We never forget those moments when something we thought to be dead suddenly comes to life. For instance when we awaken to the drumming of branches at our window, and the trees begin to wave their limbs in an eerie pantomime against the night sky. Or when we look at a seemingly lifeless sheet of plastic that unexpectedly explodes as we approach it, transforming itself into an exuberant riot of impressionistic color, a seductive erotic skin, a gilded holy icon, or an all-devouring black hole that mysteriously swallows all the light around it and momentarily engulfs everything in its gaping void – time, space, movement, and life itself.
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Marianna Uutinen (b.1961) is a master at conjuring such marvels of visual metamorphosis and unexpected resurrections of seemingly inorganic materials. Since the early 1990s, she has gained international recognition for her engaging work expanding the field of painting ever further in the direction of sculpture and installation. She has received less recognition, however, for her special relationship with materials and her ground-breaking, all-encompassing understanding of what constitutes nature, which subverts conventional ideas about nature-based aesthetics.
Her main focus of interest is not the depicted subject, the chosen technique, the form of the work or the expression of the artist’s inner world, but the materialization of the sensory condition of being-in-the-world in the guise of a painting. Time is never linear in her paintings. She begins her process by spreading acrylic paint on a plastic base. She then carefully detaches the paint from the surface, flips it around and then glues the draped or smooth sheet of acrylic onto a new canvas. She thus creates an unusual pictorial configuration wherein the oldest layer of paint appears on top, and the latest layer is concealed at the bottom, reversing the usual order. The material presence of her paintings is an odd mix of Baroque indulgence and stark minimalism. Figurative elements are discernible here and there, yet ultimately the object or content of the painting is not any specific image or symbol, but the surprising resurrection of inorganic materials.
“Paintings are living pictures,” states Uutinen. This idea of living finds tangible expression on many levels. On the one hand, her paintings broaden our understanding of what constitutes nature by bringing non-organic materials to life. On the other hand, her paintings invite us to project ourselves upon the pictorial space garrulously. Her paintings leave so much room for continuing dialogue that we can project virtually anything upon their surface: the banal, the secular, the holy, the cosmic, the conceptual, and the sensual – the whole of life’s tapestry. Yet, at once, something seems to flee and evade our grasp; something that seems within our immediate reach suddenly becomes distant, remote, elusive and ineffable.
– Professor Anita Seppä
The Academy of Fine Arts, University of the Arts Helsinki
Uutinen ranks among Finland’s leading contemporary artists. She has held numerous significant exhibitions in Finland and across Europe. She represented Finland at the Venice Biennale in 1997, and her works are found in major Finnish collections including the Saastamoinen Foundation Collection, the Helsinki Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, the Helsinki Art Museum HAM, and numerous foreign collections including Stockholm’s Moderna Museet and Copenhagen’s Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. She currently divides her time between Helsinki and Berlin.Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Forsblom