• Kaija Mäenpää: Meditation on Sublime, 2019, 175x350cm, öljy kankaalle
  • Kaija Mäenpää: At the Threshold of the Sublime, 2021-2023, 175x480cm, öljy kankaalle
  • Kaija Mäenpää, 2 kuvaa sarjasta Sedimented Time: Autobiographical Reflection on Temporality of the Room (2014–2015)
  • Kaija Mäenpää, Meditation on the Sublime, 2019

Kaija Mäenpää

Meditation on the Sublime

Huuto III 28.9.-22.10.2023

Kaija Mäenpää
Meditation on the Sublime

The three-dimensional cupboard-like structure of my paintings creates a transitional space where I highlight the processes of existence. In this exhibition, I examine the architecture of the sublime, the creation of an experience that questions familiarity and manageability. The work process started in 2019 when I was in Åland and explored medieval stone churches and their “miniature chapels”, winged altarpieces. The following situation is repeated in my paintings – I walk in a space and switch my focus from the horizontal to the vertical, up towards the vault space, the infinity of the cosmos and light. A winged painting is like an enlarged threshold or gate, a place where experiences of limitedness and unlimitedness are simultaneous and where the subject encounters something undefined or absent. The very structure of my paintings involves meditating on the meanings of the sublime.

A large three-dimensional winged painting is different from a traditional two-dimensional painting, like a room, and it allows one to experience the sublime in the absence of the work itself. A part of the work is always hidden from the viewer, and the work cannot be seen as a whole. The work also prevents a traditional way of looking at a painting, creating a space for physical encounters, being inside a painting and going around it. Together the hinged doors and the motifs create a field of meanings. The doors also serve as book pages. While turning the pages of medieval manuscripts, I have encountered something intriguingly strange: the fragments of writing, just like images, can be seen dimly on the other side of the page.

In a more general sense, a winged painting creates a space for encountering the “other” and dismantling the limited self. At the core of the work At the Threshold of the Sublime (2021–2023), there is a vault with a slowly changing color as if thin time rippling through it, an endless performance, like a gaze being approached. Or perhaps the sublime is created on the other side of the work, where the fragments visible on the dark surfaces are replaced by wounds, bandaged hands that always exist somewhere in the world. This path is just a part, like memory, revealing less than what its bottomlessness hides. As Baldine Saint Girons writes about the sublime in contemporary art: if the indescribable obliges one to be aware of the wound and loss – instead of seeing ourselves in art – we expose ourselves to the “other.”

In the exhibition, the large paintings are accompanied by self-portrait photographs from the series Sedimented Time: Autobiographical Reflection on Temporality of the Room (2014–2015). The series of photographs examines the temporal nature of space and experiencing the bottomlessness of memory, then returning to what is happening in the room – the relationship between the person in the room and the photographic portrait hanging on the wall. The photographs also refer to the spatial event related to the paintings: the figures in the paintings can be seen as reflections of the person moving around the work.

Kaija Mäenpää

Visual artist Kaija Mäenpää (b. 1960, Helsinki) lives and works in Helsinki. She graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in 1989 and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1998. She also has a Master of Arts degree from the University of Helsinki. Since 1988, Mäenpää has taken part in joint exhibitions and held solo exhibitions, for example at Taidesalonki and Galleria G in Helsinki and at Stora Galleriet / Konstnärshuset in Stockholm. Her works are included in the collections of HAM Helsinki Art Museum, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation.

Thank you
Åland Cultural Delegation
Arts Promotion Centre

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