Riikka Lenkkeri – Afternoon at the Studio
Two years ago, Riikka Lenkkeri held her exhibition Työhuoneella – At the Studio at Galleria Saskia in Tampere. It was a thematically compact selection focusing on working with a model. She documented in her artworks the process of painting, her studio and her model. This exhibition at the Haihara Art Centre, Afternoon at the Studio, continues to delve into and expand the same themes.
The studio is Lenkkeri’s Room of Her Own. It is a space that exists for Lenkkeri herself, her work, expression, existence, and thought. By painting her studio in a room of her own, Lenkkeri creates a diary-like self-portrait. She creates an illusion that the viewer can peek into her space and her thoughts. Still, the self-portrait is just as consciously constructed as any published memoirs, where what is left untold is eventually more real than what is revealed.
Lenkkeri is more transparent than many of her colleagues, and this also comes across in the exhibition. It seems like she genuinely wants to document her studio. She sees the value of incompleteness and uncertainty, and wants to raise them as central themes of the exhibition.
Several paintings feature the artist’s long-term spouse, Sampsa Virkajärvi. He poses as a model for the artworks, which positions him as an object and the object of our gaze. This position is well known in art history. Through centuries, male artists have portrayed women like a beautiful chalice in the middle of a composition.
Lenkkeri’s paintings have this same sense of personal conquest, eroticism within the gaze and the audacity of a power position that we have seen from such painters as Albert Edelfelt.
However, Lenkkeri is unable to completely disarm her spouse. Virkajärvi is making notes of the painting process. The textual passages are like prose poems refined from diary entries, where the model has a voice of his own.
Virkajärvi makes an interesting point about the model eventually having more time to observe the artist than the artist her model. The artist has to focus more on the artistic result than the model posing for it.
In Lenkkeri’s studio, there are duvets and pillows, banal patterned sheets. The model is surrounded by the folds of a duvet with a clear connection to the ecstasy of baroque. In baroque art, the lavishness of the folds was directly related to the sacred connection. Despite their materiality, Lenkkeri’s folds create a type of halo around the model. Folds may also feature in her works without the model. Here, they act almost as references to presence, waiting or longing.
Afternoon at the Studio doesn’t only focus on the model. It is also an exhibition about the art of painting: about the painting as part of a space and its ability to create an illusion of space. Several pieces are paintings about the process of painting. The artwork’s motif may be a sketch, an unfinished painting or an almost blank canvas buried under all the material accumulated in the studio.
Greenery has featured in Lenkkeri’s paintings for a long time. Now, some paintings are abstracted to a nearly carpet-like foliage with only small references to the presence of humans. They are an important part of the hanging, creating into the winding rooms of the old manor an atmosphere modifying the spatial experience. The paintings aren’t subjugated by the walls, but they open new directions and points of view inside the space. The lush foliage is like the final version of A Room of One’s Own; it is not a dystopia, but a hopeful, vivid and growing vision.