Arno Rafael Minkkinen


WILLAS contemporary is pleased to present its first group show - LOOK AGAIN. 

Look. Then look again. The first you might notice is the aesthetic. Then you might discover the other side. The artists technique and aesthetic differ, but they all have one thing in common. They strive to create art that makes us question ourselves. Art that makes us look at the world from a different perspective.

Photographs by Roger Ballen, Nick Brandt, Steinar Christensen, Jeff Cowen, Arno Rafael Minkkinen and drawings by Kjell Torriset.

Our opening hours this summer are Tuesday - Saturday 12-5 pm and by appointment via


Elephant with Wasteland - Inherit the Dust - 2015 - Nick Brandt

Nick Brandt is an English photographer who photographs exclusively in the African continent, one of his goals being to record a last testament to the wild animals and places there before they are destroyed by the hands of man. Three years after the conclusion of his trilogy, “On This Earth, A Shadow Falls Across the Ravaged Land”, Nick Brandt returns to East Africa to photograph the escalating changes to the continent’s natural world.

In a series of epic panoramas, Brandt records the impact of man in places where animals used to roam, but can no longer do. In each location, Brandt erects a life size panel of one of his animal portrait photographs, setting the panels within a world of explosive urban development, factories, wastelands and quarries.

Works from ‘Inherit the Dust’ by Nick Brandt will be presented as a solo show at WILLAS contemporary opening on September 15th, 2016.


Eugene on the Phone - 2000 - by Roger Ballen

Over the past thirty years Roger Ballen’s distinctive style of photography has evolved using a simple square format in stark and beautiful black and white. In his earlier works his connection to the tradition of documentary photography is clear, but through the 1990’s he developed a style that he describes as documentary fiction. After 2000 the people he first discovered and documented living on the margins of South African society increasingly became a cast of actors working with Ballen in the series “Outland and Shadow Chamber” collaborating to create disturbing psychodramas.

The line between fantasy and reality in his more recent series “Boarding House and Asylum of the Birds” has become increasingly blurred and in these series he has employed drawings, paintings, collages and sculptural techniques to create elaborated sets. People are now often absent altogether; replaced by photographs of people used as props, by doll or dummy parts. Ballen has invented a new hybrid aesthetic in these works but one still rooted firmly in photography. His collaboration with the South African rap group Die Antwoord in directing the music video ‘I Fink you Freaky’ has so far been seen by over 80 million people.


Old Masters - 2016 - by Steinar Christensen


In a sense, Christensen’s work demonstrates his ability to open up discussions across genres and may be interpreted as comments on the current state of civilization. He demonstrates a unique ability to renew his artistic expression, yet his work primarily displays traditional still-lifes, incorporating both contemporary elements and art historical references.

The artist collaborates with experts in specific disciplines and embraces new techniques and materials, in constant search to visualize his social engagement. A common characteristic in Christensen’s work is the absence of people, however his art clearly expresses the Human condition. Christensen is well known for his photographic work with reference to the 17th century Dutch Golden Age as well as his monumental steel sculptures, star installations and international performances. In his most recent work he envisions the subject of death, through Kerberos, the dog of Hades, who guards the entrance to hell and devours the flesh of those who pass.

JEFF COWEN [1966] 

MOANA - 2007 - by Jeff Cowen

Jeff Cowen is recognized by his painterly and sculptural mural-sized compositions. During nearly 30 years now, black-and-white film photography has been at the center of Jeff Cowen’s art practice. His work incorporates subject (matter) such as the human figure, landscapes, still life and abstractions. He is captivated by what he calls the non-moment, the point in time just before or after something has happened. In his continual search for the unseen, Cowen’s imagery confronts our habits as visual voyagers and does not conform to any genre.

Cowen challenges the boundaries between photography, painting and sculpture. The artist works on thick silver based paper and adds a sense of form and depth by ripping the prints to pieces before re-assembling them to make something even more beautiful. Furthermore he experiments with various chemical treatments, specialized darkroom techniques or painted color.


