Reija Meriläinen works with videos, sculptures and installations, combining digital and physical expression. In her works, she links social tensions and power structures with bodily and material sensations. Meriläinen uses digital 3D technology in her works, and she has also worked with video games in recent years. The art work and game Survivor by Meriläinen reflects everyday social situations and their complex power structures. The game was on display as part of Kiasma’s ARS17 exhibition (2017–2018).
Meriläinen says that, in a way, the digital and the material bleed into each other in her art: digitality, the Internet and video games are visible in Meriläinen’s sculptures and hand-made works, while the materiality, haptic nature and bodily softness of her sculptures and installations can also be sensed in Meriläinen’s video art.
Meriläinen is touched by the accolade granted to her. ‘Receiving the AVEK Award is a happy surprise and honour that I wasn’t expecting. Even though I often collaborate with skilled people from different fields for my art, most of my work is carried out alone at a studio and sometimes only in my thoughts and notes, and it often feels like no one sees that work. This award is a sign that my efforts and the value of my work are seen and acknowledged.’
Meriläinen’s works have been displayed at several group exhibitions in Finland and abroad, including the ARS17 exhibition at Kiasma and the States of Play: Roleplay Reality exhibition at FACT in Liverpool. Meriläinen has also held several solo exhibitions, such as EN GARDE at HAM Gallery in Helsinki and Faint at Gallery Å in Turku as part of the 8th Turku Biennial. For the last three months, Meriläinen has been working at Artspace Sydney in Australia as an artist in residence.
Originally from Lahti, Meriläinen (b. 1987) now lives and works in Helsinki. She studied in the time and space arts programme at Uniarts Helsinki’s Academy of Fine Arts, where she completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2014 and her Master of Fine Arts degree in 2018. Meriläinen has also previously studied fine arts at Art School MAA, graduating in 2011.
The award jury was very impressed with Meriläinen’s way of expression – the beautiful way in which she depicts the diverse nature and key themes of her art. ‘We see Meriläinen as a voice of her young generation who already has a mature and recognisable artistic vocabulary and style of making art.’
Among other things, Meriläinen is inspired by popular culture: pop music, reality TV, YouTube culture and computer games. ‘In her works, she filters these influences through a sharp analysis,’ the jury describes.
‘Meriläinen’s importance and uniqueness in new media art and, more broadly, contemporary art lies in her sharp, up-to-date point of view that extends beyond the art bubble,’ the award jury says in its statement. ‘The combination of strange and everyday banalities in the themes used in the videos and the use of innovative materials in sculpted works make Meriläinen’s art completely unique.’
Meriläinen succeeded in convincing the jury by combining online culture with a skilful video narrative to create a unique, analytical way of telling stories. She is well-versed in many areas of media arts, ranging from animation to film and from music videos to game design, and she utilises all these areas in her art.
The AVEK Award jury was chaired by Chief Curator of EMMA Arja Miller. The jury also included Head of Programme for Frame Contemporary Art Finland Jussi Koitela, Artistic Director of PUBLICS Paul O’Neill and Film Commissioner of AVEK Tuuli Penttinen-Lampisuo. The award jury prepared a statement, based on which the AVEK Board of Directors decided on the winner.
Recipients of the AVEK Award 2004–2019
Media artist Heidi Tikka (8 September 2004)
Media artist Hanna Haaslahti (6 September 2005)
Media artist Pekka Sassi (7 September 2006)
Artist Adel Abidin (6 September 2007)
Artist Pia Lindman (11 September 2008)
Artist-curator Juha Huuskonen (10 September 2009)
Visual artist Jani Ruscica (9 September 2010)
Visual artists Lea and Pekka Kantonen (8 September 2011)
Artists Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen (6 September 2012)
Media artist Erkka Nissinen (5 September 2013)
Artist Annette Arlander (4 September 2014)
Visual artist Anna Estarriola (10 September 2015)
Artist Salla Tykkä (8 September 2016)
Visual artist Kari Yli-Annala (7 September 2017)
Visual artist Saara Ekström (13 September 2018)
Artist Reija Meriläinen (12 September 2019)
The AVEK Award is an accolade for creative work. The award, worth €15,000, can be granted to a creator or group that works in media arts or other audiovisual culture. This year marks the 16th time that the award was granted.
Reija Meriläinen, artist
reijamerilainen (at) gmail.com, +358 (0)40 7676 466
Arja Miller, Chair of the award jury
arja.miller (at) emmamuseum.fi, +358 (0)50 3361 980
Ulla Simonen, Director of AVEK
ulla.simonen (at) avek.kopiosto.fi, +358 (0)44 7900 344