Time melted and reformed
I have always been deeply drawn to the artists of the Renaissance – Leonardo and Michelangelo, Raphael and Correggio, Giorgione and Titian. I admire their use of colour and composition. I love their choice and treatment of subject matter. The “rules” they laid down then are still relevant today.
Time has of course, affected these works, but for me, it has enhanced them. From scratched and cracked textures to under-painted layers re-surfacing, the erosion of the years adds new and alluring depths of meaning. Some paintings have been almost “destroyed” from decay and yet for me, they have evolved into new and beautiful forms which have a fresh power to touch the viewer, often in a mystical way. I am fascinated how time, gravity, light, air, movement can cause these changes.
When I look at a painting, it’s always the smallest details that draw me. The “ravages of time” in just one single part of one single painting can be overwhelming. It could be a part of a beautiful body that has decayed beautifully. It could be a tiny piece of arcane symbolism that has faded from view. It could be a tiny figure re-emerging from an earlier work. Sometimes, it may simply be how the interior light reflects on the crazed varnish.
The subject matter of the paintings is also always deeply significant whether it depicts the Passion of Christ or the vanities of a long dead nobleman. These subjects have also been eroded, melted, shaped and reformed by Time. Whatever they once were and more importantly, what they have become, means they still have the power to move. Whoever is depicted, from saints to popes to dukes, and whatever the story are being told, from sacrifice and salvation to battles and glory, their power cannot be ignored even if the facts are lost. Paradoxically, the ongoing process of time and decay both diminishes and strengthens the paintings’ potency.
I begin by photographing a simple detail – a face, a hand gesture, a symbol – which has been “shaped” over the years. This will form the focal point for the work. I then build up and mix in multiple images from different artists adding details from other works which I have captured over the years.
Next, I digitally “collage” these elements and transfer them onto canvas using different media such as print, paint and pencil. This is the most challenging but most rewarding stage. It’s impossible to know whether the transfer will succeed and how much of the original image will be remain. Sometimes, the transfer gets completely lost and yet, even when this happens, I sometimes take these new images and textures and work with them. After all, this too is merely a continuation of the artwork’s evolution.
Finally, after the image is transferred, I start painting. I use layers of gesso, acrylic paint, printer ink, spray paint and different glazes – matte, satin, gloss – all of which play an important role in my work. I paint, draw, sand, scratch and stencil. I may photograph the picture again. I may digitally modify it and transfer it back to the canvas and do so several times.
This is a completely spontaneous process. I make no preliminary sketches. I follow no preconceived directions. Art evolves over time in random ways - sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic. The essence of this melting and reformation is at the heart of my work. Where it is today may change tomorrow. But then, that’s the effect of Time’s endless melting and reforming.
Illuminating, irreverent but always arresting, Jukka Kettunen is an artist who pushes the boundaries of paint and print to create new meaning from old masterpieces. The great paintings of the Italian renaissance are his primary inspiration.
What fascinates him most about this ethereal and timeless art however, is the way that Time itself has worked and reworked it over the centuries to give it a deeper and more enigmatic power. Decay, fracturing and fading is a creative force that paradoxically both diminishes and strengthens the painting. And Kettunen’s work pushes this idea to the extreme. Capturing photographically a key element from a carefully chosen work - the face of a praying saint or the figure of a defiant queen – Kettunen builds in elements from other artworks before transferring this collage to canvas where he begins “painting”. (By “painting”, he means working it with a multitude of media adding pigment, ink, pencil, glazes as well as scratching, sanding, stencilling.)
Nothing is pre-planned; everything is spontaneous. Some parts are enhanced, other parts are obscured in the same way as gravity, air, movement, chemical compounds (better known as the ravages of Time) randomly change, evolve, remodel a painting. The result is an ethereal re-imagining of an object of beauty into another object of beauty. Alongside the original connotations and those altered by Time and circumstance come a host of fresh associations, interpretations and possible meanings. Kettunen’s beautiful work adds new depths to things which are at once familiar and also beguilingly unfamiliar. They gently ask to be looked at in the new light of a new age
Professor of Psychology, University of Helsinki, Finland, Columnist for FinnishNews
How easy it is for us to imagine the future, recall the past and even imagine the future past awaiting us around the corner! But trying to see the past and present together, simultaneously, makes us puzzled; it is a rare pleasure we sometimes enjoy in everyday life when observing and touching retro style objects or other mixtures of artistic style. This is where the multi-layered art and paintings by Jukka Kettunen invite us to access the world of artistic time and space, to immerse into the collages of time and to see beyond the canvas.
In his “Time melted and reformed” series of artworks Jukka can use classic figural postures and artistic symbols from the past, and overlay them with the forms and views of the present. Scenes emerge where the characters talk to us viewers, of our classic historical past and personal present in harmony, mixed together. Now we can see and experience time, not as a passing moment, but as a collage of past and present living side by side, perceptually interacting and entangled. We see and feel them together, focus on past or present or on both as we like and move in time, without an effort.
The collages of time create tension between the characters or the scenes of the past and now and this is where the viewers will find their personal ways to face and sense these tensions. While it is no news that we all perceive and feel our own, personal realities of the present we also do so about our human and collective-historical past. Because of this, the works of Jukka Kettunen come to us in our present time while preparing us for the potential to experience these collages, past and present alike and keep us curious, to look again.
As it often happens in novel arts, music and even culinary life, a creative combination of elements that we usually meet in separation, invokes new experiences in our minds, something we have never experienced before even though the elements of our perceptions are familiar – but from separate corners of history and today. Looking at Jukka’s works we become aware of the importance to separate perception from experience: while it is easy to perceive and recognize the singular elements of time in Jukka’s artworks, the experiences they evoke when appearing together, will live in our minds only if we dwell into their worlds and forget about the problems of combining past and present. Then we can experience time in a novel way, not as a linear one-moment-at-a-time, but as a parallel constellation of times, futures and past together We can move as we like within the materials and fly in times and their historical spaces opened to us.
In some of Jukka’s works the included figures with classic, historical appearances and background carry the whole work, with its whole content to the present time. Sometimes the emerging human gestures and facial expressions and features make a character of the present to move to the past and in doing so, taking us to their historical worlds for us to see with our modern eyes. Viewing these works we become true time travelers.
What is this world of past and present, the time collage, that Jukka offers for us to see and experience? It is a mystery where future, past and present are beautifully mixed like in an unusual but delicious culinary sensation where time has no walls.
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