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-Biography in English
-Biografia em Português 
-Art Critic Hannu Castrén has written an article on Ilona Rytkönen´s art



Biografia 2019

Ilona Rytkönen (b.1962, lives and works in Jämsänkoski)


Even if Ilona Rytkönen's painting is landscape-oriented, there is a human being involved in it: the person is there as a spectator, experiencer, encounter, thinker or just observer.


Ilona Rytkönen's expression as an artist is often mysterious or symbolic. You can see the inner feelings or the impression of a certain moment. This is more important to her than documentary or portrait painting.


In her color palette, she has pursued a minor color scale. Occasionally, the surprising colors that appear in the painting process will amaze and confuse the artist herself. Whether they can remain in the final work or hide or delete them, are the most interesting moments in her painting process.


“It feels like a little melancholy and yet the ability to sense beauty is mixed in delicate scratching strokes: like a crack in the feeling that mixes for a moment. What the picture represents is realism: the street after the rain, but the way the picture looks like it is sentimentalism.

The subject, philosophy and technique of making art make Rytkönen a special artist. Subjects are often used to something: a person, a face or a landscape. Their everydayness is realism, while painting technique approaches art as abstract expressionism under impressionistic appeal. Rytkönen looks inwards and outwards in her art. But the inner gives you the tone, the movement and the feeling. ”

Author: Saara Heikkilä, Master's Degree in Art History and Freelance Artist (25.9.2019).

The full text of the article in finnish is at the end of the artist's homepage Biography


Rytkönen's techniques are oil painting on canvas and soft pastel painting on paper.


Rytkönen started as a full-time painter and contemporary artist in 2004 after graduating from the Orivesi College of Fine Arts. She has also studied at the Open University of the University of Art and Design Helsinki (Taik), the Free Art School, the Pekka Halonen Academy and several other art courses since 1978, most recently the Finnish Cultural Foundation's portrait painting course in Turku in 2011.


Rytkönen has had several domestic solo exhibitions since 2003, as well as joint and group exhibitions in Finland and abroad such as Rio de Janeiro, Osaka, New York, and Miami (and Berlin in November 2019).


Ilona Rytkönen has been a member of the Jyväskylä Artists 'Association since 2011 and was a member of its Board of Directors from 2015 to 2016. She is a member of the Finnish Painters' Association since 2012. In 2016 and 2017 she has been a member of the Finnish Artists' Association (STS) as an elected representative of the Association of Finnish Fine Art Organizations (SKjL).


In 2018, Rytkönen received a grant from the Central Finland Arts Council for the Arts Promotion Center (Taike).

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Biografia em Português (2014):

Ilona Rytkönen, uma pintora no meio da Finlândia
O pouco tempo que vivi na América Latina nos anos 90 influenciou a minha arte e a minha alma. Juntamente com os estudos da língua espanhola, aprendi linguagem corporal. Tinha de observar os meus arredores para estar atenta aos perigos. Estudava os movimentos das pessoas e seus gestos para compreender o que estava acontecendo. Tal observação continua.
O motivo mais comum para minha arte são as pessoas. Até nas pinturas de paisagem há também um ser humano.  Me interessam particularmente o movimento e a postura dele. O pulso, a nuca ou a postura da área pélvica me contam sobre os sentimentos da pessoa. Tais sentimentos constroem uma atmosfera nas minhas pinturas de uma maneira metafórica. Por exemplo, uma pessoa pulando na minha pintura não está simplesmente fazendo atividade muscular, isto é sobretudo uma expressão de liberdade ou alegria.
Eu não me interesso por documentar pessoas, embora há algum realismo nas minhas pinturas. Mas fico fascinada com o realismo dotado de caraterísticas simbólicas e místicas, em uma atmosfera que possui qualquer coisa a mais do que a vida real. O critico artístico finlandês Hannu Castrén definiu o meu estilo artístico como Realismo Mágico.
A técnica principal que uso é a pintura a óleo, mas as vezes uso pastel, tinta lápis e xilogravura.

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Art Critic Hannu Castrén has written an article on Ilona Rytkönen´s art:

