Elina Merenmies: Secret Joy

Helsingin Taidehalli 21.1.–4.3.2012

The horrible and the comical merge in the works of Elina Merenmies.

The works of Elina Merenmies tell fascinating stories about the world, showing how everyday things can become channels leading into the wildest visions of the imagination. With their unique blend of humour, surprise, belief and wonder, the works ensure Merenmies a place among the most original artists in Finland today. The exhibition will open in Kunsthalle Helsinki on 21 January 2012.

Secret Joy at Kunsthalle Helsinki is the most extensive solo exhibition of Elina Merenmies to date in Finland. It includes more than 80 works from the early stages of Merenmies’ career in the late 1980s, as well as her latest pieces, such as paintings featuring a rich palette. The exhibition also includes a unique painting installation which represents a fresh departure for the artist. Paying homage to the architecture and classical galleries of the Kunsthalle building, the total work of art combines the artist’s existing paintings with a piece painted on the gallery wall.

According to Merenmies, the title of the exhibition, Secret Joy, is a reference to how things happen in works of art which are surprising even to the artist herself, and lead to the discovery of beauty in unexpected places. “The works of Elina Merenmies most often make the viewer conscious of beauty in horror, or the dignity of the victim,” writes Juha-Heikki Tihinen in the exhibition catalogue.

Works by Elina Merenmies are eminently recognisable, like old acquaintances. The artist’s interest in the tradition of expressive art, outsider art and old Flemish painting are apparent in her paintings as well as her works on paper.

In the catalogue, Antti Nylén describes Merenmies’ art: “I see a kind of ‘path of development’ from metaphysical horror of the early works of the 1990s – Birds, Worm and Bees – through Facts of Life and a few Teddy bear motifs to the most recent ink drawings, in which the horror has abated and there is physical peace; flesh is now contemplated without revulsion, peacefully, as it is (Hair, White Phosphorus…). Ugliness stops being ugly when one has the courage to look at it. It receives grace. We are indeed allowed be twisted, leaking, bulging and so on…”

Elina Merenmies is a Helsinki-based artist who graduated with a Master’s degree from the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts in 1999. She also studied at the Drawing Department of the University of Helsinki in 1987, at the Institut de Saint-Luc in Brussels from 1988–1989, and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague from 1991–1992. She has work in key museum collections in Finland, and also in many museum and private collections abroad. Elina Merenmies was an Ars Fennica nominee in 2007, and she has been a member of the Ars Fennica prize committee since 2009. Merenmies was awarded the William Thuring Prize in 2009, and the Stina Krook Prize in 2010.

The exhibition is produced by the Finnish Art Society, and it is curated by Juha-Heikki Tihinen, PhD. The exhibition is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated exhibition catalogue with essays by the curator of the exhibition, Juha-Heikki Tihinen, and the essayist Antti Nylén. The book also has an interview with Elina Merenmies by Martti Anhava in which the artist opens up new perspectives on the background of her work.

Elina Merenmies: Etre vivant, 2009

Elina Merenmies: Etre vivant, 2009