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Taru Syrjänen

  Bright as the shining sun
  Dark as the depth of the night
    Surprising as the river’s route
    Ever-changing as the colours of the sea’s horizon
      Unbendable as the will of the wind
      Everlasting as the ice in the comets’s heart.”
These poetic words describe the material that glass artist Taru Syrjänen uses in her works. She turns hot, 1200 °C, red-glowing mass into the works of art. Glass is rich but selfish material, you must respect its will. Only skill, enthusiasm and seamless co-operation with glassblower can halt glass into the form artist requests. To make newly created works last, their temperature must be slowly and  gradually lowered toward room- temperature. This may take even several days. Otherwise the work will crack before it gets out of the factory door.

Taru was directed into arts at a young age. She began her art studies in Kankaanpää Art School 1972 together with her identical twin sister, ceramic artist Satu Syrjänen. In the beginning Taru’s material  was also ceramics, but some years later another material, glass, took her heart. She made her first glass design works for Humppila glass factory in 1981. Designer’s job was free, but it had a strict aim: To create attractive, production-ready designs. During that period Taru created e.g. “Tarusto”-tableware range and “Kannel” -vase.

A passion to know every possible thing from glass took Taru 1982 to Great Britain, to West Surrey College of Art and Design. At  that time, in Finland, there was no similar education combining the practical glass making techniques with glass art and design. Taru graduated in 1986 with BA (hons.). During her stay in England, Nordic style, sometimes described ascetic and isolated, broadened in her expression. This can be seen in Taru’s works even today. Examples of her works from those years in England are cast “Shadow” and “Hand bag”, and variations of blown oval shape. “Sails”-vase,  which gained popularity later, got also its inspiration from the time she spent in the London Maritime Museum.

When Taru came back  to Finland in 1986,  she worked as a freelance designer for Nuutajärvi glass factory. “Colorado” and “Harmony” -vases and “Kaisla” pressed-glass tableware-series went into production there. Now also the early “Sails” -motif was turned into the practical design, that went into production. It was later selected to the sales collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art.

In 1998, Iittala glass factory invited Taru to become their full time designer. Best known works in production from this period are “Delta” and “Nile” -vases. To the united Iittala/Nuutajärvi factory’s exhibition in Stockholm, Taru participated with “Roundabout of  the life” -theme, which showed the direction to the future, in the form of larger and more sculptural, unique works. Central works in this exhibition were “Worldwheel”, and the series named after seasons. The “Summer” was recognized internationally. It was selected into The International Design yearbook.

In 1991, practically the whole Finnish glass industry was transferred to Hackman group. In the following year Taru made a large exhibition to Finnish Glass Museum. It introduced glass sculptures associated into planets, and “Stone lily” -works, which were like modern, urban versions of amphorae.

Taru’s desire for independence, without the burden of profit and production requirements in designs, led her to establish her own glass studio in 1995. After that, Taru’s works have still been blown by Master Glass Blowers in Nuutajärvi, but she has done the design work in her own studio in Tampere.

The “Strata” -exhibition in 1998, which she made for Häme Historical Museum in Tampere, went back to the roots of our culture. Historical, archaeological and palaeontological motifs were transferred into glass. Multipart installation “Glasshenge”, together with a mystic and monotonous sound-drop, influenced today’s human being with its primitive power. Cast-and-cut “Ice findings”-works associated back to the time before human race appeared on the earth.
Large and noble amphorae reflected the search of perfect beauty and refinement of classical forms. “Diversus” hypnotized with its dynamics, “Virgo” charmed with its opaliscue beauty, and “Apollo” was like a masculine form of an amphora.
 “Strata II” -exhibition in The Museum of Art and Design in Helsinki in 1999 continued in the same theme.  

Between the exhibitions Taru’s passion for an adventure and experiments took her into the small glassfactory in Crete, to work with old style free-of-moulds glass blower masters.

“Glass garden” -exhibition in the spring 2000, in the winter garden of Tampere-talo, challenged Taru to create her own colour-rich glass garden. Free-blown “Flora” -works were inspired by the power of blossoming spring flowers. “Evolution” -filigree-works, made of freely opened glass, described the dynamics of the nature. Earlier introduced “Spaceboat” -series got now continuation in the form of new works, that now symbolized green-rooms closing complete ecosystems inside their bodies.

Text: Timo-Olavi Jalkanen    

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