Essi Kuokkanen’s (born 1991) first solo exhibition at Galerie Anhava features paintings speaking to a sensitivity to a different way of being. The visible world and its norms are questioned in her works, in which the viewer comes across sweating or weeping flowers and a lemon suffering from its own reflection. Sweat and tears as secretions give everyday goods a human aspect. The artist’s strong use of colour reinforces the experience of viewing them. The red and yellow reoccurring in the paintings are empowering colours, while brown has an earthing effect.
The figures in the paintings are strongly focused on their own activities, with a downward, melancholy gaze. A feeling of being in a hurry can be sensed in A Bad Day for a Dog Walker, in which the movements of a dog owner and the dachshunds tangled around her feet shoot off different directions. No one knows where to go or what to concentrate on. Being in a hurry has made the dog walker grow four legs and four arms. Kuokkanen’s work brings to mind parallels with the Futurist artist Giacomo Balla’s work Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash from 1912, in which Balla explores the feeling of movement with the duplicated feet of a dog and a human.
A core aspect of Kuokkanen’s work is to record different observations and ideas in sketchbooks. Drawing is an important part of the process, for it is only through a drawing that the subject of the future painting gains concrete form. For Kuokkanen, the image always comes first, serving as a necessary impulse for starting the process of painting. Along with the importance of the image, the feeling and smell of the painting, handling it and especially its movement play an important role. The various stages of the work, such as mixing the paint and the sound that it produces establish their own meanings. The painting and the images collaborate and nourish each other. The paint is the medium that facilitates the emergence of the image.
Some of the paintings may be put on hold for a long while to await completion. In the meantime, Kuokkanen will work on other themes and motifs. In this process, the content of the paintings may change considerably and the intervening works will assist in the finishing of the paintings set aside, because the mutual themes of the works lend support to each other. The simultaneous preparation of motifs creates a single large collage. This collage is a train of thought in which the viewer encounters a merging of the real and the imagined to form a single entity.
Essi Kuokkanen lives and works in Helsinki. She graduated as Master of Fine Arts from the Academy of Fine Arts of the University of the Arts Helsinki in 2020. Her previous solo exhibitions have been held in Helsinki at Galleria Live (2019) and Project Room (2018). Works by Essi Kuokkanen have been on display at group exhibitions in Finland and abroad, at venues including Galerie Anhava (2018), Exhibition Laboratory (2018) and the Helsinki Music Centre (2016). Her works are also included in the collections of the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art and the Finnish State Art Commission. Kuokkanen was awarded the Ducat Prize of the Finnish Art Society in 2019.
– Ulla-Maija Pitkänen
Please note that owing to current special requirements no opening reception of the exhibition will be held. The exhibition opens on June 4th at 11am. We kindly ask that you keep safe distances and maintain hand hygiene when visiting the gallery. Please refrain from visiting the exhibition if you have any symptoms of illness.