HAA Gallery presents the exhibition Who Made Who by Marko Acton Saarelainen (Hall 1) and the joint exhibition LIFESTYLE by Maijastiina and Santeri Lehto (Hall 2) 29 September – 22 October, 2022.  

Welcome to the exhibition opening on Wednesday 28th September 5–7 pm! 

We follow the current guidelines by Regional State Administrative Agencies to ensure a safe exhibition visit. 

Image: Marko Acton Saarelainen (left) & Santeri Lehto (right) 


Acton: Who Made Who  

The most important aspect in graffiti is style, how to differentiate from other practitioners of the field. One needs to be bold, but not too much. Experimenting is a good thing, but only within a strictly limited area. In order to evolve one needs to borrow ideas and be influenced by styles of other artists, but this has to be very subtle. The line between being influenced and copying is a very thin one and one shouldn’t ever cross it intentionally. The only exception to the rule is when more experienced artists teach less experienced ones, helping them on their way to find their own personal style.  

This theme and intentionally “blurring” the lines is the very core of the “Who Made Who” exhibition. Marko Acton Saarelainen has worked with this theme since the first corona lockdown in the spring of 2020. When most of the events, exhibitions included, were canceled and everyone had to take care of social distancing, Marko began to think of ways to somehow cope with this new situation. Self-learning is a very important factor of graffiti culture, so the idea of sharing ideas and learning from each other seemed very reasonable to say the least. And it helped to keep the thoughts off the pandemic. The way to execute graffiti does seem very monotonic to other people, it is seen as a repetitive and rather boring way of self expression. So it is very hard to comprehend how much graffiti writers actually observe even the tiniest changes and variations in the styles of their own creations as well as the paintings by fellow writers.   

Marko approached various graffiti artists from Finland as well as abroad and asked them to draw Acton-sketches, in their own style. In return Marko drew sketches from their monikers. This forced both parties to step outside their comfort zone and view letters and type design outside their own moniker and letters familiar to themselves. Marko began working on the “Who Made Who” exhibition based on the good amount of raw material he received from his colleagues. For two years he painted a lot of canvases and walls, some of them being very true to the original sketches although many of them morphed a lot during the process.  

So it is very hard to say who made who and whose style is present at that moment. And in the end, does it really matter?  

Arts Promotion Centre Finland has supported both the working process for the presented works as well as the coloring book based on the exhibition.  


Maijastiina and Santeri Lehto: LIFESTYLE 

The paintings of the Helsinki-based artist couple appear as a kind of visual poems about life. The works seek a balance between spirituality, the unproductiveness of play, aesthetic minimalism and an indifferent punk attitude. Through the paintings, the door opens to an experience that is at the same time metaphysical, playful and does not bow down to images. 

“The simple forms are striking, the result of the direct, unhesitating but delicate action of a spray that seems to caress the canvas. A closer look reveals the associations of more or less recognizable forms from an everyday environment, a union of objects and natural elements that one imagines surround the painter in his daily chores and define a way of life. 
A bit haiku, a bit mantra, a bit hieroglyphic; the ensembles depicted produce some form of visual poetry. The relationships of seemingly unconnected elements generate a mysterious unity reminiscent of improvisation and jazz tempos. The free associations and the carefree graphic style invoke the casual drawings on napkins, the almost unconscious doodles made during a telephone conversation – –.” 
(Words by Maite Muñoz, LA based independent curator specialized in archives and artists’ publications)