During 8 September–1 October, Helsinki Contemporary is hosting Anna Retulainen’s solo exhibition Creamy White Kayak. This has been put together in parallel with three major museum exhibitions: Summer Days and Pleasure at Serlachius Museum Gösta; plus another, self-contained part of the Pleasure exhibition, which opens at Helsinki Art Museum, HAM on 25 August.
“Creamy-White Kayak is a story about small memories. I added paint until the memory image became visible. The memory is unclear. A fragile remnant of something that I am trying to get to in my mind. Some of these memories are old, they are from my childhood. Some are totally new. All of the memories exists in layers in my mind, but as paintings they separate off into their own small stories,” is how Retulainen describes the exhibition’s starting points.
The exhibition is a continuation of the theme of remembering, which Retulainen has dealt with before. The new works depict everyday moments. She has inscribed these in memory by painting them. This is Retulainen’s way of preserving her memories – she does not want to forget. Paintings such as Bosse, Weissensee, Afrikan ranta (African Shore), Siilitappelu (Hedgehog Fight) and Uneton yö (Sleepless Night) are fragments of everyday life from different parts of the world and from different stages of life. Around the work that gives the exhibition its title – Kermanvalkoinen kajakki (Creamy White Kayak)– Retulainen has written a story: of the events of a summer’s day in childhood.
Retulainen has said that a thing becomes true if you draw a picture of it. That picture may be unstable and insubstantial – the completed painting is one possible version of the original situation. It conceals within it a multi-sensory experience of what the artist was feeling at the time of painting.
The brushwork is an essential part of Retulainen’s working process: “It has to have some content, a reason why it is as it is,” she says. The brushstrokes in the works are generous and imprecise, they put the emphasis on the nature of memory or the memory image. This vagueness has to be accepted. For Retulainen nothing in the painting is arbitrary. Even if the brushstrokes look rapid, everything has its place.
Anna Retulainen (b. 1969, Orimattila) lives and works in Helsinki and Berlin. Since the mid-1990s, she has had numerous solo exhibitions and participated in group exhibitions in various parts of Europe. Retulainen has twice been a candidate for the Carnegie Art Award, in 1999 and 2014. Her works are, for instance, owned by: Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma; Saastamoinen Foundation; Sara Hildén Art Museum; Gösta Serlachius Fine Arts Foundation; and Jenny and Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation; along with numerous corporate and private collections.