MARKKU LAAKSOBetween Birth and Death
Between Birth and Death
My paintings are connected by the mutual relationships of human beings and different cultures with each other and with nature - confusion in the random turmoil of life.
The exhibition's eponymous series of paintings, Between Birth and Death (2011-2015), consists of sixty-five paintings of identical size. I decided to paint spontaneously, on a whim, without worrying about any link or theme between the paintings. I had slabs of two different sizes sawn out of wood to make bases for the paintings. The smaller paintings form a 150-part series called Little Life (2011-2014), and the slightly larger bases constitute the series on display in this exhibition, Between Birth and Death. The series is like a slow Instagram that I have been updating for four years now. I chose the subjects just before painting them, according to my mood at the moment. I gave myself completely free rein, and the subjects range from the completely marginal to the extremely personal. The whole encompasses the private and the public, paintings born out of observations and images reminiscent of photos in an album. Together, they constitute the imagery between birth and death.
The paintings' subjects of naked sleepers and people yawning, stretching and waking up in sleeping bags have been inspired by various sources over the years. The depiction of nakedness in my paintings originally stemmed from a love for classical art, and this motive has not changed very much, merely acquired additional tones from contemporary art. Most of my sleeping bag themes have been inspired by Michaelangelo's frescos in the Sistine Chapel. In late 2014, I spent a month in Florence and Rome acquainting myself with the art treasures of the Renaissance. To me, these paintings represent emotions in an in-between space, confusion, conflict between shame and freedom, and the burden of the Fall. A sleeping bag is a private shell - a nest. And yet, in the end, man is always naked, exposed under the sleeping bag or layer of clothing. As a feminist, I try not to categorise my subjects by gender, while acknowledging the inevitable limitations of presentation. Corporality is an always changing definition, moulded by time and culture like fashion.
Twins on the Edge of a Glacier (2015) is an image of an emotion, like all my twin themes. They are not illustrations of a narrative or references to actual events. In the images, serious twins have stopped in an intermediate space, in the moment before change or its comprehension. Twins emphasise the contradiction and insolubility of a life. There are a multitude of directions and alternatives, in the past and in the future.
Markku Laakso (born 1970) was born in Enontekiö, Lapland, and became famous for his Elvis-themed paintings. He lives and works in Turku. In the past decade, Laakso has expanded his oeuvre into photography and video art. His shared projects with his wife, artist Annika Dahlsten, have dealt with subjects such as Laakso's Sami roots. Since 1988, Laakso has held several private exhibitions and taken part in joint exhibitions in Finland and the Nordic countries, along with countries such as Italy, France, Iceland, Japan, the United States and Germany. In the past year, his work has been exhibited in venues such as the Northern Souls joint exhibition in London and the Sámi Contemporary exhibition in Kungsbacka, Sweden. The exhibition is currently on display at the Felleshus in Berlin.