Art & Culture

The Allure of Lapland - Anu Pentik

Eeva Anneli Pentikäinen (Kuusankoski, Finland, 1949), known as Anu Pentik is a renowned Finnish ceramic artist and entrepreneur - founder of Pentik company.
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At the studio | Artist Anu Pentik working on her Art - Plates

The business that has started in 1971 - Pentik Ltd. has grown to become an international interior design retailer, with 320 employees, and the only company that is still producing their ceramics in Posio, Finland. But, about all her success Anu just says: ”If you like something, someone else will like it too. It is simple as that!” 

Anu Pentik, Artistic Director at Pentik Ltd.

The international dimension has been part of Anu Pentik’s artistic vision since the very beginning of her career. The influence of northern nature sought release in form of artistic expression. Pentik is endlessly fascinated by flora, fauna, color and form. Art-plates, installations and ceramics works of sculpture; Anu Pentik has exhibited at many joint and solo exhibitions. Her exhibition in Kunsthalle Helsinki, drawing 45,000 visitors, was the second most popular one in the whole history of Kunsthalle Helsinki, being outranked only by a showing of work by Andy Warhol.

Along with museum exhibitions, Anu Pentik has also held smaller gallery showings and she continues to make ceramics pieces and commissioned works for Pentik Ltd.

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From the exhibition "Three Rooms" by Any Pentik

On my visit to Helsinki, I have stayed at the Lapland Hotel Bulevardi. While at the hotel, I have noticed an amazing ceramics works and a beautiful book about Anu Pentik. I have learned that Anu Pentik spent two years on the pieces commissioned by Lapland Hotels. For this collection, she depicted part of the soul of Lapland as filtered through herself, as the Art Historian Johana Vuolasto has noted. “The works are art plates to be hung on walls, gold prospector’s pans, enchanting those who peek into them with the mystique of Lapland. The surface of the pieces is three-dimensional and disconcerting in its intensity. Images of nature, flora and fauna, begin to be reflected from the gold pans. Everything that is seen acquires a fascinating northern idiom of form that is naivest, or perhaps one that refers more to the Egyptian visual tradition. A two-dimensional image is combined with a three-dimensional treatment of its ground. Spatiality is depicted in a different way. Instead of viewing, the experience is encountered in the way that someone visiting Lapland would sense from the mystique of nature. The berries are the size of foxes’ heads, a reindeer drowns in a sea of flowers, summer and autumn are simultaneously present and a bear cannot have his fill of gigantic berries. The metamorphosis of plants as the seasons change is repeated in many of the works,” explains Voulasto.

Truly impressed, I needed to get to know the artist who has been given the highest award of art Pro Finlandia medal, to talk to her about her vision and working process, her work as an artist and as a businesswoman, and about her future ideas.

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From the exhibition "Three Rooms" by Any Pentik

Tanja Beljanski: It seems that Finland has a tradition in ceramics art. Please tell us more about it.

Anu Pentik: In Finland we actually have quite a short tradition in ceramics but our neighboring countries Russia and Sweden have longer traditions which have influenced our Finnish ceramics. Nowadays our Pentik factory is the only one still producing ceramics in Finland and also the most northernmost ceramic factory in the world.

TB: Would you share a bit about your beginnings? How did it all start and what was it like back in the 70’s?

AP: I have always loved to make things by my hands. In the beginning ceramic was a hobby. In 1972 my family moved to Lapland and the change from city to nature gave me and inspiration to art. You really notice the changes of the seasons here in Lapland because they all are so different. That inspires me. In winter I get inspiration from darkness - the sun doesn’t rise but everything you see is white because of snow and ice. In summer the sun shines throughout nights and gives me a different kind of energy. About 50 years ago there was bad financial times in Finland and people moved away from the countryside. I decided that I want to give people work and employ them, so I started to design mugs and candleholders. After awhile we had a ceramics factory here in Lapland in Posio.

