Standing before Anna Tuori’s paintings is a little like being Alice, peering through her looking glass. Each composition presents us with a eld of solid color, in the centre of which, through undulating strokes of oil paint, a snowy landscape appears. It is as if the monochromatic acrylic has been wiped away, like steam from a bathroom mirror, to reveal a secret, interior world. Like Alice, we find ourselves facing the inverse of our own world: there is snow in place of our dry landscape; bare European pines for our powering gum trees; an open, empty vista in contrast to the closed-in interior of the gallery. Most importantly, there is space for the viewer to imagine their own apparitions and illusions, inventing a personal narrative for Tuori’s ambivalent scenes.
Tuori is interested in the concept of the ’das unheimliche’, or ‘uncanny’; the point at which the familiar starts to become strange. The longer one stands before one of her paintings, the more one gradually begins to see. Her dreamlike environments appear almost on the threshold of being recognizable, but details are hard to make out through the washes of paint. It’s All Now You See, Nobody Knew My Rose and Blow Out Your Candles, Laura (II) (all 2013) are united in their depiction of a barren snowy landscape, with the inclusion of a structure in which to shelter from the cold. A human presence is hinted at with the odd smudged handprint, or through splotches of paint in anthropomorphic shapes, dotted here and there. On the surface, her paintings appear innocent – fairytale scenes in candy floss colors – but there are secrets in these forests; all is not as it first seems.
For Tuori, her landscapes are not merely fantasies, but fantastical realities. With space for the viewer to project their own emotions and reach intuitive interpretations, each painting is like a portrait of the human mind. Every visitor will see something different, based on their personal experiences and memories. Tuori’s suggestive paintings provide a kind of visual puzzle, which, neuroscientists have recently informed us, the creative parts of the human brain enjoy and employ. Tuori’s titles may be borrowed from literature, her thoughts informed by theory, but her work is above all a visual and perceptive experience. Like children making out compositions in the clouds, so too will the attentive viewer recognize their own associations in Tuori’s brush marks.
From the development of linear perspective during the Renaissance, until impressionism broke the illusion with its pointillist brushstrokes, the purpose of painting – as a primary means of visual communication – had been to present a window onto the world. Two-dimensional surfaces convincingly re-created three-dimensional scenes. Following the onset of photography, which replaced painting as a means to faithfully depict reality, painters began to work with this paradox; acknowledging painting’s ability to represent something while also revealing itself. Tuori continues in this tradition, using different techniques to demonstrate the medium’s capacity to combine what she has described as the concrete and the imaginary. The concrete is evident on the painting’s at surface, in Tuori’s planes of block color, and brush marks that reveal the method of the work’s creation. The imaginary is the result of all these painterly techniques coming together to create the depth of a poetic landscape.
Tuori’s artworks fall into the tradition of romantic painting, with nature used to reflect an interior world. Yet, to categorize her so simply feels too limiting. Tuori’s paintings are not only manifestations of the artist’s emotions and imagination, but also of our own. We take from her work what we alone bring to it, allowing ourselves to become lost in the world through the looking glass, only to return to reality as if from a dream.