Tommi Toija is a Finnish artist and sculptor
whose unmistakable style provokes the raw emotional vulnerability of viewers in public spaces.
Tommi Toija (1974) currently lives and works in Helsinki.
Toija's artistic journey
began in 1993 at Helsinki's Free Art School, after which he moved on to the Art School MAA, before gaining his Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Art and Design Helsinki in 2000. He received a Master of Arts degree in 2003 from the Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki. A mere two years later, he held two solos exhibitions: one in Joensuu (Eastern Finland), and another in Helsinki.
Which wasn't the first time the general public had seen his work, though. Toija participated in his first group exhibition in 1997, and indeed every following year up until 2013. With 18 solo exhibitions and 23 group exhibitions to date, Toija's works have graced three continents, including the Beijing International Art Biennale of 2008.
Toija's recent work centers on an archetypal figure he's named "little dude"
("ukkeli"), often realized on a grand scale. The tenderhearted figure's emotions read like an open book. Bad Bad Boy is the most well-known example of a Toija`s "little dude", placed as it was in Helsinki's Market Square late in the summer of 2014, where the 8.5-meter naked sculpture peed sheepishly into the Gulf of Finland for two months, right in front of the President's Palace. The piece is still out in the open in Helsinki, now to be found in the suburb of Jätkäsaari west of the city center.
Toija explores human vulnerability in his archetypal figures - which he argues are neither male nor female, neither old or young, just human - thereby appealing to the inner heart of audiences worldwide, swaddled as they are in social norms and the personas we need to get by.
What does it mean to be human, what does it mean to exist in society, what are we? Toija's figures are literally and figuratively naked, exposed to the earth's elements and its peoples' stares. The results border on humorous, making Toija's work both approachable and incredibly striking.