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Artists' Association MUU » JUHA OKKO: Nostalgia
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JUHA OKKO: Nostalgia

argumentaatio9 August –1 September 2013

MUU gallery

Nostalgia describes a sentimentality for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. Its literal meaning is homesickness. The word is formed from the Greek nóstos, meaning “homecoming”, and álgos, meaning “pain, ache”. – Adapted from the Wikipedia, 2013

“Nostalgia (Gr. nóstos=homecoming and álgos=pain), homesickness, often manifesting itself in a kind of illness.” – Finnish dictionary of foreign words (Sivistyssanakirja), Otava 1948

The title of my exhibition is Nostalgia, which in its narrow sense denotes homesickness. My personal nostalgia is for “origin” and my first autonomous experiences of art. For a work of art or a picture of one that beckons me back irresistibly and compellingly. Without concepts or an opportunity to verbalise the experience.

The originals my works are based on are famous and recognisable. The new versions are undoubtedly a tribute to and a gesture of fandom towards these works and artists. The works, however, are pictures of pictures: their starting point is a reproduction of a work in a book or online, the final result a hand-painted variation of a printed image.

Background

I first became fascinated with art in my teens through pictures in art books: Surrealists and Dadaists, Impressionism a little later, Edvard Munch, Vincent van Gogh. The pictures awakened in me a longing for art. I wanted to make something similar: visual art that would evoke the same kind of feeling in me. A compelling and beckoning excitement.

In 2004 I spent three months near Florence in a residency of the Artists’ Association of Finland. I had not previously been interested in art before 1850, but Florence and its surroundings changed everything. Renaissance art “blew me away” and I tried to process my experience by painting while it was still fresh in my mind. At the time, however, I was unable to reach the matter/emotion/experience and I laid it aside.

Process

I began preparing this exhibition at the turn of 2012–13. At first I painted non-figurative watercolour sketches. But I also wanted something figurative, or “finished”, as a starting point and a partner in dialogue. I opened a book on Renaissance art and just let go.

I sketched different types of paintings, but allegories eluded me, and I did not want to use portraits. In painting, what remained were mostly biblical subjects that convey easily understandable emotions: sadness, rage, fear, confusion, comfort, arrogance, disappointment. Religion or religious feeling are not the subject of my exhibition, however.

My installation is based on sketches and watercolours I made of the works of Renaissance and Baroque artists. My aim is a combination in which the elements and painterly gestures of historical painting mix to become a 21st century whole.

Helsinki 31 July 2013

Juha Okko

Visual artist Juha Okko (b. 1963) has exhibited his work in 28 solo exhibitions since 1988, and he has also participated in several joint and group exhibitions in Finland and internationally. He typically build installations from acrylic and oil paintings, combining them with temporary paintings on walls and windows.

From 16 June to 1 September, he will participate in the OpenArt 2013 exhibition in Örebro, Sweden, with a yoghurt painting covering more than 60 square metres.