05. Mar 2013

Material serenity
Tailor-made sound absorption and light enhancement

Text: Joachim Ritter
Photos: Ilona Rista

Well designed lighting is based on a concept that addresses the special features of an architectural space, which means that room climate, acoustics and light are always very closely related and indeed mutually dependent. The work of the Finnish artist Ilona Rista is based on and around acoustics. Over the years she has specialised in integrating sound-absorbing wooden walls into architecture in an artistic and aesthetically pleasing fashion, thus contributing to the atmosphere in the space.

Some artists have the ability to capture the mind of the person viewing or appreciating their work and transport them to other worlds, countries, moments in time. Take Sibelius, for example. His orchestral work can sweep the listener off to the lakes, forests and plains of Finland in less than a movement – so to speak. Closer to the present, but still in Finland, artists such as photographer Elina Brotherus fire our mirror neurons to perfection. Her photos of raw Finnish landscapes and tender human bodies awaken more than interest. She uses light, colour, composition, figures in space, projection of the three-dimensional into the two-dimensional and supports our vicarious experience of her bare and beautiful Nordic country.

Taking these thoughts to a further dimension, we encounter Ilona Rista, a Finnish artist who works with wood, combining imaginative artwork concepts with acoustic design to create panels and reliefs that enhance spaces big and small, instilling an element of Nordic serenity in practically any space.

Back in the 1980s Ilona Rista worked as a restorer of plaster ornaments. This entailed handling and carving wood. The construction work she was involved in was both technical and aesthetic, and this synergy she has maintained in the artwork she produces to this day.

Ilona Rista is a design artist and a connoisseur of materials. Her 30 years of experience with wood and the development of the acoustic properties of reliefs offer her exciting opportunities to collaborate with interior designers and architects. She has developed a unique system for creating acoustic panels out of solid wood. Shapes cut into the wood reveal pictures, sometimes layered, and light integrated between the artwork panel and the rear wall adds yet another unmistakable touch to almost any space.

Acoustic design integrated into a relief applied to an entire wall, or at least large sections of wall surface, provides sufficient absorption of background noise and voices. Sound can be heard but it is not disturbingly noisy. The space becomes calmer for the speaker and audience.

The work Ilona Rista does, artistic and visually impressive though it is, requires a substantial amount of mathematical calculation coupled with an understanding of light and how it can be applied for effect. Bright light gives rise to hard, sharply contoured shadows. Sometimes the shadows need to be softer or longer, or the light reflected through branch-shaped cut-outs or even directed into the space.

Ilona Rista: “An artist works consciously. He can reflect his thoughts and values visually, characterise social events and phenomena and interpret the surrounding atmosphere. The creative process demands a mature and comprehensive outlook, which is expressed through the harmonious use of the material”. […]

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The full version of the article can be found in PLD No. 86.

Further information: www.rista.net

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