Jarmo Mäkilä: Matrix Hardcore

Jarmo Mäkilä paints mental landscapes. Although his works are firmly in the figurative tradition, their underlying ideas are only a part of the visible reality. During a long period of formulating and creating his work, the artist’s personal memories and experiences mix with snatches from films, literature, art history and the daily news stream into the works’ imagery. This mixing gives the works a clearly distinctive but intangible property which Freud called unheimlich, “weird” or “uncanny”.

Mäkilä has called his exhibition Matrix Hardcore. The first word refers to the well-known science fiction film in which everything considered reality by humans is revealed to be an illusion, a virtual world concealing a real and rather nightmarish one. Mäkilä associates the second word with classical painting, in which the method of depicting mythological subjects is often raw and carnal, full of visual and psychological drama.

The drama of Mäkilä’s own work is generally not as direct or violent as sometimes encountered in classic works of art. His mode of expression is, rather, suggestive and instinctive, and looking at it offers the same kind of excitement as reading a good crime novel does. At first glance, everything seems to be normal. It is only on closer inspection that we get the sense that something odd is happening. The works do not tell us what that is. However, a crack or disturbance has appeared in the world, and as a result life is not what it used to be.

In the works, the scene may be a grey spring forest dotted with car wrecks, as is seen at the edge of cities, or an anonymous concrete-walled room, perhaps an abandoned factory or barracks. In addition to both working as residences of the subconscious, they are also spaces in which adult men can continue their erstwhile childhood adventures in peace, or which offer stages for young men’s unpredictable trials of manhood.

Mäkilä’s works contain numerous details and attributes, which go unexplained and can only be guessed at. However, the fuzziness is conscious and considered. Mäkilä says that the most difficult thing in his work is putting an exciting story into a visual, non-narrative form. He prefers pictorial realism, an everyday presentation method, which does not draw attention to itself but instead gives the represented events the space to develop according to their own rules. The aim is a holistic experience, which viewers can complement with their own memories and experiences.

Art history plays a key role in the works. However, Mäkilä does not borrow from known classical art images per se, but rather uses the iconic and universally recognizable image types and models, which he presents in a modern format. The viewer recognizes the models, such as St Sebastian pierced by arrows, Mary bearing her dead son, and the crucified Christ, regardless of the fact that the clothing and environments, and even ages and sexes, are different to the image types in the original classic artworks.

However, the attraction of Mäkilä’s art is not based on mere mental images or memory. As Aristotle said, a work of art is a living organism, a whole. The viewer should thus also bear in mind the layout and living colour work behind the paintings, everything, which pertains to the painter’s profession and makes the subjects of Mäkilä’s works credible and tangible.

The fact that Mäkilä is considered a German artist in Germany and a French artist in France says much about the universality of his paintings. Without a doubt, Russians notice things in his works that Swedes do not. However, the distance between the two is not too far, as in spite of our cultural differences we people are basically similar. We share the same memories, fears and hopes. (Text: Timo Valjakka)

Painter and sculptor

Jarmo Mäkilä (born 1952) lives and works in Helsinki. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in 1974, having received a Ducat Prize in 1973. Throughout his career, Jarmo Mäkilä has been free spirit and vanguard in Finnish art. He is one of the country’s most noteworthy painters. He has held numerous exhibitions both in Finland and abroad since the 1970s. In Finland, Mäkilä has held solo exhibitions in the Amos Anderson Museum, Helsinki Art Museum, the Sara Hildén Art Museum, the Pori Art Museum, and was the first Finnish painter to be exhibited in Kiasma in 1998. His works are held at several collections in Finland and abroad. Mäkilä was awarded a Pro Finlandia medal in 2002.

Meetings with the artist 29 January 2022 and 5 February 2022 at 14.00 in the White Cellar

Further information about the exhibition: Museum director Kirsi Eskelinen, tel. +358 (0) 294 500 490, Kirsi.Eskelinen@siff.fi