A conversation with Liisa Karintaus

Text written by
Gauthier Lesturgie

With an artist
Liisa Karintaus

At first glance, it feels uneasy to find a common logic within the eclectic production of Liisa Karintaus. Observing her use of the painting, digital tools and installations, one can notice that they all refers to an unfixed state. Her works lead us here and there towards a melancholy of oblivion.

Erasure, memory or recollection remain incomplete, fragmented. Despite Liisa Karintaus never wears the historian’s hat and avoid story-telling procedures, she feeds her visual project with the weakness of openwork histories. She investigates these several notions by juxtaposing personal narratives, ones borrowed from others or even the coldness of the digital world.

Even though we are not considering an autobiographical work, some figures in her paintings refer to precise individuals from her family. However, they all belong to a past out of reach from the artist. After all, it is not crucial if he or she refers to a specific individual or not, as they change into anonymous forms under Liisa Karintaus’ gestures, allowing multiple projections.

The portrait’s title I recall a soldier (2014) leads us on this path. The artist’s grandfather was a soldier, and even if he is not the one pictured here, the blurred unidentified silhouette works as a simulacra through which the artist can project her elder. During this process, a discourse regarding the picture itself is delivered : image as construction, as a frame to be filled.

These characters inhabiting Liisa’s paintings share often the same time frame : the World War II. Liisa Karintaus is born and lives in Rovaniemi, Lapland’s capital city, northern area of Finland which carry the deep scars of this war.

What we name «  The Lapland War » took place from September 1944 to April 1945, its main city, Rovaniemi, became the confrontations’ place between Germany and Soviet Union. Close to the Russian borders, the area was a strategic point. After the German’s requested it, The Finnish government allow their troops to settle in Rovaniemi, thus becoming one of the headquarter. Thereafter, Finland sign a treaty of peace with its Soviet neighbors, who ask them to remove the German troops from their territory. Inevitably, provoking violents complications : during the hostilities, 90% of the city is destroyed.

Liisa Karintaus found in her researches regarding the city’s history and complete destruction, a powerful and brutal illustration of the notion of erasure. A conception of the city constructed by several layers unveiling enduring stories on a territory, at once, geographic, urban and mental.

The artist found in the charcoal a highly symbolic tool. At once dreary and malleable, drawing with charcoal give the appearance of dreamed recollections or even spectres to the depicted figures. These movements and shadowy outlines mimic oblivion’s processes unavoidable to memory.

A first charcoal layer is drawn which has the specificity to be easily wiped away while leaving visible trails covered by the other layers appended on the canvas. The patterns are juxtaposed and mixed up in several stratum : visual incarnation of the memory selection and narrative systems.

From these recollections, Liisa add her contemporary world through the digital one. The Internet data’s ephemeral nature and instability translated through screens devices, are assimilated to her memory’s processes investigations, thus are understood as its digital representation.

In Dialog (2007-2009), the holographic shape of a little girl is being progressively built by the words « ignore / apply / save » : vernacular language of the computer softwares, these latest characterized and reduced our memory strategies and parameters.

Liisa Karintaus plays with these dichotomies and add solid and massive components to her intangible pictures. Materialization of the history as a fixed block even so in decay, be it the brick wall on which Dialog is shown or the wood bench on the top of which we sit to contemplate the currencies’ motions in By the ocean (2012).

Once again in 2013, the artist depicted a soldier (Soldier) but this time in several tiny paintings dots suspended by multiple threads, thus creating a floating mosaic. Mimicking the animation’s grid through painting, the artist illustrate the fragmentation process echoing the digital pixel world. It is a counterfeit of our memory operations.

From 2011, Liisa Karintaus explored the flowers still-life genre. Avoiding the precise replica of an original, she assimilated several copies in order to reproduce a composed recitation.

Powerful metaphor of the time passing, of the ephemeral, a time capture of a motionless form foreseeing its  degradation. The textures of these paintings,  sustain the movement illusion, the erosion cherished by the 16th century painters.

To perceive artist’s gestures is easy, underlying once again that every image is constructed. Thus, it is an entropic consideration of the matter. Entropy as information incompleteness, degeneration and transformation from which Liisa seeks a shaded sense of beauty.

Text by Gauthier Lesturgie

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