Welcome to the opening ceremony 7.3. from 5 to 7 p.m.
Still Life Reconsidered
Drawings and paintings
The theme and underlying impulse for this exhibition, Still Life Reconsidered, has evolved over several years. During this time, Heikki Portaankorva and William Dennisuk, have had an on-going dialogue on the relevance of historical art forms – such as the still life and other traditional genres – and their ability, if any, to facilitate conversations regarding our wider cultural milieu or zeitgeist.
Both Dennisuk and Portaankorva believe yes, it is possible – or, at the very least, they can attempt to reassess and possibly revitalize these forms so they can deal with a broader range of contemporary issues, while at the same time, allowing for their dialogue to encompass historical references, formal concerns, and personal whim. From this point of view, they perceive their inquiry as part of an ever-expanding continuum and not as a rupture.
One can say their approach to the question, does the still life still have life, is not merely rhetorical, rather, their work attempts to address these questions through direct engagement, taking on palpable form in their distinctly dissimilar approaches to the seemingly humble subject of the still life.
William Dennisuk, an American born artist, and long-time permanent resident of Finland, whose diverse body of work encompasses the worlds of drawing, painting, sculpture, installation, and contextual art in public spaces. In the work for this exhibition, he has focused primarily on a series of charcoal drawings.
The underlying theme of these drawings examines the pervasive sense of disquiet that seems to characterize our present-day culture. The series also touches on the contemporary degradation of the natural world, suggesting a social order that is slipping out of control.
On a more formal level, the works are informed by and often make subtle references to the rich history of drawing, from Indian and Persia ink drawings to the Baroque drawings of Piazzetta and Tiepolo; from 19th century French artists such as Ingres, Daumier, Degas, Seurat and Toulouse-Lautrec, to German, American, British, and African artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.
The subject of the still life draws from equally diverse sources ranging from the golden age of Dutch flower paintings with their metaphors and underlying moral imperative to Chardin’s non-didactic interrogations of material and stillness; from Cotán to Fantin-Latour; from Cezanne to Morandi; from George Braque to Philip Guston and Richard Diebenkorn.
The employment of the triptych format also has its historical pedigree, alluding to a whole range of Christian art over the centuries. In the 20th century artists such as Max Beckmann and Francis Bacon expanded the triptych’s narrative content to include the personal and political dimensions, often depicting a sense of spiritual crisis with the artist struggling within a tumultuous world.
The various references nevertheless remain hidden, only alluding to a sensibility or kinship with a certain kind of artistic temperament. In other words, the intention of the drawings is not facile quoting or appropriation, rather, a deeper sense of how other artists attempted to convey meaningful thoughts and feelings – through latent and potent imagery – for the time in which they live.
My method of working is painting from perception with oil on canvas. Earlier my focus was on the human figure and the surrounding interior, including my models’ personal items, for instance their shoes or books. Only these items are now left from the past and I have added helmets to keep them company. Of these three materials I build a kind of little world that keeps moving and changing their meanings and which also has some hidden humor in it.
Usually, this kind of painting is called “still life”, and no doubt, my paintings are a part of that genre. I greatly admire still life painters like Morandi and Chardin, but ideas and inspiration in my recent paintings come from the Flemish Renaissance artists like Brueghel and Bosch, who were known as figure painters.
I like the idea that by using simple items and materials, you can again and again create a new vibrant artificial world, which is commonly called “dead nature”(nature morte).