Marjukka Paunila represents the strong colourist tendency in Finnish painting. Her artworks display the same uncompromising stance on colour as those of Ellen Thesleff and Rafael Wardi. Paunila’s paintings are not abstract, even though one can study them at surface – union of colour and form. Paunila’s motifs are representational and based on observations. Plants, landscape details, light and shadows have been lightly and effortlessly painted on the canvas. Observation becomes a mental image, which is then painted into a reference. Ultimately, a door is behind a garden is outlined only as a rectangular shape, and it is up to the viewer to perceive the space as three-dimensional.
Despite this, Paunila is a realist in the same vein as the Impressionists. She paints actual observations, real things, documenting the moment for us in such a unique way that it cannot be replicated. What is essential is capturing the moment when colours appear interesting and meaningful. However, realism isn’t enslaving. At times, reality is comprised of two or more blinks of the eye, actually taking place in different times, but existing simultaneously and endlessly in the painting.
A painting freezes time, in a different way from a photograph. In Paunila’s paintings, continuous change has been frozen in the exact way she has intended to freeze it. One blink of an eye or click of a shutter aren’t enough for capturing reality. No reflection or shadow is so unambiguous that it doesn’t require interpretation and intuition. It requires a trained eye and the ability to also see beauty in the shadows and the dark side of the world.
Along with colour, one of the central building blocks of Paunila’s paintings is the line. At times, she uses her brush similarly to ink wash painters. This brings to the painting a graphic layer referring to the East Asian painting tradition. Paunila’s line is not encumbered by mannerism, it is lively as thick and thin, long and short. It is exquisite, at times resembling writing, at times a net lowered onto the painting’s surface.
Marjukka Paunila’s exhibition at Gallery Halmetoja is comprised of tempera paintings on canvas of various sizes. Tempera painting is a technique that requires quick decisions and an infallible eye. It dries quickly, and you can’t work tempera in the same way that you can with oil. On the other hand, tempera colours enable a different approach to layers. The overlaid translucent colour surfaces let the light through where it can reflect back off the white base, layer by layer, giving the paintings their characteristic inner glow.