Aleksi Liimatainen is a Finnish visual artist living and working in Turku, whose main technique is black and white intaglio printmaking. In Liimatainen’s artworks, the composition is based on contrasts between dark and light, but with the presence of concrete grey reality. The artworks are strongly linked to traditions of printmaking, but also the conventions of black-and-white poster art. The form is often created by shading and power of expression is more important than details. And when there is not a lot of detail, those few details gain a lot of meaning, growing into symbols.
Liimatainen does not repeat mannerisms, but the rhythm of the artworks varies in a way seen in films and comics. The narration is not steady paced, but sometimes runs hectically only to pause again for a moment. The exhibition at Gallery Halmetoja presents a very organic selection of 13 artworks.
The conflict between movement and stillness is an interesting part of the stories in the images. And we are not talking about form but content. At times, the characters and groups in the pictures are on the go like modern-day nomads. At times, stalling without any urgency. There is a dash of the romance of the road and an underlying idea of not being in a hurry; the drifter has time to stand still. This whole way of life is in conflict with our focus on performance.
In the artworks, gloomy characters roam and muck around in the wastelands at the outskirts of town. Rail yards and demolition sites, abandoned playgrounds and schoolyards are landscapes where the youths gather and see each other. Beer is swilled and curfews are forgotten, since they have probably already left home anyway. Liimatainen’s artworks portray both individuals and groups, with the individuals portrayed anonymously as part of a collective. The aim is not to create personal portraits, but to portray the community. To create a portrait of friendships and addictions, care and rejection.
The community in the pictures is not glossy but gritty and real. It may not be immediately identifiable to many, but once you give the story a chance, you realize that the community structures are not that different, be it a middle-class work community or that of idle kids. Liimatainen is able to build action and narrative in a way that makes his artworks seem like mise-en-scènes. They are scenes from a life truly lived, even though it may sometimes be a performance.