Art History can essentially be comprehended as a history of trends. For each periodical style, research has defined its own; place in time, theory and central artists. The artist’s work is more or less based on the chaos of creativity, where as Art History is more like an archive in which each card has its own place.
It is no wonder that we react to this well organized Art History with such respect, that we would not dare to diverge from its chronological and regulated boundaries of style. But challenging the boundaries becomes necessary as soon as we begin to interpret the production of an individual artist. The artist does not create according to any existing system, but in consonance with personal vision and inspiration. This is when s/he both consciously and unconsciously carefully mixes up the constructed archive because it is in this way that s/he can create something of her very own.
The archives of Art History came to mind when I studied Ilona Rytkönen’s painting production over time. Especially with regards to the particular observation that comes from the painter’s strong relationship to tradition, but also in the ability to appropriate it in her own context. But we would need more than one card to categorise her expression.
Without greater thought I have looked for three cards out of the archives without which I would not be able to navigate. I believe that, with these three cards I have found the right direction into Ilona Rytkönen’s art.
Three anglesThe first of the three deals with Realism. The word Realism is still used in contemporary vocabulary, but in relation to art, most Finns would site Axel Gallén’s 19th century painting Akka ja kissa (The Old Woman and the Cat, 1885) as a prime example of Realism. 
Realism is also an important starting point for Ilona Rytkönen’s art. Confirming this, is the fact that the human figures of her paintings are often sketched from a live model, which is not very common in Finnish contemporary art. In addition, she uses photographs and even mirrors when she uses herself as a model.
The second angle is Symbolism. Symbolism was born at the end of the 19th century as a counter reaction to the visual world focused on Realism. However, as our Karelian art pointed out, Realism and Symbolism can in fact be combined in support of one another. So it is with Ilona Rytkönen’s art as well. When the person in a picture is convincingly realistic, the discourse of her inner world also becomes credible to the viewer. In this way, the invisible and metaphorically communicated message of a painting is not left behind, quite the opposite: it is drawn closer.  The impression is striking, or even shocking, when the viewer can recognize something of himself in the painting.
I won’t believe it until I see it is a credible or learned slogan of a rational world, on which the artist must also perform a special operation to decode.  Her challenge is to find an artistic method with which she can transfer the viewer’s attention from the exterior to the interior. The painting’s realism awakens the interest of the viewer, after which he is ready to give himself to the real intentions of the artist. Ilona Rytkönen passionately executes Symbolism as her prime agenda through which the heart is controlled by the eye, reason is guided by feelings and the soul is material.
Realism and Symbolism, surface and depth, are not presented as opposites in Ilona Rytkönen’s paintings. They are existing expressions of human life. Their combination can also simply appear practically. For example, washing the dishes or cleaning up are perfect moments to let your thoughts fly around the world or into deep spiritual-thought. The painter does this by painting.
The third card is Expressionism. Symbolism had an impact on the emergence of the independent style of Expressionism.  The fact that Symbolism and Expressionism both had connections to the Romantic period in Art History is one essential component, which offers insight into Ilona Rytkönen’s art. The same kind of criss-crossing paths guide her thoughts in the studio, when she searches for the most appropriate visual solution for a theme.
When you meet Ilona before ever having seen her paintings, her vibrant personality might give you the impression that she is an expressionist artist.  However, this is misleading although not completely incorrect. When beginning a painting she looks for the right ‘vision’ by working with large brushes and rags, or by dripping paint down the canvas. According to the artist, the background is formed at the very beginning, or else is covered over by layers of colour. An expressive approach always has its own share of process in which the pre-planned way of working merges with an intuitive and emotional expression.
The second expressive phase takes place near the completion of a painting, in the strongest brushstrokes. This is when she dramatises the subject using her own instinctive and physical dynamics. Simply a few brush strokes not only confirm the presence of the artist, but also confirm her desire to open her paintings up to the viewer.
That is, the paintings are not windows through which you can attain reality, but with just a few last gestures, they want to make contact with the viewer’s world. The expressiveness also contains something of a request to the painting’s observers: look at others, know thyself!
The subject evolves into a series of paintings, a painting series into an exhibition 
In some of her paintings the artist emphasizes form and line, while in others she emphasizes painterly texture. Here, I am not trying to draw more cards from the Art History archives, because there are hundreds of centuries of background between line and painting. Usually these artistic elements are presented as opposites, from different schools and styles. For example, line is a central element of Symbolism while expressionists feel restricted by this style of mark making.
Ilona Rytkönen’s paintings do not present historical juxtapositions; line and painting simply hold their own roles and positions in her art.  It seems the subject defines when each element is allowed to lead. Her art is subject oriented and in the end, quite thoroughly so. She creates whole painting series from one theme, which acts as the base for her next exhibition.
In the exhibition itself, paintings emphasizing different styles are hung side by side. In their own way they implement the theme in the script. Which is why her art can also be looked at as imagery which visualizes a subject, transmits changing feelings and carries a storyline. This is also why the opposing trends of Art History are not at angles in this painting installation, but carry out their own roles in the narration created by the artist.
At the same time, as I have emphasized the thematic base of Ilona Rytkönen’s art, it is also important to note that the act of painting itself is completely something of its own. That and of itself can bring on hopeless moments in the studio.  Not everything goes as planned but the end result might still be just right.  This is when the artist herself is surprised: this is how it turned out, or this is exactly how it was supposed to be. The act of planning is only one important phase in the long-term project, after which the painting’s needs may vary, the artist’s impulsiveness and emphasis on a subject along with an element of chance, all effect the end result.
The same is apparent in the artist’s own words: Painting is frantic and continuous. All in all, Ilona Rytkönen’s artistic identity is currently made up of this kind of multiplicity of ingredients. Multiplicity is also a central trait of contemporary painting, where artists freely combine traditions of art with their own personal expression.
Autumn darkness and Magical RealismPerhaps the most exciting attribute of Ilona Rytkönen’s painting has yet to be mentioned. I would not be surprised if this were the prime source of individuality in her art: her strongest, most characterizing feature.
The artist’s blog holds this particularly interesting information. There she admits that grey and rainy days suit her and that the dark of October and November are her most important months of the year.
Many are probably surprised at this kind of announcement: But is this not the season, when even the most stubborn Finns are ready to jump on any plane to the sunny coast.
Proof of this particular preference is found in artist’s art. The colours are dominated by the monochromatic scale of a rainy day, to which the artist might add a brighter colour or sometimes a few.  The darkness of October-November closes in on the colourism of the painting as well. Repetitious figures and human faces protrude from a dark background and light is but a glimmer on their surface.
The artist admits the dark of November helps her to turn toward her inner-self. Everything else steps aside, giving room for the passion of painting. This reminds me of the symbolist from Art History who painted in the cellar by candlelight. The autumn period is therefore a golden time for symbolists, but does this mean the realist should settle down in hibernation. No, because there are so many kinds of Realism. The dark months of October-November are exactly when the artist finds her very own Realism.
Magical Realism is an uncommon trend in Finland. In contrast, it crosses all forms of art in Latin America. Ilona Rytkönen lived in Colombia for three and a half years in the 90’s. Magical Realism is therefore familiar to her in many ways. However, I would like to think that her own Magical Realism has ultimately been found close to home.
                                                                            Art Critic Hannu Castrén