Full Moon II
© Kuvasto 2016. Photo: © Bank of Finland
The title of Jukka Mäkelä’s (b. 1949) painting “Full Moon II” is easily to understand. Pale colours in space depict, it seems, the discs of four full moons and their black dark sides.
The discs are connected by lines that give the work its organic, tissue-like structure. The overall impression is intense but it is not, in fact, an actual portrayal of a moonscape. Rather it appears to be a question of a masterful study of the illusion of space using colour and form and, more importantly, a variety of media.
The experience of space comes not only from the gradation in the intensity of colour, but equally from the layering of fine Japanese paper. The effect of these layers is so subtle as to be almost imperceptible so that it can only truly be seen at close quarters.
The texture of the paper provides the pale background with a beautiful lustre. The layers of fine paper have a structure of their own, against which the black cells set a striking contrast and thrust the white discs of the moons virtually off the canvas. It is no wonder that the painting commands the space it hangs in. This impression is enhanced by the illusion that the cells move around above the surface of the work.
In the 1970s a vast proportion of abstract art was dominated by the creators of geometric works. Jukka Mäkelä struggled against this. With a certain degree of stubbornness, he called the pale, light and ascetic lines that enriched his works by lyrical terms from nature, Frosty day, The light of snow… These were minimalist paintings but, set beside the works of the likes of American artists Robert Ryman or Agnes Martin, the difference is clear. The glistening of light so favoured by Mäkelä and his dynamic lines speaks a very different language to the quiet, meditative tones of the American paintings. Mäkelä often painted in layers of colour beginning with strident shades. A hint of which made themselves known through the final white pigment on the surface.
Jukka Mäkelä’s art has transitioned from an expressionist rough and tumble of colour to the formation of lines and matrices across the paintings’ surfaces. Mäkelä has also shown, his work “Cern’s accelerator”” (2008–2015), that “electric” charcoal lines can suit even the largest of works. Mäkelä was hardly concerned at all with the extremes of the colour palette. His older colleague and grand old man of Finnish constructivism, Lars-Gunnar Nordström (1924– 2014) commented to Mäkelä that “kitchen colours are dangerous to an artist”, to which Mäkelä replied that naturally he painted his “Kitchen” collection in “kitchen colours”.