Heikki Marila’s mural Mänttä, 2015
Gösta Serlachius Fine Arts Foundation has commissioned Heikki Marila’s mural Mänttä on the wall of Restaurant Gösta. Over five meters high and wide painting was completed in-situ in the Autumn 2015. The customers of the restaurant could observe the artist working and the motif taking shape.
The motifs of Heikki Marila’s (b. 1966) works have varied between figurative and non-figurative from the start. Nowadays the artist is best known for his artworks referring to Dutch floral paintings. They fetched him the First Prize of Carnegie Art Award 2012. Marila’s floral still-life paintings reflect the richness and exuberance of the archetypal Dutch paintings. This is particularly true in the monumental size of the canvas that the thick layers of pain are covering, rather than in the accuracy of the details. Furthermore, the floral motifs of the paintings take form when you look at them. At same time they, however, seem to hide under layers of paint and transform into abstract compositions of colour.
The same phenomenon recurs in the mural located in Restaurant Gösta. The starting point of the artwork is the map of Mänttä. As a result, its street network is visible on the surface of the artwork. One just needs to look for it and know what the artwork refers to. If this background information is not provided, the image of the map becomes abstract. As a result the viewer can interpret it very freely.
The painting follows up on Heikki Marila’s paintings based on the maps of towns that he initially painted in the early 2000s. Map paintings often depicted declining industrial localities or suburbs: localities that the passing time had abandoned one way or the other. Explicit and identical map patterns offered the artist a conveniently simple motif that he could reproduce in order to forget the motif and concentrate on the painting process. In spite of the prosaic starting point of the map paintings, their layers of paint quiver and shine at times downright in tropical colours.
The localities in the map paintings were Riihimäki, Varkaus and Outokumpu, among others. Similarly, Marila depicted the township of Mänttä. The economic conditions have treated Mänttä harshly over the years. Observing the visitors in the Serlachius Museums makes one wonder. Perhaps the Mänttä that Heikki Marila depicts in his paintings could sometimes in the future find other perspectives than those of a declining industrial locality.