The Inner and Outer Wall of a Vessel
Painting is like a vessel. When the saturation point is reached, when the vessel is filled, we speak of the death of painting, as we have done for a long time. But the inner wall of a vessel is not the perimeter of the world. Time and again there appears a work that brings to mind ideas of the power, or comeback of painting. And with the passing of the decades and repeated returns, we can speak of an eternal comeback.
It is within this tension that Marika Mäkelä’s works are created. They are a synthesis of the death and power of painting. When she has taken gold, silver and her velvety blue to the extremes of ornamentality, the time is ripe for purification. Mäkelä has recently discussed what work as a professional artists produces. She wants to take up painting again, to feel its joy and freedom – though well aware of the illusory character of that freedom. She has purged her visual idiom, interpreting things differently than before, returning to basic concerns. With fewer elements of the surface, the elements of value and texture, for example, will be emphasized and they will also become more demanding. Many of Mäkelä’s works even reveal constructivist tones. She has also painted a white surface, "working it so carefully that it exists". In a sense she is now at the same point as in the 1970s when she began her career, noticing that "the same things are important". But she now has the benefit of 30 years of experience, the memory of the hand.
Once again, less is more. With a small surface of association, Mäkelä’s narrative elements do not generate tales or lead the viewer to other realities, even though she has sometimes been interpreted as doing so. "I don’t employ any startling, unknown elements in my paintings. My symbols are in common use and they are recognizable." Marika Mäkelä’s world is not mysterious, exotic or escapist: "Allusions to other cultures do not spring from any nostalgia produced by memories, a desire to be somewhere – somewhere else. They are traces of memory." The references are identifiable, but they cannot be given a time or place; they do not illustrate a certain history; they are not cave paintings discovered by archaeologists and given radiocarbon dates: "This is not about an archaeological excavation, but of how that excavation is marked and plotted."
There is always a human presence in Mäkelä’s paintings, even unseen – but never as a person that could be identified or recognized. The interpretation proceeds from the general to the specific, and from the specific to the general. In her works, that which is dead is alive in the form of the painting – as colour, form, material, line and value. It is here and now. "The allusion takes leave of its starting points once it is within the painting." The artist chooses, shapes, accepts and at times even shows what things are not. Of course the artist herself is always present in Mäkelä’s works, but this is not a question of therapy or unbridled expressiveness. Her own associations are denuded. Her works are not programmatically biographic even though one could try to approach them as such at a later stage. They are paintings. "There are no other stories behind them." The intensity of Mäkelä’s paintings is created via their transcendental nature. They are full of people and life but in unidentifiable form. "I go through people in my mind when I work. No Schopenhauers, just people I known, their relationships. life and history. I’m alone in my studio, but I’m not lonely."
Marika Mäkelä’s paintings are like a vessel, whose interface of the inner and outer surface consists in the specific and the general, history and the present, things familiar and alien, painting and life. I am continually reminded of a reversible pattern in Islamic ornament. Looking at the form I look at it like a man would and ask her: "What does that crest mean?" She replies: "It’s a vessel."