains at the heart of the artist’s means of expression. Clearly demarcated colour fields without shading suggest abstract shapes, but Toni’s works to him are recognisable representations of real-life objects and people. Interestingly, while he mostly aims for likenesses and figurative forms, he finds that audiences often see his work as being abstract.
Point of departure for any new painting is a sketch resulting from a period of trial and error, in which associations, memories, impressions of journeys and the everyday environment melt together. Slowly, a variety of meanings are translated into colour combinations and shapes that have relevance to Toni. This is a truly visual thinking process: when he starts work on the painting itself, the important decisions about composition have been made and the process is calm and meditative, giving the artist time to focus on the subtleties of colour mixing and materiality.
Toni paints spaces that somehow feel familiar – the viewer is drawn into them. The imagery often carries an ambiguous mix between nostalgia and melancholy on the one, and expressive vibrance on the other hand. In Tilt we encounter a demonstration, or rather the idea of one, as the protest remains without context. Toni approaches high, abstract concepts such as ‘demonstration’ and dissects them, leaving a few elementary emotions that are universal. He channels basic emotions felt at seemingly sophisticated things; Toni responds with emotive brushstrokes and intuitive colour and form.
Some of the works on display form series. Toni commences painting series with a theme in mind. Note that the (pastel) colours recur throughout in various works, every time used in a different way, for different forms and with different meanings. In this way, the artist subtly imbues his colour selection with painterly depth.
Animations allow Toni to serialise a number of variations on one painting, presenting and extending them over time. Recently, the artist has started to experiment with adding three-dimensional objects to the gallery space he exhibits his work in.
The current exhibition is an overview of work made at WOW in 2017 and 2018, and opens with a three-dimensional reaction to the painted works and animations.
About Jouni Toni
- Resident at WOW Amsterdam 2017-
- Resident at Rijksakademie 2014-15
- Awards and prizes: Royal Award for Modern Painting 2015, 1st prize (Koninklijke Prijs voor Vrije Schilderkunst), The Art of Basware 2010, 1st prize
- Included in collections: ING, UMC, Helsinki Art Museum, Finnish Art Society
An interview with Jouni Toni was published on 8 January 2018. Read it here.
Cover image: Tilt / Photography: Françoise Bolechowski