2014 Asian vierestä | Beside the point

Helsinki Contemporary 7.2.-2.3.2014
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6.1.2014 Keskustelu: Kati Immonen ja Mika Hannula

Asian vierestä

Mika Hannula: Näyttelyn nimi Asian vierestä – mistä se tulee ja mitä se tässä yhteydessä merkitsee?

Kati Immonen: Asian vierestä on sanonta tai termi, joka viittaa jonkinlaiseen pääasian sivuuttamiseen tai epäolennaiseen keskittymiseen. Kun ilmaisee jotain asian vierestä, on tahallaan tai vahingossa epäonnistunut tuomaan esiin sen varsinaisen pointin, Suuren Asian. Huumoriakin saattaa ilmaantua kuvaan mukaan. Yhdessä maalauksessani jääkarhua ärsyttää jäätelöistä koostuvan maiseman keskellä kun on omaa mielijäätelöä ei meinaa löytyä.

MH: Mikä on näyttelyn teosten lähtökohta?

KI: Yhtenä lähtökohtana on omat ja ohimennen bussissa ja kaupan kassalla kuullut arkipäivän valitukset – esimerkiksi juuri oma valitukseni vetisistä pehmiksistä. Valitukseen liittyy tunne ärsyyntymisestä, jonkinlainen penseän kiukkuinen olotila, jossa antaa itsensä olla harmistunut jostain naurettavasta pikkujutusta jolle ei voi mitään eikä varsinaisesti tarvitsekaan.

Taustalla vaikuttaa myös ympäristöpoliittinen keskustelu, joka tuntuu kulkevan asian vieressä. En voi saarnata kenellekään luonnonsuojelusta tai tehottomasta ympäristöpolitiikasta, omat elintapani tuskin oikeuttaisivat sellaista. Mutta kyllä ärsyttää!!!

MH: Mikä ärsyttää?

KI: Kaikki, jotka joskus ovat keränneet mustikoita, tietävät miten pieniä ja surkeita nuppineulanpäitä ne kuivana kesänä ovat. Suurella vaivalla keräät mukillisen, jotta saisit leipoa tuoretta mustikkapiirakkaa läheistesi iloksi. Kyykit jossain mättäällä mäkäräisten syötävänä, marjamuki tukevasti sammalikossa. Sitten tönäiset vahingossa mukia, se kaatuu ja kaikki mustikat leviävät sammaleen ja kuolleiden lehtien sekaan. Se ärsyttää! Siinä ei paljon paina vieressä lepäävä Veera-myrskyn kaatama ikihonka eikä ilmastonmuutoksen myötä lisääntyvä myrskyaktiivisuus.

Discussion – Kati Immonen & Mika Hannula


Mika Hannula: The title of the exhibition, Beside the Point – where does it come from and what does it mean here?

Kati Immonen: ‘Beside the Point’ is a saying or term that refers to missing the main issue in some way, or focussing on irrelevances. When you say something that is beside the point, you have either intentionally or accidentally failed to address the real point, the Main Issue. Humour, too, can also be a part of the picture. In one painting a polar bear gets annoyed when surrounded by a landscape made of ice creams, because the soft-ices are so watery nowadays.

MH: What is the starting point for the works in the exhibition?

KI: One starting point is my own everyday complaints and those heard in passing on the bus and at the supermarket checkout – for example, my own particular complaint about watery soft-ices. A complaint is linked with a feeling of irritation, a kind of glumly irascible state, in which you let yourself become indignant about some ridiculous minor issue that you can’t do anything about, or even really need to.

In the background to this is also the environmental-politics debate, which seems to miss the point. I can’t go preaching to anyone about nature conservation or ineffective environmental policies, my own way of life would hardly justify that. But it does annoy me!!!

MH: What annoys you?

KI: Anyone who has ever gathered blueberries knows what pathetic little pinheads they are when they’re dry in the summer. It’s all you can do to collect a mugful so you can bake a fresh blueberry pie for the enjoyment of your nearest and dearest. You squat down on a tussock of grass, being eaten alive by gnats, your berry mug planted firmly in a patch of moss. Then you accidentally nudge the mug, it falls over and all the blueberries spread out on the moss, among the dead leaves. That’s annoying! But you don’t mind so much about the ancient pine tree blown down by Thunderstorm Veera beside it, or even the increasing thunderstorm activity brought about by climate change.

MH: How does this show compare with your previous gallery exhibition – considering that this was in autumn 2010 and in a different space?

KI: My previous exhibition Riskiperimä (Inherited Risk) was linked with Finnishness and with the use of wars as a tool of national identity. Those paintings are serious and in black and white. The war theme has been dealt with for the present. Now, I feel like breaking loose with colours.

