I`m a silver smith and a sculptoress, since 1969 titled as a free-lance artist. These sites, with some examples, will give you an overall idea about my works of art during the last decades. I started my career by making hand made silver jewellery using the ancient repoussage and chasing techniques. This jewellery has been displayed in many group exhibitions both in Finland and abroad ( in more than 30 countries)

I have always been very interested in sculpture. In the early 80`s, after my studies at Taideteollisuusopisto (University of Industrial Arts ), Helsinki. I was planning to continue my studies at Taideakatemia ( Academy of Fine Arts,Helsinki). However, the silver jewellery I had created aroused great interest among the public and the independent way of working in my own workshop fascinated me too much to change to do something else.

In the late 70`s I started to experiment by making big metal reliefs. After experimenting many kinds of techniques I ended up to repoussage technique in copper reliefs, too. In this relatively seldom used technique it`s essential that the metal is soft and elastic (gold, silver and copper) and that it`s molded into a thin sheet shape (0,4-0,6mm). The sheet in then attached to a special chasing pitch which operates as a flexible ground while the figures are pressed into the sheet by using different kinds of metal punches and a hammer.

After this the sheet is removed for burning out the pitch stuck on it and for labouring the other side of the sheet. With this kind of technique you can create very meticulous figures into the surface of the metal. The bigger embossments and the overall shape of the relief are produced after the surface figuring. The last stage of the work consists of the cleaning of the metal and the colouring (patination).

In addition to the methods known in sculpture patination I have developed my own copper patination methods. The theme of the relief is often connected with nature or feeling, e.g. rain,freezing,sand on the beach,plants etc. During the whole of the 80`s I also produced reliefs using other techniques than repoussage. I "found" the painted metal works of art when I bought a sheet metal roof of a dismountable house! It already had a basic colouring and it was a lovely surface to be added with more colours.

When making Christmas cards I got the idea of paper jewellery in 1985. I had an exhibition of my paper jewellery in Helsinki in 1986. Later on they have been displayed in many different group art exhibitions. I had slides taken of my paper jewellery with me when I worked in Cite des Arts in Paris in 1987. At the same time there was the First Jewellery Triennale at Hotel de Sens in Paris. I introduced my slides to the chief organizer of the triennale and I was invited to the following triennale which took place in Palais Luxembourg in 1990.

For this exhibition I produced copper jewellery made by repoussage technique. A piece of art of this collection was accepted to the collection of Musee des Arts Decoratif in May 1998. The museum is located in Palais du Louvre in Paris.

My largest own exhibition in Finland so far took place in the Finnish Glass Museum in Riihimäki in 1992. The space of the exhibition consisted of 400 squaremetres, the height of the space was 6 metres. Only my big works of art could be disposed there because of the huge amount of room around. The copper sheet is produced in 100x200 cm sheets. I chased them and made works of art consisting of 2-3 parts which had their whole sheets side by side or one on another. The exhibition included copper statues and a retrospective pavilion of my works of jewellery. This exhibition was valued on professional levels and I received a State Prize in 1992. Building up the above mentioned exhibition was very challenging both physically and mentally. After all this I found myself producing light colourful paper statues wrapped around iron strings.It was exhilarating to make abstract statues "standing on their own feet" and to experiment the qualities of paper.

At the moment I`m back with copper. It`s my material. I´m working with 0,2 mm thick copper sheet. I cut tens of pieces of the sameshaped size I then bend into profiles and solder to each other. With this technique I greate statues which in their own symbolic ways resemble real figures in nature: cones, beans, seeds etc. They have connections to creatures living in The sea, too. With my works of art Iwant to emphasize The variety of nature and its protection.



