Inka Nieminen – Sea-changes

Oulu Museum of Art 8.10.2020–4.4.2021


Many of the new works by sculptor Inka Nieminen (1971–) were born during the coronavirus pandemic, which made it a natural choice to go back to basics and keep methods and materials simple. The title of the exhibition, Sea-changes, refers to a change in perspective and a metamorphosis. ”Change and motion, being in motion, are important. That is what making art means.” The sea mentioned in the title of the exhibition appears in a tangible form in a new video shot in Virpiniemi on the island of Hailuoto, which features underwater material of clay canyons found near the island in 2014. Detritus, materials brough by the sea and unfired red clay that resembles the seabed complete the theme.

Working in Hailuoto and Helsinki and graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in 1999, Nieminen is known as an innovative woodworker with an ability to interpret nature and the environment in a captivating way. The origins, properties and meanings of her materials form an important part of her work. Much her materials come from the seashores, forests and pastures of Hailuoto, the environment of her childhood and youth, where she still has a summer house. 

In her earlier works Nieminen brought natural materials side by side with digital technology and synthetic materials, but in the present exhibition her focus is on the potential of “low tech” materials, such as sheep’s wool and unfired clay. Her sculpture installations combine the ancient tradition and magic of craftmanship, earthy, ecological materials and an attitude of curious exploration. Nieminen has always worked to find a natural, inherent way to integrate and utilise each material. She has always used clay for moulding and sketching, but now unfired clay has inspired her to reach for bigger shapes, larger wholes and more powerful expression. The cracks resulting from the drying process and reactions that proceed gradually over time have their own important meanings.

Having worked as an artist for more than twenty years, Inka Nieminen finds discovering new things and experimenting with them inspiring in itself. Her attitude of broad-minded curiosity has also been shaped by her work as a teacher and interaction with young art students in the Aalto University and in the Academy of Fine Arts in University of the Arts Helsinki. One example of this that the artist speaks about is the carbon footprint of different materials and techniques, frequently taken into consideration today. For Nieminen, relationship with nature is manifested in its most tangible form through her own artistic work, through natural materials and manual processes.

The exhibition is displayed in three galleries on the ground floor of the museum. The artist’s thinking is introduced in more detail in a video interview shot in Hailuoto in August 2020.


Photo above: Mika Friman
Photo in banner: View of the exhibition. Photo: Mika Friman.

Video: Mika Friman

Silence will close behind us, 2020, sheep wool (Hailuoto Black), wood, LED light. Photo: Mika Friman.

Sea-changes, 2020, video, wood, rope, found urethane.
Photo: Mika Friman.


In front: Ammonoidea, 2020, porcelain clay, sheep wool, chicken wire, arabic runner, papier-mâché. Back: This I say is the present moment, 2020, porcelain clay, tree roots, wood, abandoned ant net, LED light, papier-mâché, chicken wire, sea salt, sand, arabic rubber, fabric, superlon. Photo: Mika Friman.

Friday or, 2020, unburnt red clay, found materials.
Photo: Inka Nieminen