Excerpts from Dr. Sam Inkinen’s essay “A Dialogue at the Studio, or Observations on Art and the Artist – Postmodern, Metamodern, and the Internet Zeitgeist as Key Themes” (November, 2018)
Joonas Kota can be understood as a thinker and communicator who does not, however, wish to point a finger in one direction or another. Neither Kota as an artist personality nor his works are in any way aggressive – that is, kicking up a fuss in support of change, demonstrations, activism, or actions. Instead, in the “aura” and appearance of Kota’s art pieces, a mature longing for synthesis, wholeness, and meaning (maybe even consensus) can be seen. I feel I can also discern some kind of thoughtful melancholia.
Joonas Kota’s emojis (paintings and sculptures) are strongly physical, material, and three-dimensional. It is precisely from this observation that an interesting tension is created in the consciousness of an interpreter and art consumer such as myself, as the pieces self-evidently reference the Internet culture, two-dimensional screen surfaces, and digital “flat media.” The emojis can also be thought of as connected with the human condition and our everyday emotions – that is, with sharing (or belonging to) a thing, theme, or emotional state experienced as meaningful.
Kota’s emojis are also reminiscent of the digital world’s wayward flow of ever-changing media supply and sphere of meanings that, nevertheless, reach strongly out in the direction of physicality, corporeality, and “the real world.” One feels like listing different essential axis and lines of demarcation: symbolic–real, simulated–real, sign–world, sign–sign world…
Of the artworks in preparation by Joonas Kota, the “diamonds” also grab the attention. These art pieces have octagonal frames, which feels invigorating to a studio visitor such as myself. Among the pieces and frames leaning against the wall are also other geometric shapes – triangles and circles. One cannot help but ask: why do paintings that land up hanging on walls so often submit to being so square?
Notable in the diamond pieces are the shapes: regular, geometric, and hence appealing to the natural human longing for order. Thoughts and impressions are soon flooded by the ponderings of Pythagoras of antiquity, different trigonometric truths learned in high-school mathematics classes, the clumsy but impressive computer-generated fractals of the 1980s, as well as the intensive forms of holy geometry.
How should a media scholar, semiotician, and philosopher like myself perceive the artworks and aesthetic processes of Joonas Kota? I am already reaching for a specific reply, when various and varied words and professions come to my mind: artist, experimenter, unifier, adventurer, thinker… Over the years, Kota has created paintings, sculptures, and video pieces. He is a visualist and an aesthetic explorer, but also a conceptual artist at home in philosophical spheres. This feeling is only strengthened by being in his studio next to the piles of books and as yet unfinished pieces. My mind comes up with art historical associations, especially with Dadaist and Surrealist pieces and artists. Ceci n’est pas une pipe (Magritte). This is not a diamond. #ThisIsNotAHashtag.
It is best, however, to present a disclaimer immediately: unlike the Dadaists or Surrealists, Joonas Kota does not go overboard or indulge in absurdity. It would, conversely, appear like he can find within the banalities of everyday life, kitsch, plasticity, and postmodern surface such depth, clarity, and constructive and emancipatory connections as many others miss. The artist’s pieces are like semiotic-philosophical interfaces that attempt to bind within themselves some already given or self-created meaningfulness.