Mari Sunna (born 1972) is a completely distinctive artist. Every work by her reveals immediately from whose thinking, mind and brush it comes. The mark of her hand and the simultaneous power, sensitivity and precision of her painting are easy to recognise.
And yet she is in a continuous process of renewal. Time and again she surprises viewers with new subjects, new ways of painting and new emotions. What endures and remains recognisable is the somnambulistic assurance and sensuousness of her touch and the instinctive feel for what each painting needs in order to be completely itself.
Mari Sunna has previously painted young faceless girls in a charmingly rough manner. Disfigured, almost frightening faces. Stylised portraits combined from compact planes of colour. Multiarmed and multilegged figures expressing multiple movement. Depictions of figures and abstract formations made of small cellular units. Compositions of strong contrasts of colour balancing on the borderlines of the abstract and the figurative.
The paintings of Remnant – which refers to something that remains or stays – are more immaterial and spiritual than Sunna’s earlier works. They seem to slip somewhere beyond language and therefore it is difficult to write about them. A characteristic of Sunna is how she instinctively applies all the knowhow and skills that she has gained from painting. In this sense, the paintings do not have any conceptual point of departure, of claiming something beyond the painting itself, bearing witness to something else than themselves. They just exist, breathing at the boundary of the material – which is what a painting is necessarily at all times – and the immaterial. The extremely thin layers of paint in the works lead at least me to think of innocence, nirvana, and wonderment at the human condition and the beauty of existence. And feeling a connection with something greater to which words cannot build a bridge.
Mari Sunna is also highly regarded outside Finland. Over the past few years, she has participated in exhibitions at, among other venues: La Fondazione Pianoterra Onlus in Rome; Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Milan; Maison Particulière, Brussels; The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City; The Atlanta Contemporary, Atlanta; The Museum of Art and History, Brussels; Palfrey Space, London; and Deutsche Bank Wealth Management/Frieze, London
In addition to Finnish collections, Sunna’s works are included in the following international collections: The Aspen Collection, London; Deutsche Bank, Frankfurt; Nordiska Akvarellmuseet, Skärhamn; The Saatchi Collection, London and the UBS Art Collection, Zürich as well as numerous private collections in Finland and the other Nordic countries, Great Britain, Italy, Germany, Belgium and the United States.