TOPI RUOTSALAINEN2021: A Folk Epic 20.11.2021 – 19.12.2021
Just over a year ago, I saw a documentary about the Finnish singer-songwriter J. Karjalainen, “Beibi ollaan ikuisii”, directed by Antti Leino in 2018. Early in the documentary, Karjalainen says that he sees music as images and that a song can be inspired by an existing image. There is an example in the film: a print that looks like a woodcut or linocut print and features a vagrant-like figure playing the guitar in a farmhouse. Karjalainen simply sings: “The vagrant plays the guitar.” There is also a bird cage in the image. “There is a small bird in the cage by the door,” Karjalainen continues his very unpretentious song.
I’ve been writing and performing folk and roots music since 2012 with my band, Mount Fool. I, too, experience music in a visual manner although, to me, music appears mainly as fickle visions, potential tones and moods, which always try to escape the oppressive limits of a single image surface and its lifeless two-dimensionality. Inspired by J. Karjalainen’s direct and understated narrative, I wanted to try something that was a bit similar. I ended up creating paintings that were based on my songs.
I soon realised that I can’t express the plain talk I admired so much; like a typical Savonian, I still want to leave things hidden and use periphrases. I enjoyed being able to include references in my paintings freely and draw from all the work I’d already done by writing the songs that were the background of my paintings.
My exhibition, 2021: A Folk Epic, is about holding on to the images in the songs and making them visible. Six paintings that were inspired by songs that I wrote form the core of the exhibition. The rest of the works in this exhibition move somewhere along the intersecting little paths of the stories in my songs.