TOPI RUOTSALAINENPlanet of the Apes 20.4.2019 – 19.5.2019

Family Tree, 2018
oil on canvas
225 x 200 cm


During a recent stay in Florence, I paid a visit to La Specola, the city's Museum of Zoology and Natural History, where I found taxidermied, shabby-coated apes scampering about their diorama habitats, fixing the passing visitors with their grins and grimaces, just as they have done every day since the day of their now distant deaths. As I stood there watching the animals, it struck me that the subtle beauty and naturally rhythmical quality of their poses were succeeding to encapsulate the enduring influence and long-established traditions of Italian art in its entirety.

As I wandered around the space, gazing at the numerous yet lonely simians in their ascetic cages, I felt I was viewing a great, expansive work of art, where each of the animals has been assigned their own distinct role, contributing a separate and distict emotional thrust to the whole. Having placed the display in the context of Italian art, I now looked at the dead apes and their gestures, hands reaching heavenward, and began to pick up on a strongly religious charge. A stuffed sloth that suddenly came into view was, for me, the most convincingly executed of all the Jesuses in town, his head reaching back in glorious contrapposto, his body forever suspended on his very own wooden cross.

When an ape is given the full taxidermy treatment or otherwise captured in an artwork, it somehow attains immortal status. The dead light behind the dead ape's eyes echoes the quiet murmurings emanating from our own consciences. Animals, through their presence alone, have the ability to point out our vanity, to lay bare the selfishness of our human pursuits. Much in the same way, in fact, that art has been appointed as the voice of our collective conscience.

The Planet of the Apes introduces viewers to an alternative world. The visions it presents reflect our own planet, complete with its familiar set of problems and existential threats. From the shadows of this other planet, I am forcing myself to look at humanity and at otherness.

Homo sapiens is the only animal with a clear sense of ethics and morality and the only animal with the capacity to act in a way that runs counter to both. Apes, on the other hand, are an unfamiliar entity here in Finland; they are our distant relatives, living on the other side of the world. They are magical creatures we have met again and again since childhood as they have appeared to us through fairytales, books and art and greeted us from their zoo cages and gloomy museum dioramas.

Topi Ruotsalainen

This exhibition is named after Pierre Boulle's 1963 science fiction novel and its well-known cinematic adaptations. The cult version filmed in 1968 is widely seen as a study of the 1960s black rights movement and the threat of nuclear war. Its legacy also lives on in a phenomenon observed on the film's set that continues to be used to illustrate the dynamics of mass psychology to this day. It is reported that while wearing their masks, the actors would struggle to recognise each other. The result was that, during lunch, they would seek out the company of their own "kind", with orangutans gravitating towards other orangutans etc. 

  • ruotsalainen/2019/IMG-4339

    Planet of the Apes, 2019
    oil on canvas
    225 x 199 cm

  • ruotsalainen/2019/5_Among_the_apes_2018_Oil_on_canvas_65x92cm

    Among the Apes, 2018
    oil on canvas
    65 x 92 cm

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    Return trip, 2019
    oil on canvas
    60 x 90 cm

  • ruotsalainen/2019/15_Hear_hear_2019_oil_on_canvas_45x113cm

    Hear hear, 2019
    oil on canvas
    45 x 113 cm

  • ruotsalainen/2019/7_They_come_out_at_night_2019_oil_on_hardboard_50x36cm

    They come out at night, 2019
    oil on hard board
    50 x 36 cm

  • ruotsalainen/2019/8_Mountain_2016_2019_Oil_on_canvas_92x60cm

    Mountain, 2016-19
    oil on canvas
    92 x 60 cm

  • ruotsalainen/2019/10_Puiston_pojat_2018_oil_on_canvas_68x199cm

    Park boys, 2018
    oil on canvas
    68 x 199 cm

  • ruotsalainen/2019/IMG-4341

    New tools, 2019
    oil on canvas
    113 x 198 cm

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    Cross, 2019
    oil on canvas
    145 x 113 cm

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    Followers of the Yellow Road, 2017
    oil on canvas
    113 x 113 cm

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    Doom!, 2019
    oil on canvas
    60 x 40 cm

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    Another day, 2026
    oil on canvas
    34 x 27 cm

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    All my Friends are Skeletons, 2016
    oil on canvas
    100 x 140 cm

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    King of the Hill, 2018
    oli and acrylic on canvas
    199 x 190 cm

  • ruotsalainen/2019/18_Only_skin_2018_Oil_on_hardboard_44x69cm

    Only Skin, 2018
    oil on hard board
    44 x 69 cm

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    Throw a pig, 2018
    oil on hard board
    40 x 50 cm

  • ruotsalainen/2019/17_Three_little_pigs_2018_Oil_on_hardboard_40x53cm

    Three little pigs, 2018
    oil on hard board
    40 x 53 cm

  • ruotsalainen/2019/11_The_Fall_is_coming_2019_oil_and_acrylic_on_canvas_200x265cm

    The Fall is coming, 2019
    oil and acrylic on canvas
    200 x 265 cm