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Pentik Ltd. Ceramic Factory | Posio, Lapland
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The beauty of nature in Posio, Lapland

TB: What inspires your aesthetic and your work?

AP: I like clear forms and rough surfaces fascinate me. During the winter I paint with dark, strong colors and in the summer I tend to use bright and light colors.

TB: What does the clay mean to you?

AP: At the moment clay is completely everything to me. My whole life. Because right now I am preparing a big exhibition at the Museum of Wäinö Aaltonen in Turku that will open in summer 2020. I go to bed at night straight from my home studio with hands in clay and in the mornings I wake up happy to continue working with my ceramic art.

TB: You say that manufacturing ceramics has not always been easy.

AP: First years went by with learning techniques and starting up our ceramic factory. Back then I had a dream that someday I could make sculptures and big pieces of art. Now I have already had the chance to live the dream that come true for over ten years.

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TB: What do you remember as the highlight of your career?

AP: I think the biggest achievement is that I was given the highest award of art Pro Finlandia medal. And that I have been nominated to be the honorary doctorate from the University of Lapland.

TB: Is there anything you find difficult, and how do you overcome the obstacles?

AP: To realize that I don’t find inspiration anymore. Then I go out in the forest, walk around and calm my mind. I get energy from nature. Sometimes I travel and visit Paris or India and get inspiration from different cultures.

TB: Today, Pentik Ltd. is an international interior design retailer. Your company has hundreds of employees. What is the biggest change in your work during these almost 50 years?

AP: In the beginning ceramic was only a hobby. Everything evolved because we found great team and because we have always had ability to renew and willingness to do things even better than we have used to do. When we started in 70 s it was more like a small pottery ́ studio and we grew to a ceramic factory from that. We started with new clay mass, machines and people. We brought consultants from abroad, from Germany. Today I want to move away from machine-made look back to hand made pottery art ceramic. I also dream to achieve international success to my ceramic art.

TB: Who are the people in Pentik’s creative team?

AP: I am still the artistic director at Pentik Ltd. Our brand director is Auli Harjama and we have three designers - Liina Harju, Lasse Kovanen and Minna Niskakangas.

TB: How do you see the future of ceramic art in Finland? And what can we expect from Pentik next?

AP: Ceramic art is in Asia very well known and valued. In the Nordic countries it is a growing trend. People will start to value sustainability. There is also IAC Congress in Lapland next year that brings a lot of attention to ceramic art. Almost 300 ceramic artists from all over the world will gather here. Pentik focuses in our own Northern identity and calmness of mind that will show in our products. We aim to create sustainable products that last but we won t forget our unique art ceramics.

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Exhibition "Three Rooms" by Any Pentik

* Together with her husband Topi, Anu has bought and renovated a 150-year-old reindeer estate into a beautiful art home that functions as an atelier, artist residence, and as an exhibition & event venue.

Timisjärvi reindeer estate dates back to the 1800s and a woman called Maria Juhontytär who wanted to build a house so big that it would take ages before something similar was to be built again. The story of her reindeer estate continues today as Pentik Manor. During 2013–2015, Anu and Topi Pentikäinen changed old Timisjärvi reindeer estate into Pentik Kartano by renovating old and building new. Instead of a museum, the aim of Pentik Manor was to become an art centre where the past meets present, thus the renovation has been based on aesthetics, robust surfaces and paying homage to the old days. The original country house building from 1862 was left in place while newer buildings from the 1960s and 1970s were demolished. The barn and detached house were replaced by an old log building from Kuusamo’s Kärppä village. This log building functions today as Timisjärvi Summer Café. The third log building, known today as art gallery, was found from Kuusamo’s Törmäsenvaara.

"Timisjärvi turned into a wonderfully holistic artwork. We are sure that also the upcoming generations will embrace and love this place like we do. This house is a piece of heaven, a perfect start,” say Anu and Topi.

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Art-Plates by Any Pentik

All Images: Courtesy of Pentik Ltd.

* This story by Tanja Beljanski first appeared in the ART 2019 issue of L'Officiel Arabia.

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