Veikko Halmetoja

Paintings Taming Photography

Maaria Märkälä is among those abstract painters whose artworks reveal a subtext of nature encounters, visions of landscape or overall an experience of something tangible. The artworks have a powerful sense of time and place; they don't isolate themselves into experiments in form, but rather convey something seen and interpret something experienced. This new series of paintings is a coherent, almost installation-like whole, dominated by shades of green and red tinted with white. The colour palette and the bursts of paint are inspired by Helsinki's Rhododendron Park that bloomed exceptionally magnificently this past summer.

Although Märkälä's paintings are effectively abstract, naming their subject seems meaningful. The fact that the viewer is allowed to get a grasp of the visual experience inspiring the artist is significant in many ways. It stops us from viewing the pieces as pure abstractions and provides us with a powerful notion of the subject. Once a context has been defined for an artwork, viewers can only seldom separate themselves from it. It is up to the artist, how many clues to provide the audience with. Märkälä has always been open about her themes and thus offered the audience a chance to seek representational roots from her artworks.

The structure of Märkälä's paintings takes on a life of its own. The luscious surface is like from the hands of the fiercest expressionists. Each crevice and peak stand out from the painting, building its own story on the surface of the colours. The echoes of abstract expressionism are very powerful and enjoyable. The paintings display movement and, in parts, the limits of that movement. Yet, the artworks are not that sizeable, which creates an interesting conflict. The large strokes and the small surface give each other just the right amount of contest. Märkälä is skilful in taking the viewer from the bigger issues to the most minute level. Ultimately, the viewers may find themselves staring incessantly at the passionately gushing surface.

Märkälä is branching out into new territory with a series of photographs that she herself claims to have 'destroyed'. On the photographs' industrial landscapes, there are paint strokes, scribbles, drawings and scratches. The original image is barely recognizable and there aren't necessarily any discernible links to between the image base and the surface. These works can be interpreted as commentary on the relationship between modernist painting and photography. The history and development of modernist painting has paralleled with the development of photography, and their paths have also met several times through the years. Märkälä's painting on photographs is like critical commentary on the power of photography, an outcry for the power of painting.

This applies for the whole exhibition: strokes of paint in nuances and in mass, luscious expressive surges of colour. The best possible defence for painting is to display its expressive force in a way that wells from the whole-hearted surrendering to the act of painting.

Veikko Halmetoja