Human family relationships are the focal theme of Riikka Lenkkeri´s works. Lenkkeri paints people close to her in a way that blurs the boundary between personal and public portraiture. She produces large-scale group portraits and captures the individuality of her models in a way that meets all the criteria of good formal portrait painting. At the same time, though, she draws on her models to make her paintings into personal portraits, elevating their personal aspects to the public view.
The large size and realism of her works heighten their documentary effect. Lenkkeri depicts Finnish everyday life - the life of the ordinary, average Finn who buys their clothes from supermarkets. The contrast between subject and style is unique. Her use of colour and brush is a nod to old Italian painting tradition and is reminiscent of, for example, royal portraits of the 1600s, with life breathed into the canvas through the use of thick colours and broad strokes. While the bulk of contemporary painting aiming for realistic representation strives for the smooth, controlled style inherited from academic salon painting, Lenkkeri´s works, in contrast, feature deliciously applied masses of colour. The material illusion is not based merely on the surface, but on a genuine material feel created with colours. Stepping back from the canvas, it is astonishing how real Lenkkeri makes, for example, a shell suit top, appear
Dad and I, oil on canvas, 200 x 150 cm, 2009-2010, Helsinki Art Museum.