Scholarly biography and interests
Timo Lehtonen is of mixed Finnish and Nigerian birth, coming to this country from Lagos at the age of ten in 1963. He was educated at the Humphry Davy Grammar School in Cornwall and went on to Falmouth School Art, where he received a BA in Fine Art (1st) from Sheffield Polytechnic. In 1979 he graduated from the Royal College of Art with an MA in Printmaking. In 1987 he undertook the RCA Printmaking Fellowship and in 1994 was artist in residence at the Museum of London. He has taught extensively at undergraduate and post-graduate level. In 2001 he won the Printmaking Today Award and the St Cuthbert’s Paper Mill Prize. He joined the University of Brighton in 2002.
In Maison du Roi, a series of yam relief prints, means and intentions coincide as the yam remains a staple crop in the African Diaspora whilst the subject matter itself is drawn from an obscure but intriguing footnote of nineteenth century Caribbean history. Transcribing images from the Armorial of Haiti, the coats of arms of the short-lived Kingdom of Haiti, these prints make elliptical references to the conflated histories of governance and autocracy, reality and myth, that characterised Europe’s relationship with and one of its distant colonies. A selection from the series was shown at the Japan/United Kingdom International Print Exhibition, Kyoto Museum of Art, in 2012.
Timo is interested in the extent to which identity - considered as the mechanism by which we all co-ordinate our subjective experience of the world with the cultural, political and historical context in which that subjectivity is formed - both shapes and is shaped by creative expression. Trans-cultural experience necessarily highlights the extent to which identity is actually animated by contingency, and in so doing creates a platform from which we can grasp previously obscured imaginative and cultural possibilities.
For artists of dual heritage the very fact of mobility within cultural positioning, far from presenting an obstacle to expression, offers an opportunity to disclose unspoken beliefs and may reveal new forms that had seemed apparent yet remained unarticulated. It suggests the interweaving of heterogeneous threads of understanding.
When W.H. Auden laconically described poetry as being ‘the clear expression of mixed feelings’ he was, however unintentionally, going some way to describing the combined perspectives that characterise the vision of trans-cultural artists. It is a vision that is predicated as much upon becoming as upon being.