Words by Katja Räisänen | Pictures by Angel Gil, courtesy of Galerie Forsblom

Heikki Marila’s recent exhibition at Galerie Forsblom was such a strong experience it calls for some reflecting afterwards. His breathtaking paintings manifest a forgotten, important and fragile era in Finnish history, the Civil War of 1918. With this series of paintings Heikki Marila, one of the most prominent contemporary Finnish painters, presents the viewer with the collective blurred memories and the hidden family tragedies. Heikki wants to bring up this period while we’re approaching the celebrations of  Finland’s 100-year independence.

Heikki Marila, Raikas, 2016, 200x185cm, oil and acrylic on canvas, photographer: Angel Gil, courtesy of Galerie Forsblom

He questions our ability to remember and wants to create and to disclose new fragments of the forgotten. The blurred black-and-white background refers to old photographs. Aggressively drawn red lines add emotion to the memories, filling the gaps in the story, making the memory sharper.

Heikki elaborates on his choice of colours: “Of course red as a colour has a strong symbolic meaning, it’s charged with a lot of emotion and drama..” He adds: “I had no political intention when choosing the colour red, but of course related images like propagandistic posters have affected my work in one way or another.” Red suggests contradicting symbolic meanings like love, passion, power as well as blood, violence, aggression and death. While gazing at the bursting paintings, it comes to mind that they contain all of those emotions and themes. “I instinctively chose red. I have also been thinking about whether one can express feelings by using lines, after all the line is often considered a very primitive element.”

Heikki Marila, Apokalypsis 1918, 6, 2016. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 210 x 250 cm, photographer: Angel Gil, courtesy of Galerie Forsblom

Heikki painted more than 70 works for the exhibition, and he developed the story during the exhibition like an opera with five acts – the installation changed every week. Some of the works were installed many times, some just once. By using the means of drama, Heikki gives a new meaning to painting: it seems as if the painting becomes an actor, with different roles in different scenes.

One can only wait impatiently to learn what to expect next. “I have a feeling I have to continue with this theme in one way or another,” says Heikki.