Tiina Itkonen, Self Portrait, 1995, C-print, 20 x 30 cm, Edition of 7.

The Exotic Lure of the World's Largest Island (and It's not Really Green)

Tiina Itkonen, House lll, 2006, C-print, 100 x 121 cm, Edition of 7.

Tiina Itkonen, House l, 2002, C-print, 100 x 120 cm, Edition of 5.

Tiina Itkonen, Maaja, 2002, C-print, 80 x 74 cm, Edition of 7.


Michael Hoppen Gallery
3 Jubilee Place
+ 44 (0)20 7352 3649
Tiina Itkonen – Ultima Thule
August 3-October 7, 2008

“On my first trip to Greenland, I was told I would definitely be coming back. According to a Greenlandic tale, a human being can turn into a qivigtoq, run around the fells, live there and finally die there. My desire to return to Greenland goes beyond reason. On one of my trips there I tried to shake off this madness and leave wandering in the northern landscapes, like a qivigtoq. I did not succeed.“ These large-scale photographs by Tiina Itkonen capture her fascination with the cold, barren, infinite landscape of Greenland. Steeped in blue light many of these photographs show the human outposts, the dog sledges and brightly colored houses, in this Ultima Thule, border of the known world.

There are no roads between towns in Greenland. Itkonen journeys by helicopter, small plane, hunter’s boats, and dog sledge, weather permitting, or maybe tomorrow — “immaqa agaqu”. She waits for the right moment to shoot, sometimes hours or days, preferring to photograph when cloudy or foggy due to variations in light quality. “It is fascinating and comforting being able to see far away. No trees or tall buildings to block the view. A broad view can be hard to capture in a single frame. The picture does not tell what is far and what is near, nor what is large and what is small. An iceberg is the size of a house of flats. An island that looks like it is two kilometers away is actually ten times further. Even my eyes cannot tell these things.”

As global warming closes in on Greenland the shrinking glaciers reveal new land masses, the winters are milder and the ocean does not freeze for long periods. At Illulissat, where many of these photographs are taken, the ocean has not frozen for years and the ice in northern parts of Greenland is getting thinner. The ice supports the weight of a man for a few months a year, putting hunters and fishermen with dog sledges in danger. This makes Itkonen’s photographs more poignant — she is capturing a vanishing landscape.

Tiina Itkonen (b. 1968) lives and works in Helsinki where she studied photography at University of Art and Design. Exhibiting in Finland and abroad since 1996, her work has most recently been seen in Switzerland, Germany, Norway and England. Her works are in collections at Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Fundacio Foto Colectania, Barcelona, Helsinki City Art Museum, Finnish State Art Collection, DZ Bank in Germany and Saastamoinen Foundation Art Collection/EMMA amongst others. Itkonen has been photographing Greenland for the past ten years and her first book, Inughuit, was published in 2004.

Tiina Itkonen, Alija, 1998, C-print, 40 x 40 cm, Ed 7.

Tiina Itkonen, Paltdlunnguaq and Valentine, 1998, C-print, 60 x 60 cm, Edition of 7.

Tiina Itkonen, Iceberg ll, 2006, C-print, 100 x 122 cm, Edition of 7.