An Internet search for "repoussé copper" or "repoussage" yields nothing in the Finnish language. But these are precisely the terms that are used when speaking of Eila Minkkinen's sculpture. Minkkinen is by training a silversmith, but she began branching out of jewellery-making into sculpture back in the 1970s - on occasion even earlier. Ever since moving to Rauma in 1980, she has increasingly become a sculptor, though jewellery-making has time and again made a potent comeback into her life. She has been a member of the Association of Finnish Sculptors since 1986. Combining the roles of silversmith and sculptor has not been easy. The guild-like structure of the Finnish art world sets up boundaries that are not easy to cross and hierarchies that an outsider may sometimes find hard to understand. In the industrial arts, for instance, it has been taboo for artworks to display certain technical characteristics - or even to possess them covertly - a prohibition that Minkkinen has experienced in encounters with exhibition juries. In the realm of so-called free art, utility has been seen as a handicap: if an object embodying aesthetic principles has a useful purpose, like being drinkable or wearable for adornment, then questions soon arise about whether it can be real art. The hierarchy is also evident in something Minkkinen said in an interview: it is easy for a sculptor to make jewellery, and that is generally deemed such an interesting prospect that sculptors are sometimes invited to participate in jewellery projects, whereas jewellery-makers are seldom asked to join sculpture projects. Minkkinen has learned her lesson, and no longer feels any need to worry about it. "I am proud of what I can do," she says - and without further ado uses both professional labels: silversmith and sculptor. Minkkinen is also capable of creatively combining her professional skills. In her first workshop in Helsinki's Töölö district back at the turn of the 1960s and '70s she mostly made silver bracelets, rings and pendants with the repoussage, or repoussé, technique. A punch is a tool that can be used to pound softer, malleable metals - such as gold, silver, copper, tin and bronze - into shape from the reverse side to create a relief-like shape on the front surface. Known around the world as repoussé work, this age-old technique was already used in ancient Greece, but in Minkkinen's case the inspiration comes from even farther away: ancient Mexico and Egypt - for instance the mummy mask of Tutankhamun was made with the repoussé technique. Few people probably know that New York's iconic Statue of Liberty was also made by hammering sheets of copper with the repoussé method. The scale is therefore broad, in terms of both time and culture, but Minkkinen is nevertheless nearly alone in using this technique on the Finnish sculpture scene. Minkkinen's first clear, stylistically coherent period is constituted by her nature-themed repoussé reliefs from the 1980s. She was undoubtedly influenced by the sculpture lessons she got from Heikki Häiväoja and Kain Tapper on evening courses at the Institute of Industrial Arts at the beginning of the 1960s. Minkkinen regards Tapper in particular as an important mentor, though the institute's core teaching was rather bohemian at the time. Tapper, with his understated form language, was a master at surface treatment and, as such, a courageous experimenter, and the same could be said of Minkkinen. Copper, of course, behaves entirely differently from wood, so Minkkinen's works bear little resemblance to Tapper's, but a certain affinity nonetheless comes across in the sensitive workmanship and finishing. Whereas Tapper would even apply spackle to wood, the surfaces of Minkkinen's copper reliefs are given expressive colours with the help of, for instance, various metal oxidizers, plaster fillers in the grooves, falu red and graphite, as well as by treating the surface with beeswax. Minkkinen's landscape reliefs can, for all their restraint, also accommodate surprisingly many interpretations. In addition to harmony, points of reference can be sought in sensuality - even pure eroticism is not a completely far-fetched idea here. Minkkinen's character as an artist is such that once a problem is solved, it is time to move on to the next. As a sculptor, she has not created anything resembling a branded style to which she clung faithfully. Her curious mind finds new challenges, partly as a coincidence of the material. For instance, she has made what amount to almost constructivist reliefs out of brass and galvanized steel. Despite her metalwork background, Minkkinen has not limited herself to familiar materials and working techniques. For instance, already in the 1980s, she adopted paper - both in her jewellery and sculptures. Sometimes a number of techniques and materials fit into one and the same artwork - for instance, the large relief Man's actions, time and future (1984), in which she shaped tar paper, steel wire, marble and copper into a single seamless entity. Although Minkkinen's colour palette is often subdued and harmonious, she also dares to break loose when necessary. For example, the surfaces of her painted steel reliefs from the mid-1980s are an unrestrained celebration of colour where humour is allowed to blossom. And chance also often plays a role in this art: Minkkinen bought some left-over carmine-red roofing material on a street, and that provided the baseline for a feast of colour. Something similar happened when Minkkinen saw a pile of scrap computers and telephones as ornaments and began making jewellery out of them. The series What happened after the mammoths? (1997) introduces a strong ecological statement. Minkkinen plunks some mammoth bone that she got from film director Markku Lehmuskallio into some cheerfully coloured computer scrap and at the same time asks some big questions. She thereby anticipated a discussion that we are now engaged in rather heatedly. At that time, no one probably thought it would be more efficient to extract metals from mobile phones than to dig them out of the earth. For instance, one tonne of electronic scrap can yield about 30 times more gold than one tonne of ore. How much art could Minkkinen make out of one tonne of computer scrap? At the beginning of the 21st century, Minkkinen found crumpled copper (0.1 mm), which provided the inspiration once again for a long, handsome and consistent phase of nature themes in the development of her sculpture. Instead of reliefs, this time it was clearly three-dimensional objects with a dense and concentrated structure that created the basis for a more meditative result. Many of these sculptures call to mind seeds, berries or other individual forms found in nature, but without being figurative or imitations. The forms emerge from Minkkinen's intuitive imagination and partly on the material's own terms, through an interactive melding of intuition, handwork and material. Minkkinen can, with good reason, also be seen as an artist who makes social statements. She has always worked on behalf of nature and been concerned about the way the world has developed. In addition to her themes, this has long been concretely visible in her working methods: she has always been a recycling artist - even to the extent that she recycles the scrap from her own works into new artworks. Everything is used - after all, Minkkinen is from a family with six children in Konginkangas, the Finnish "hinterland." Minkkinen has continued to take a stand in her new Facebook works. She has turned funny human faces into her own facebook, where humour meets eternal, classical themes (Mino Taurusite Jr.), and references are made to art history (Young man Huutonen, with a touch of Edvard Munch). She asks whimsically what kind of human dialogue will emerge from the world of social media with its new identities, its posing and its idols. Minkkinen has also produced some larger installations - for instance Milk of Mother Earth (1996), on an empty lot next to the Lönnström Art Museum (in Rauma). It may be futile to search for the roots of these artworks in contemporary art trends. The circle is completed when Minkkinen remembers the Institute of Industrial Arts and Kaj Franck's introductory course. Franck took his students to an empty plot at Helsinki's Jätkäsaari and told them to build shelters for homeless drunks. Minkkinen's group made a campfire circle, with a fire pit and roof, at the water's edge. In those days, design and art - in this case, a kind of community environmental art before the term even existed - were not so far apart. And Minkkinen, for her part, has now been successfully crossing that line for six decades. As yet, we know little about what to expect of from her seventh decade, but whatever material it brings along will undoubtedly be subjected to Minkkinen's inquisitive gaze.

Otso Kantokorpi

The author is an independent Helsinki critic.