© Kuvasto 2016. Photo: © Bank of Finland
The turn of a decade is rarely seen as a noteworthy milestone in history, but 1980 can be quoted as a date of some note in terms of Finnish painting. Marjatta Tapiola (b. 1951), Leena Luostarinen and Marika Mäkelä happened to hold exhibitions at the same time and gave new direction to romantic- and expressionist-charged art.
Individual feelings displace the participating themes into rigid realism. A restlessly seeking line and a painting without a painterly end are indicative of the limitations of pure geometry. The French philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard is quoted as saying that the purpose of realism has been to protect consciousness from doubt. Now room has been made for familiar doubt.
Marjatta Tapiola’s 1980s portraits aroused well-deserved acclaim. They were frank, occasionally mercilessly wretched and still fragile. They returned the joining of physical and psychological presence to the art of painting. And the artist didn’t save herself. Some of her self-portraits are still startling, today. However, ultimately this is not a question of melancholia. Tapiola’s paintings have grown in stature and strength. She is mistress of the dynamic line, able to skilfully apportion the power of expression she uses. Sometimes her lines are light and elegant, sometimes they take on a Baroque tumble and the viewer can sense the artist’s gestures and the birth of the lines on the canvas.
Man and bull, the central themes of Tapiola’s works in the 2000s, are a striking celebration of lines. In these works, man and beast have equal standing. There is an equal distribution of the masculine and the animal, in each.
The artist has spoken of bulls as being her “favourite creatures”, who lead a life of their own in her paintings. The lines of the Bank of Finland’s “Bull” move with a light touch, regardless of his great mass. In its setting of art and art history, the bull has a story as long as that of mankind as artist.