Toni-Petri Ruotsalainen, born 1988 in Hämeenlinna, Finland, is a visual artist living and working in Tampere, Finland. He received his Bachelor’s degree in painting from Lewis & Clark College, Portland, OR, USA in 2011, before which he spent two years in Italy, studying at the United World College of the Adriatic 2005-2007.

Ruotsalainen mainly works in oil and acrylic paint, and for the recent years has concentrated on creating paintings that bridge the gap between 19th century pointillism, and 21st century pixel art. Thematically, his work explores dichotomies between
realism and abstraction, naturalism and digitalism, and originality and repetition. His work engages the viewer in the image-making process by utilizing optical illusions: the image appears photorealistic as seen from far away, but as one approaches them, the images break into abstract masses of color.

His ongoing series Totem further contemplates these ideas by examining the relationship between the postmodern human and nature. Totems are spirit beings, sacred objects or symbols, that function as emblems for people or groups. They are often animals, plants, or natural phenomenae, with which people are believed to have a spiritual connection; a person with a totem believes he possesses the power and aspects of their totem. For an increasing portion of us, however, this connection is made exclusively virtually, through the pixels on the screen of a phone, computer, or television. The pixelated forms of the animals in his paintings are like shadows of objects cast on the wall of Plato’s cave; they appear real at first, but are revealed as the imperfect replicas upon closer inspection. They invite the viewer to ponder their own totem relationships – if our direct connection with nature has been severed, can we truly be a part of it?