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Axel Antas - selected works

Nothing is Made, Nothing Disappears – Poikilo Museum / 24 May – 27 August 2023

“Nothing is Made, Nothing Disappears” is Axel Antas’ first solo museum exhibition in Finland. The works in the exhibition are predominantly from the last few years, but they nevertheless provide a comprehensive account of the themes he has been working on during his 20-year career. There are also new works, including photographs, drawings and video works, which he has completed this year. Antas is a multidisciplinary artist working in a wide range of media and techniques.  

“Nothing is made, nothing disappears. The same changes, at the same places, never stopping.” The phrase is from the poetry book The Shape (2012) by Serbian poet and philosopher Dejan Stojanović. In his poem, Stojanović draws on the 17th-century French chemist Antoine Laurent de Lavoisier, known as a witness to the law of the indestructibility of matter. The origins of these ideas, in turn, can be traced back to the Pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Anaxagoras, who believed that mass existed at the beginning of everything. 

According to Antas, art must offer something more than a fleeting experience, a glimpse of a feeling or a glance of another reality. To consider the title of the exhibition transports the viewer to other times and places.  “Nothing is Made, Nothing Disappears” sums up the idea of the exhibition, everything that exists is in constant change and thus pointing to our relation to the fragility of time. 

Time and the concept of time are recurring themes throughout the exhibition. In Antas’ works, the perspective of time changes imperceptibly from the past to the present and the future. He creates and oscillates with time and space in his work, allowing the viewer to slowly piece together the small fragments of intimate moments, or at other times, to become completely immersed in monumental imaginary spaces.

Antas’s works require an unhurried approach, they take time to gradually reveal their ideas to the viewer. The viewer has to stop at the whiteness of the image and adapt to its immateriality and infinity. It is as if the artist wants the viewer to remember that understanding and learning takes time. It is rewarding, because the moment of experiencing the work lingers long after the first encounter. We carry the experience with us to other times and places. Antas emphasises the meditative process of both producing and receiving art. The exhibition emphasises a focus on the moment, with the viewer at the centre.

The techniques of the works in the exhibition can also be linked to time, from the Renaissance to the present. In a series of new drawings, Antas has used the metalpoint technique popular in the Renaissance era. The drawings are made on primed paper using pencils with sharp metal of pure bronze and silver. The silver pencil drawing is juxtaposed with the white colour seen in other works in the exhibition. In his video works and photographs, Antas has drawn on different stages of technological development, using both analogue and digital techniques.

The exhibition is linked to nature and the environment, themes Antas has persistently worked with for a long time. He explores our relationship with nature in depth and observes our alienation from it. In Antas’ work, nature acts as a mirror and reflection of our existence. Virtuality and digitality are having an ever-increasing impact on people’s lives. Our relationship with time has changed  and time is also an important part of our experience of nature. Conversely, contact with our own physicality is becoming more blurred, the tangible connection with nature is fading. Antas aims to highlight this change, emphasising understanding based on lived experience and sensory perception.   

Observations of time, space and presence are characteristic of Antas’ art. The places where the works are shot and the events that take place are important to the artist. He pays attention to detail in a way that the viewer can also identify with. There is something mournful in the poetic atmosphere of the works. On the other hand, there is also an absurdity and a surrealism that adds a lightness, even a comic quality.

“Nothing is Made, Nothing Disappears” is a reminder of perpetual change: everything is interconnected and always moving and changing.  Antas is urging us to pause, to stop and reflect, and to be aware and mindful of this moment.

Mari Lehtosalo – Poikilo Museum