MARKKU LAAKSOHalf and half 21.5.2022 – 19.6.2022
Is the glass half empty or half full?
A classical rhetorical question to indicate attitude to life.
I reached the age of 50 in spring 2020, just when the pandemic had first struck and everything seemed fatalistic and absurd at the same time. At this age, fifty-fifty means half of life has certainly been lived. Whether this is an achievement or loss depends on your point of view.
There were no parties, nor the trip to Paris. Art experiences faded and fizzled out beyond reach. The beginning of the corona epidemic with no vaccinations was full of fears and suspicion, life was just half here and half in the future. Back in the day...
We’re now living in a time where a war is ongoing in Europe and the uncertainty of tomorrow prevails in everyday life. In my own childhood, the threat of the cold war and nuclear war hovered above everything like an ominous dark cloud. As the father of a small child, I can now only hope that the future won’t get any darker than this.
Some of the original motifs in the Half and half paintings have become negative, monochromatic or abstract. The image is as if absent, yet present at the same time. The works convey a sense of the melancholy of our times.
Since back in art school, I have used photos I myself have taken as materials for my paintings. I also notice a fascination with contemporary artists - Marlene Dumas, Michaël Borremans and Elizabeth Peyton, to mention just a few - who use a photo as the basis for their paintings. Likewise, classic painters from Ellen Thesleff to Edvard Munch also relied on photos where needed.
Before digitality, everything was based on the photo negative. In today’s digital world, an inverted image needs to be mined. In painting a negative image, I’m fascinated by the thought of “developing” the image into something intelligible.
The painting landscapes are memories through the years from Iceland and the south of Africa, for example. The naked figures in the painting depicting the melting of Island’s biggest glacier, Vatnajökull, have stepped into an apocalyptic motif. The future of nature and humanity looks outwardly beautiful, yet chilling.
In the Wanderers themes, a lone wanderer, or a group of them, has stopped or is on their way somewhere. The name not only references Caspar David Friedrich, but also to wandering through life and its fortuitousness. The effect of fortuity on everything has always preoccupied me. The Wanderers are also surrogate travellers whose destination or motive is not given beforehand. The idea of the fate of millions fleeing the war has also influenced the mood in these latest paintings.
For me, coming from Lapland and with Sámi roots, nature has always played an important role. This is why it is also the dominant milieu in my works. The people in my works are either naked or clothed, but in both cases the figure is inevitably reminiscent of some culture or time. The landscape paintings in the middle of the paintings of figures in the exhibition serve as resting places for the viewer.
Markku Laakso (b. 1970) was born in Enontekiö, Finnish Lapland and became known for his Elvis-themed paintings. He lives and works in Turku. Laakso has held a number of private and joint exhibitions in Finland and the Nordic countries as well as in France, Germany Italy, Japan, Spain and the USA among others. Laakso’s works are in the collections of the Helsinki Art Museum HAM, the State Art Deposit Collection and the City of Gothenburg and the Riddo Duottar Sámi museums. During the past ten years, Markku Laakso has expanded his oeuvre into photographic and media art. Laakso and his wife, Annika Dahlsten, have shared projects on subjects such as Laakso’s Sámi roots.