PETRI ALA-MAUNUSHinterland 18.4.2015 – 17.5.2015
Petri Ala-Maunus is known for his outrageously romantic large-scale landscapes that transport the viewer, with effortless ease, to his mountainous fantasy lands. With Ala-Maunus´s landscapes, the "truth" lies as far as the mind can carry you.
In Hinterland, Ala-Maunus continues to explore his idiosyncratic style, creating landscapes imbued with a shimmery darkness; stormy seas, impenetrable deciduous forests, mountain ranges viewed from on high and magical moon-lit skies. Some of the works are so enormous and full of detail that, in order to make sense of them, you are forced to traverse the painting from side to side, pull away to a distance and get back up close again.
The works undeniably call to mind the Romantic era in the Nordic countries, Europe as well as the US. Ala-Maunus himself has stressed the visual association with the artists of the 19th century Hudson River School, whose works featured dramatic natural elements, such as rugged mountain ridges and steep water falls. Ala-Maunus´s enthusiasm for these kitschy landscapes can also be traced back to the wall displays at the Happy Pizza pizzeria in Tampere, Finland. The posters adorning the restaurant also depict escapist landscapes rendered in a fast food restaurant aesthetic.
While the Romantic landscapes invariably depicted tiny human beings and the ruins of their culture set amidst magnificent expanses of nature, Ala-Maunus´s works are entirely devoid of any pictorial references to people or culture. His are natural landscapes, untouched by the era of man.
This is precisely why the title of the exhibition, Hinterland, is so thought provoking. The term hinterland, also known as the outback, the wilderness or the backwater, usually refers to an area located on the outskirts of human habitation that nevertheless forms an intrinsic part of a city or a similar economic entity. Ala-Maunus, however, appears to employ the term literally. It is as if he is seeking to emphasise that, in the back of beyond, there remains a place entirely untouched by human hand.
Hinterland is Ala-Maunus´s magical imaginary world, which he now tackles with more boldness than before. In his new works, Ala-Maunus sets about dismantling the illusion of an ideal landscape by assigning primacy to the act of painting - the landscapes are covered, enclosed and blended in the abstract medium of pigment, the drips on painted surface emphasising the paint´s own movement.
Ala-Maunus´s Hinterland operates on two levels, both of which are equally artificial; between the notion of the untouched landscape and the abstract painted finish. In this, he continues a long and unbroken tradition, which Robert Rosenblom in his 1961 article The Abstract Sublime, insightfully extended to cover abstract painting.
The abstractions in Ala-Maunus´s Hinterland works are also possessed of the same "molten paths of energy, [that locate] us once more on a near-hysterical brink of sublime chaos", Rosenblom saw in the works of William Turner. With Ala-Maunus, that energy is found in the act of painting and in the earth´s gravity that pulls on the paint, causing it to drip downwards.
 Rosenblum, Robert 1961. The Abstract Sublime. ARTnews, February 1961.