The past ten years Luoma has been continually working with entirely abstract visual content through the medium of photography. His method involves a calculated, analogue technique of repeatedly exposing a single negative to lines of light, sometimes up to thousands of times, thus generating what has been denoted as "abstract photographs of time”.
Photographic function becomes content itself: what Luoma’s works have in common is their self-referentiality, in that they point towards the moment of exposure -the process of their own creation- in medium-reflexive way. Though intricately systemized parameters and number sequences are determined by Luoma prior to the exposures, he never knows what the final result will look like. His works are constituted by their inherent tension of order and chance.
When we look at the new works on display from Luoma’s current series Adaptations (2015), we are at first surprised to learn that they are modeled on pieces by Pablo Picasso and Diego Velázquez. However, the longer we look, the more apparent do the Ladies of Avignon, the Woman with Mandolin, and the Maids of Honor, originally created by the two Spanish painters in the early 20th and mid-17th centuries respectively, take form before our eyes, somewhere in between effects of trompe l’oeil and Magic Eye. Following his previous solo exhibition Variations on a Standard of Space at Gallery Taik Persons in 2013, Luoma’s aim "to produce images that visualize the passage of time” continues to be of particular interest. This is not only reflected in the technical process of his time-based approach. The chosen Picasso works as models retrace a specific time passage of nearly four decades within that painter’s oeuvre: an ever-present, increasingly penetrating inquiry of abstract form. Luoma’s series, then, presents an abstraction of those abstractions. The series title, Adaptations, further indicates the link between Picasso and the older Velázquez. It references Picasso’s own series of adaptations made in 1957, comprising 58 versions of Velázquez’ painting Maids of Honor. Luoma thus gives us a hint towards his personal definition of adapting: just like Picasso "made slight changes” in his interpretations, so as to "isolate and highlight” select aspects of Velázquez work, Luoma in turn makes use of Picasso’s motifs and compositions with his primary focus on handling "light as space and space as a source of light”. Luoma’s Woman with Mandolin is a vivid example: recalling Picasso’s rendering of 1910, we can see how the centered composition of the human figure is transformed into what we perceive as a black void in Luoma’s version. This void, however, does not "substitute” the figure. Showing the unexposed area of film, it is substance itself, and merely an inversion of light-space relations. Similarly, Luoma explains that the colors in his works are not meant to illustrate the original painting’s characters; rather, they signify occupied spaces and spatial constellations among an organized sequence of events taking place on the canvas.
Next to Luoma’s Adaptations, the exhibition shows two new works (2015) from his series of photographs Idea of a Cube Randomized to the Plane. His Prototype wire-sculptures, which are 3-D interpretations of this series’ "flat cubes”, are further shown in form of black-and-white photographs. The series provided a basis from which Luoma developed his Variations on a Standard of Space focusing on "Cézanne’s geometric solids” of cube, cone, and sphere. The works present studies dealing with Cubism-inspired themes of interpreting, transferring, and transforming shape and volume between two- and three-dimensional form, format, and medium. The persistent organizing, deconstructing, and rebuilding of visual space is actually a never-ending adaptation of space.
- Shao-lan HertelNiko Luoma was born in 1970 in Helsinki. He studied photography at the New England School of Photography, Boston, The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the University of Art and Design, Helsinki. He is a lecturer at the University of Art and Design and an integral part of the Helsinki School. His works have been widely published and exhibited all over the world. They are represented in numerous collections, including those of the Finnish National Gallery, the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Danish National Museum of Photography. Among his many received awards and stipends are the recent grant of the Arts Council of Finland (2014) and the William Thuring Award (2013). Luoma is a member of the Union of Artist Photographers, Finland. He lives and works in Helsinki.