Visual artist Tuula Närhinen has been selected as the winner of the Below Zero Finnish Art Prize. She is the second person to win the prize. This year’s applicants were asked to explore the theme ‘Resilient Futures’. In her project, Närhinen will approach the theme by collecting waste from the bottom of the River Thames and looking into the layers of human history in them.
“I’m very surprised and happy”, says Närhinen. “I have already started developing the techniques I will use for the project and I’m sure they will work well with River Thames.”
The Below Zero Art Prize is given out by the Beaconsfield Gallery in Vauxhall and The Finnish Institute in London. The prize is worth £15,000 (about 17000€) and includes mentoring, materials, a month-long residency and an exhibition at the Beaconsfield Gallery. The winner will work on the exhibition during the residency.
Dr Närhinen is a pioneer in the field of critical environmental art. Over her 30-year career she has specialised in the relationship between environment and natural phenomena. Her work often deals with natural elements, such as water.
The jury this year was comprised of curators Taru Elfving and Hannele Tilles, Naomi Siderfin and David Crawforth from the Beaconsfield Gallery, and Jaakko Nousiainen, the Head of Arts and Culture at the Finnish Institute in London.
“It gave us great joy to give the prize to an artist who has such deep knowledge in ecological questions and whose work has recently inspired many artists,” said Elfving.
There were 40 applicants for the prize. In addition to Närhinen, four other artists were shortlisted: Sara Bjarland, Teija and Pekka Isorättyä, Kati Roover and Elsa Salonen.
“This is the second Below Zero Art Prize and it’s great to see it is gaining ground as an established art prize. This year’s applications were of distinguished quality and ecological consciousness. We were delighted with their high standard,” said Emilie Gardberg, the director of the Finnish Institute in London.