Interview by Katja Räisänen | Copy Editor Matthew Jones | Photo Angel Gil, courtesy of Galerie Forsblom
Leena Nio in her studio, photograph by Katja Räisänen

Leena Nio’s new painting series, Missing Pieces, grows from the mixture of popular culture, kitsch and art history’s traditions. The Helsinki-based praised artist’s timely works are on view at Galerie Forsblom through February 5th. 

Puzzle motifs with flower still lifes, Johnny Depp’s brown eyes, pastoral landscapes and Hulk’s pose – Leena Nio’s new painting series, Missing Pieces, grows from the mixture of popular culture, kitsch and art history’s traditions. This series also explores the attribute of non finito – work intentionally left unfinished – an art history theme also dealt with recently at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible. The Helsinki-based praised artist’s timely works are on view at Galerie Forsblom through February 5th.

Leena Nio, MissinPieces; Farrah, 2016, Ink, watercolour on paper, 179 x 136 cm, Photographer Angel Gil
Leena Nio, Missing pieces; Ludvig; 2016, Watercolour on paper, 180,5 x 126 cm, Photographer Angel Gil

Ready or not

’Some of the artworks seem like they are becoming completed and some are unwinding. Could an apparently unfinished work be a finished painting?’ Leena says, reflecting on the idea of finished and unfinished images and paintings. Leaving something out, she points out, can change the story or emphasize some aspects. For example, emphasising Charlie’s Angel’s characteristic blow-dried hair or as in her portrait of Prince Ludvig XVII, leaving out the piece containing his heart alludes to his destiny.

Leena Nio, Transformation II, 2016-2017, Water-mixable oil on canvas, 210 x 190 cm, photographer Angel Gil

 

Leena Nio, Transformation III, 2016-2017, Water-mixable oil on canvas, 210 x 240 cm, photographer Angel Gil

Beauty and popular

’The motifs could be whatever, randomly selected themes’, says Leena and continues reflecting: ’I’ve been thinking a lot of beauty. Jigsaw puzzles are full of over aesthetic motifs and fantasies. Puzzles and needlepoint designs have given me permission to deal with these kinds of themes, that otherwise I would not necessarily dare to use. Also, I’ve been always very fascinated by juxtaposing different kind of images.’

Leena Nio, Missing Pieces; Hulk, 2016, Ink, watercolor on paper, 142 x 133 cm, Photographer Angel Gil

 

Leena Nio, Missing Pieces; Johnny, 2016, Ink, watercolor on paper, 174,8 x 134 cm, Photographer Angel Gil

Pastime, use of time

’I’m fascinated of the way we spend (leisure) time. When making puzzles, you are solving a problem by starting from the sides, or from certain details, like eyes. You can do it by yourself of with other people. When sewing a cross-stitch work, you work patiently by yourself, which resembles the process of painting. Also the idea of doing something ‘worthless’ that becomes, in the end, meaningful connects these three activities; puzzle making, sewing and painting. These leisure time activities, puzzles and needlepoint crafts, are not so common anymore. I remember my grandfather made needlepoint crafts and as a child, I did a lot of puzzles.’

Leena Nio’s studio, photograph by Katja Räisänen

Fascination to hard work and difficult techniques

Leena often employs very challenging and time-consuming painting techniques. She uses multiple layer techniques, peeling and adding, with sablons or different kind of utensils. She contemplates her relationship with painting techniques. ’For me the most rewarding thing is to make a painting technique work. I’m not motivated or excited enough if the technique is not challenging me.’

This is the first time Leena is showing also her aquarelles, as oil painting has been her medium for years. ’I’ve wasted 20 metres of paper when finding my way to paint with watercolours.’ Leena describes, ‘You have to think the opposite way when painting with watercolours, starting from light and going to dark areas, whereas with oil painting you start traditionally with dark areas.’ The new paintings are full of airiness and light. ‘You should see how many bottles of this mask glue I’ve used!’ the artist exclaims when explaining the technique of these new paintings.

For years Leena has built her paintings by creating layers, simultaneous realities and studying the relation between background and foreground. In this newest series she has used this mask glue, which insulates certain areas and is peeled of in the end of the painting process. This means she has to imagine the result while working since it will not be revealed until the end of the painting process. Consequently, the process becomes exciting and surprising, and to Leena, inspiring and very rewarding. ’I have to have a problem to solve’, she emphasizes. ‘Now I’m intrigued by the egg tempera medium, maybe I’ll try that next.’

Leena Nio, Missing Pieces, Jan 13 – Feb 5, 2017

Galerie Forsblom

Leena Nio’s studio, photograph by Katja Räisänen