Lauri Laine´s paintings question the boundaries of the body
The function of a painting is to condense the nuanced space that exists between a thought and an object, to narrow the gap that separates an idea and a perceived artefact. Yet painting is also about the body, about corporeality, and about the metaphorical yielding of physical mass – and it is also about communicating and expressing a particular notion of corporal presence.
Lauri Laine’s latest series of paintings, Concerto, consists of 14 monumental studies of opulently attired female figures, marking a stylistic sequel to his Spanish-inspired Musicians series (2014). Although their mimetic approach has changed, his new paintings – like his foregoing series – hark back to art history, particularly to the Baroque painter Francesco de Zurbarán, with added nuances plucked from Velázquez and Goya, but his new works abandon Cubist elements in favour of a softly undulating celebration of colour. His palette, too, is richer than ever before.
With his new paintings, Laine reflects on the core of a theme he has been exploring – through the vehicle of abstraction – for many years now: the challenge of representation. Those who fail to see the abstract dimensions of Laine’s images also fail to appreciate how mimesis – imitation, the mercurial process of variation – inevitably involves a progressive transfiguration.
The title, Concerto, again alludes to music, as evinced not only by the visual connection with certain musical instruments, but also by a concert of colour harmonies and the chromatic scale of the garments in which the bodies are draped.
With the Concerto series, Laine conjures forth a slowly moving locus – and the further he takes its variations, the more visibly Lady Phenomenology steps into play. Each figure’s corporeal presence is draped in an array of bold hues, transforming the body into a representation of bodily gesture.
Laine’s paintings are more organic than before, with a greater emphasis on the drapery and the visible traces of the paintbrush. The subtle composition of the drapery suggests an infinitesimal illusion of movement. Overall, his new paintings are more representational, but the drapery in each painting is unique and different, perpetuating the chain of abstraction within the mimetic continuum. Each figure has a distinct character, even though their faces are turned away – all we see is an enigmatic hint of movement. Laine’s wet-on-wet technique is most clearly visibly in the background, where each layer of colour is applied before the underlying ground is dry. The grey tonal scale rests on a foundation of red, which glows in small glimmers through the grey. In addition to red, various other shades also flicker in the background of each painting.
Laine’s paintings are infused with a vivid sense of organic vitality. Some of the female figures are more feminine, others more masculine. Again and again, his paintings seem to keep questioning: where are the real borders of the body inscribed – where does its ‘substance’ begin and end? Marking a departure from his earlier works, the hands are now visible, adding momentum to the illusion of movement. The musical instruments are like extra limbs, jutting out randomly, extending the radius of movement in all directions. The body, “in the very plasticity of expansion and contraction” can be thought of as setting the stage for a “coming to presence” (Jean-Luc Nancy). The half-recognizable objects inhabit a tricky intermediate space somewhere between a draped body and its background, the dynamic internal contrasts not being confined solely to dramatic colour combinations. Now, if ever, we can justifiably speak of Laine as an exuberant celebrator of colour.
Lauri Laine (b.1946) ranks among the leading Finnish painters of his generation. He had carved out a long, successful career dividing his time between Finland and Rome, Italy. His work is informed by an intimate familiarity with art history. Laine has held numerous solo exhibitions in Finland and abroad and he has taken part in many domestic and international group exhibitions, including the São Paulo Biennial (1989) and the Beijing Biennale (2017). His work is found in major Finnish public collections and in prestigious collections such as the Moderna Museet in Stockholm and the Malmö Art Museum.