Tuula Lehtinen is a versatile visual artist who is still widely remembered for her extensive career in printmaking. In recent years, her ceramic and mosaic techniques have been impressively featured in such shows as her 2018 exhibition at ARTag Gallery. Lehtinen graduated from Helsinki’s Academy of Fine Arts in 1980. In Sweden, she is best known for her public artworks. Last year, a large selection of her paintings was on display at the Sara Hildén Art Museum in Tampere.
This new exhibition at Gallery Halmetoja is comprised of oil paintings that reflect on the boundaries of beauty and reality. Lehtinen’s aesthetic playfulness is brash; it laughs at the ideals of Modernism while showing love to the drapery of Baroque, the lightness of Rococo and the smooth surfaces of salon painters. Lehtinen utilizes elements perceived as feminine, such as flowers, lace, textiles and ornaments. She is mysterious and partly surrealistic, but ultimately always stylish in her precision. At their best, her artworks are flirting with banal beauty without ever being banal themselves.
These new paintings lure the viewer to be enthralled over drapery. The references to Baroque painting are evident, and the relishing of drapery at the very least as unbridled. As the folds symbolize the degree of ecstasy, one can interpret Lehtinen’s artworks cheekily, wondering what kind of ecstasy might be revealed from behind the drapes.
Lehtinen is also a skilful user of colours, with her Colourist tendencies particularly evident in her mosaic art. This time, her paintings are also displaying more vibrant colours and exciting contrasts. Although the colours heavily depict luxury, the beautiful warm velvets and silks of ancient courts, there are also skilfully constructed colour illusions and echoes of primary colours to be found. Tuula Lehtinen is a unique operator in the Finnish art field, who has by now solidified her standing as a prominent painter.