Starting at the top of Kiasma, coming out of the lift on the fifth floor is a video playing a short film about Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto. It concerns itself with the focus and relationship Neto has with some of the indigenous Huni Kuin tribe of the Amazon bordering Peru. As you carry on and enter the main space you are met with a cacophony of rainbow netting, an installation of woven ropes creating an island on the carpet and a marquee above that. Shoes removed, it is possible to walk across the floor with new sensations on your feet and into the structure; a sense of calm is released. The space is littered with cushions and reclining bodies, enjoying the peace and catching a breath in shade.
There is no sun of course but the dappled softened light from the gallery ceiling is defused by the hanging ropes. There are patterns sewn into the netted walls and illustrations tacked on to the gallery walls visible through the structure; essentially creating a jungle-like scene where there is an interplay between the real and imagined and the close and further away.
Neto has spent a huge amount of time with these tribes and learned much of their way of life as well as campaigning for its protection in Brazilian parliament. What comes across best in these works though is the spiritual and sacred; there are both stories and pictures readable in the shapes but there is a primal physical enveloping like being in dense woodland or jungle itself.
This is exaggerated further by hammocks heavily hung with deep cushions and positioned side by side. Cocoon beds for visitors to experience - a theme the artist has addressed for twenty years or more, having a keen desire for his work to be realised and completed by the presence and interaction of viewers.
More Modernist or minimal tropes are displayed elsewhere. There are two cubes roughly a metre tall and a caterpillar of marks trail over five surfaces marking out a trail or river or even national boundaries.
Smaller hangings take the local produce and basket beans and seeds in totems of finer woven nets. They conjure ideas of trade and storage, squirrelling food away for times of hunger. They also emulate the vines and plants hanging down from the jungle canopy. Despite such Nordic trappings of a clean angular gallery, there is a real sense of something more natural and dense in these works. Neto succeeds in bringing the outside in.
All eyes are on Brazil as the Rio Olympics begin, in a very different way and perhaps appealing to many millions less, this is an important artist to review. His output and beliefs, his relationships and practice shine light elsewhere in the country and address concerns that should be universal to us all.
http://www.kiasma.fi/en/calendar/ernesto-neto/ until September 4th