Päivi Takala’s (b.1970) exhibition Birdlife continues her work with examining the deconstruction of painting. In Takala’s works, restrained, layered coats of paint conjoin with the abrasive nature of materials brought from a construction site. Takala has sawed off pieces from her existing paintings and attached them into new works with concrete. These transplants reveal the human urge to control the environment, and they draw attention to considerations pertaining to the character and materiality of the paintings.
For Takala, paintings exist not only as art objects but also as exploitable raw material for creating new works and a new context. The artist herself speaks of it as ‘painting a new purpose’. Images of birds, detached from the paintings with an electric saw, have been brutally crushed into gravel inside the concrete, into cogs in a machine or as construction material for a staircase. The images, stripped from their original environment, as well as the empty holes left by them, are sealed to their places with concrete, that seems to merge with the surface of the painting creating at the same time a disruption by pushing out from its margins.
Backdrops and dioramas, familiar stage elements from Päivi Takala’s earlier works, are now supplemented by performers. Pictures of birds have been brought onto the stage, house plants crossbred with wild ones. The birds attached with concrete to a Renaissance sky or an idealized landscape do not seem to represent freedom, but are more like ornaments, frozen mid-flight: images of images, which serve as reflections of our personal imagery, cemented permanently in the finished work. Other images of birds are arranged into rows, as in an archive. This may evoke ideas about the human need to control the chaotic environment, our urge to categorise and analyse living beings through pictures, as well as questions of power related thereto.
The contrast created by the soft brush strokes and the sawed-off, abrasive surface treated with concrete, brings the artist’s painting process to the fore. For Takala, the use of concrete does not constitute an intervention in painting, but a natural continuation of brush strokes – she paints with concrete. From another perspective, the treatment of the painting surface foregrounds the materiality of the painting in a tangible way. The rough treatment of a work that was originally produced with great skill and devotion raises the question of the inviolability of the painting: why does it leave such a violent impression on us when a piece is sawed off from a “simple” painted surface – a picture? The bird gravel cast into the concrete staircase also directs our attention to the materials around us: what is the surrounding world built of and how do we react to it?
Päivi Takala’s works are included in leading public collections, such as HAM Helsinki Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, the Saastamoinen Foundation, the Sara Hildén Art Museum, the Malmö Art Museum, as well as private collections both in Finland and abroad. In recent years, Takala’s works have been exhibited in several group shows, at venues including EMMA (2020–21), the Rovaniemi Art Museum Korundi (2019), the Exhibition Laboratory (2018), the Aboa Vetus Ars Nova (2017–18), and Galleri Thomas Wallner (2013 and 2014). She held her previous solo exhibition at Galerie Anhava in 2018. Takala has worked as Lecturer in Painting at the Academy of Fine Arts of the University of the Arts Helsinki since 2014.