Laurence Ta Cenc - 2002 - by Arno Rafael Minkkinen

For nearly 45 years now, Minkkinen has devoted his work exclusively to the nude self-portrait as a primary vehicle to express the human condition through images made in natural and urban landscapes. His photographs encompass several other genres, such as art performance, the male with female nude, and landscape photography, resulting in a body of work that challenges classification. Inviting the viewer to become a voyeur of sorts, he captures the beauty of being part of something bigger and more permanent than one’s own naked self.


Torriset´s interest in Art History, languages, literature and philosophical themes is evident in his fragmentary imagery. In his drawings, the rich and distinctive repertoire of shapes, architecture and written language are significant themes and articulated in a spontaneous but nuanced expression. His diverse methods form a dialogue between recognizable symbols and abstract structures, a visual universe where an enigmatic existence often emerges. The timelines intersect with these creations that carries within themselves the past and present where the human condition is considered in a wider historical perspective. In this exhibition we present Arctic Stare - an installation consisting of 32 individually framed drawings.

'I suppose its an ambitious work and one that I worked with over some time. I think I did decide that the drawings, as the work grew,  belonged to each other in some way and that I eventually wanted them exhibited together - as one piece.

They represented my many interests, my approach, all that I wanted my art to reflect, my interest in history, politics, religion, literature etc etc. and that gradually the dialogue between and across the work could come to the fore and demonstrate a coherence, or even the disjunction, in this  broad conversation - with so many voices, and that you as a viewer also became part of that conversation and made the connections that were needed. The sum of the many parts became the work, although many of the drawings could stand on their own, the chorale took on its own expression.

The title 'Arctic Stare' has been borrowed from a photo caption in W.H.Auden and Louis MacNeice's book "Journey to Iceland" from 1937 where the authors became aware of the nordic tendency to stare unrestrained, as if in a trance, at the world. Where I grew up we used to call this "Saude-stirren", the way sheep or the bovine creatures stare in almost hypnotised concentration and curiosity back at you.'

Kjell Torriset - June 2016.

Arno Rafael Minkkinen

Arno Rafael Minkkinen - Oulunjarvi Afternoon

Arno Rafael Minkkinen Floating in the Air

March 16th - May 28th 2017

“Art is risk made visible”

For over 45 years, Arno Rafael Minkkinen has focused his work on the nude self-portrait as a primary vehicle for expressing the human condition through images made in natural and urban landscapes.

His photographs are based on the reality before the lens—photography at its purest—setting aperture and squeezing a shutter bulb or other self-timer device to fire the camera. Using himself as subject—so no one else comes in harm’s way—he captures the beauty of being part of something bigger and more permanent than one’s own naked self. Minkkinen was born in Helsinki, Finland, in 1945 and immigrated to the United States in 1951. A Wagner College graduate, he began taking self-portraits in 1970 while working as an advertising copywriter on Madison Avenue. An MFA degree soon followed studying with Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind at Rhode Island School of Design. Today an Emeritus Professor of Art at UMass Lowell and Docent at Aalto Univer sity in Helsinki, Minkkinen has also served as an international curator and essayist.

Published and exhibited worldwide, Minkkinen’s work can be found in over 75 prominent museum and institutional collections such as the Centre Pompidou and the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, and the Moderna Museet in Stockholm. 

Minkkinen received the Finnish State Art Prize in Photography in 2006, the Lucie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Fine Art in 2013, and a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 2015.

An artist talk with Arno Rafael Minkkinen & Ellen-K Willas recorded at WILLAS contemporary in April 2017.

Sizes and Prices:

Arno Rafael Minkkinen´s photographs are Archival pigment prints on Museo Rag Paper, Luster surface. The prints are available as approx 51*61 cm and 102*127 cm in editions of 25 and 10 respectively. Prices range from $5000 to $40,000 - all depending on size and availability. A few of the motifs are also available in a larger size -approx 147*178 cm.