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Wood spirit: finnish artist Jaakko Pernu makes works that explore both the physical properties and symbolic dimensions of wood. (Design Review).

Jaakko Pernu is a sculptor and land artist who makes remarkably intricate yet monumental constructions using wood. In Finland, blessed with a superabundance of trees, wood has assumed the status of national material, its expressive and regenerative qualities forging a powerful connection with the Finnish psyche. Pernu's father was a boatbuilder, so since childhood he was exposed to the tactile and sensory nature of timber and gained an appreciation of its technical potential -- how it could be cut, shaped and jointed.

Since the late '80s, when he completed his studies at the Lahti Institute of Fine Arts, Pernu has lived and worked in remote northern Finland, drawing inspiration from its huge boreal forests and subtle Nordic light. His favourite wood is willow, both cheap and plentiful and also relatively easy to work, due to its inherent strength and suppleness. Symbolically, willow is associated with the moon, water and rebirth -- it regenerates very quickly and its flowering marks the beginning of spring. Its bark also contains valuable pain relieving properties, exploited for centuries in traditional herbal medicine. In Pernu's extraordinary constructions slender willow members are joined using the simplest of techniques -- usually just nails and screws although Pernu is beginning to experiment with glues -- to create lattice-like arrangements that have a curious delicacy, despite their huge scale.

One of Pernu's largest works, The Ground Beneath, was created during a six month placement at Oulu Artists' Workshop. Set in a forest clearing, its arboreal form was inspired by the surrounding trees. A cubic frame was constructed from 25 woven willow poles that taper gently upwards like tree trunks or organ pipes. Dried and unpeeled willow members were painstakingly meshed together to form a lacey timber cage, suspended 3m above the ground. The effect is of a compact manmade forest (albeit permanently denuded) set within a real forest. At night, the structure is dramatically illuminated, casting angular shadows through the clearing. Though rooted in a practical craft sensibility, Pernus inventive and intuitive explorations of wood draw deeply on folkloric associations with dreaming and enchantment to distil the material's fundamental essence.
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Title Annotation:"The Ground Beneath", Finland
Author:Slessor, Catherine
Publication:The Architectural Review
Geographic Code:4EUFI
Date:Mar 1, 2003
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