Heikki Marila's mural Mänttä
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, during which time 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 that 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 particularly in the monumental size of the canvas covered with thick layers of paint, rather than in the accuracy of the details. The floral motifs of the paintings take form when looked at, at same time they, however, seem to be buried under layers of paint and transformed 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 whose street network is visible on the surface of the artwork when one knows to look for it, and knows what the artwork refers to. If this background information is not provided, the image of the map becomes abstract and 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 had been left behind by the passing time 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. Mänttä was also one of the townships Marila depicted. The economic conditions have treated Mänttä harshly over the years. When observing the visitors in the Serlachius Museums one cannot help wondering whether the Mänttä depicted in Heikki Marila’s paintings could sometimes in the future also be viewed from an other perspective than that of a declining industrial locality.