Emma Ainala’s (b. 1989) much-anticipated solo exhibition Sensual World will fill Helsinki Contemporary on April 8–30. Ainala paints intuitively and with a childlike approach, producing works whose interior world often conceals within it a tense atmosphere, which the artist’s characteristic painting style and its fantasy figures further accentuate.
“When you’re painting you have to trust your intuition, which can often not be put into words. It’s a knowledge in your body, a gut feeling. When I am painting, I don’t try to formulate a story, but more to create a contradictory atmosphere, a tension. I want to pass on my own experience of wonder,” Ainala says.
In paintings that exude nostalgia and a 1980s, 1990s and 2000s aesthetic Ainala draws on the banal imagery of popular culture: pictures, music, characters from films, and celebrities, which become part of the works’ own interior world. In the object installations that she constructs the reality of the paintings spreads out into the gallery space, delicious and tangible.
Questions of identity, such as themes of femininity, recur in Ainala’s works. The figures that appear in the paintings can be seen as psychological archetypes or as different aspects of personality, which represent various modes of consciousness. The figures live in the painting’s inner world, as if in some intermediate space between conscious and unconscious brimming with nostalgia.
The works combine retro-aesthetic imagery with a melancholic, and even wistful mood. The oversupply of information and the accentuated individualism of the Millennium generation, and, on the other hand, the insufficiency of material existence in the absence of an afterlife give rise to a feeling of incompleteness. A longing for something shared and a desire to belong to a community fill the void left by the spiritual life.
“A kind of identity crisis has collectively arisen alongside questions of existence. People are constantly asking how we are supposed to live a good, or preferably perfect, life that is just for me. I myself really am totally a part of that world, not just an outside critic. That’s why I paint about experience that contains a contradiction,” Ainala says.
Emma Ainala is one of Finland’s most interesting young contemporary artists, who came to the awareness of the general public in the Young Artists 2013 exhibition at Kunsthalle Helsinki. In 2014, Ainala’s works were shown in the Time that Remains collective exhibition at Helsinki Contemporary and in a solo exhibition at Huuto Gallery. She lives and works in Savonlinna.
A special thank you to the Arts Promotion Centre Finland and Finnish Cultural Foundation for supporting the artist’s work.