MH: Coinciding with the exhibition, but separately, a book is being published called Talvisatu (Winter Tale), of works that bring together the themes of the previous exhibition. What has it been like going through the works from your previous exhibition in relation to your new exhibition?

KI: Working on the Talvisatu (Winter Tale) book has felt different, but with a clear and, in a good way, easy process – going through finished, older paintings is quite a different matter from working on new paintings. With new paintings I always find myself grappling with uncertainty and re-working them too much. That was definitely the case with the paintings in the Talvisatu(Winter Tale) series. But, now, all the hard slog is forgotten already, and it’s as if they came about just like that, quite easily.

MH: Let’s talk for a moment about the medium – the posh word is aquarelles, or in your case watercolours. How did you end up with this slightly unusual means of expression – and unusual in the sense that, offhand, it is hard to think of another contemporary art professional, who has made works using this specific technique for so long, and in a constantly developing continuum?

KI: Watercolour forces you to make some sort of plan or decision about the painting in advance – you don’t get the white paper back once you have gone and put your paws on it. This has been a relief to me, a kind of decisiveness and limitation of the possibilities, the fact that you can’t go on endlessly changing and wavering and putting off decisions about the direction of the painting.

MH: You’ve been painting in watercolours for a very long time now. How has your attitude to and use of the medium developed or changed over the years?

KI: A sort of common denominator for my paintings could be using the properties of watercolour, its lightness, translucency, and the cultural baggage related to innocuousness, as part of the working process. In that sense, my working process has not really changed a great deal over the years, even if my subjects and focus of interest have varied. I suppose my working process has taken a roundabout route: sometimes, I feel like just painting and enjoying the colours with no more significant content than that, sometimes, I get inspired by working via some theme or other.

MH: It feels like the significance of the colours is emphasized in this exhibition – i.e. this simultaneous airy lightness of the colours, achieved with watercolours, and the simultaneousness of the different levels of the marks of paint that emerge, or even leap out at us. How conscious is this depth of the colours.

KI: It’s hard for me to analyse my awareness of what I do and, conversely, the element of chance and unconsciousness in the painting process. The use of colours you refer to has, however, come about through conscious seeking and experiment. For example, in the paintings showing fish there are bubbles or patches of pure colour. When I was making them, I tried to make the pure colour as vivid as possible. I tried out various alternatives and the best way turned out to be having the same colour applied around the pure colour, but in a slightly muddy version.

MH: The exhibition includes – besides the individual works – a large installation consisting of lots of parts placed side by side and on top of one another. How did this work, titled Kaatunut oluttölkki (overturned beer can), come about?

KI: There have been frequent storms recently and near our summer cottage one of them produced fantastic dramatic landscapes, with trees blown down. In the painting there are the large tree stump and roots of an overturned tree, fallen tree trunks, and then the actual object, i.e. a quite small, overturned beer can. I wanted to stretch the scale between the main object and the secondary object to make it as big as possible. This giant painting made up of several pieces will be the last of the works in the exhibition to be completed, at the stage when all the other paintings are already finished. I wanted to end by painting with a relaxed hand in a large format, and, conversely, to bring a bit of variety into the exhibition as a whole. I am conscientious and have a steady hand, and that occasionally becomes wearing. Today, I was painting with a floor brush.

MH: The works often contain words and sayings. How have you envisaged the relationship between the image and the word, as the process progressed?

KI: I began writing the texts and the titles of the works directly onto the picture, when the tradition and the act of going round the exhibition space with a creased sheet of A4, looking for the number that corresponds the right picture, started to feel odd. I thought I’d make the whole thing clearer and write the title directly onto the painting. But this turned out to be quite difficult in visual terms. I found it hard to handle the text as a pictorial element, as part of the painting. You have to be able to read the text, but when I wrote clearly and neatly, the end result looked drearily stuffy. In the paintings that ended up in the exhibition the texts have been dashed out with a light hand. At some stage, however, I decided that a creased A4 is quite good after all. That process is still going on, and it doesn’t seem to be chewed right down to the bone yet.

MH: I’ll ask, anyway: Which comes first, the idea for the picture or for the word and the sentence?

KI: If there is text in the picture, then that is the starting point, and the picture idea has come afterwards. But sometimes it works the other way round: I painted the polar bear standing in the middle of the landscape of globes of ice cream. I didn’t come up with a summary or a title for the painting until I heard a man in the street explaining to his pal about the colour of the car he had ordered: ‘They have everything except wine red! There’s yellow, there’s green, there’s even pink, but no wine red.’ I gave the painting a title based on this observation, the polar bear in the work has a somewhat similar problem.