Timo Lehtonen
Senior Lecturer, Fine Art Printmaking
University of Brighton
School of Arts and Communication
57-67 Grand Parade
Brighton BN2 OJY
United Kingdom

Paper: “Is this Mine Own Countree? - Speculations on Cultural Positioning”

In this proposal my own recent re-workings of Gustav Dore's nineteenth century wood engravings for “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” form the visual backdrop. Comprised of etchings, relief prints and drawings they are, of course, equally inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge's enigmatic odyssey itself - charting moral, psychological and nautical transportation. The images illuminate the ships departure from the familiarity of European shores, its plunge into the vast icescapes of the Antarctic, rounding the Horn, bursting into the uncharted Pacific and crossing the equator before making a spellbound return. Taking the work as a point of departure the paper reflects upon:

The extent to which an artists work depicts biographically determined conditioning - in my own case the accommodation of equatorial African, Finnish and British aspects, a mariner-like vagrancy that crosses not just borders but hemispheres.

The extent to which the creative and intellectual bridging of cultures presents a dialectical challenge, implying (for the artist), ambiguous cultural positioning in the struggle to resolve creative and cultural contradictions.

In this paper I will assert that an authentic understanding of the cultural tradition of others must necessarily put our own (Occidental) certainties at risk, not least when these values are viewed politically, as functions of colonial/post-colonial history. For whilst that singular offspring of colonialism, anthropology, might claim to venture forth with disinterested objectivity, the Mariner, in order to restore his creative and imaginative view of the world, must journey into sin, guilt, alienation and living death.

TIMO LEHTONEN was born in Helsinki in 1953 of mixed Finnish and Nigerian background. He lived in both countries as a child before moving to Cornwall, in southwest England, in 1963. After taking a degree in Fine Art at Sheffield Polytechnic (1976) he studied printmaking at the Royal College of Art (RCA), graduating in 1979. He has taught extensively in England at graduate and post-graduate level and is Senior Lecturer in Fine Art Printmaking at the University of Brighton, although he continues to live and work in London. In 1987 he undertook the RCA Printmaking Fellowship and in 1994 he was the Museum of London artist in residence. In 2001 he won the Printmaking Today Award at the (British) National Printmaking Exhibition. Timo Lehtonen has exhibited his work widely at venues including La Casa Elizaide in Barcelona and the Metropolitan Gallery in Cape Town (both 1999). Public and private collections with his work include Benchmark, Brown and Wood, Mappin Gallery Sheffield, Rank Xerox and the Victoria and Albert Museum London