Tiina Mielonen: Trailer

Saara Hacklin
MA, Researcher in Aesthetics

The paintings of Tiina Mielonen float, shimmer and glow. Places and scenes that emerge from the plexiglass seem to draw from both familiar and abstract: fields of colour give birth to recognisable settings and yet, the next moment, it can all break apart into an abstraction. It is self evident that the nature of Mielonen's art is not easily covered, nor put down on paper. When thinking about her works, the sharpest impression lies in the importance of painting: Mielonen has a continuous drive for studying the possibilities of painting.

Second hand landscapes

Often the impulse for her paintings is found in postcards and travelling brochures. This second hand imagery of landscapes and tourist attractions has drawn Mielonen's attention for some years. Nevertheless, she does not see it as her primary task to explore the cultural history that the intriguing imagery brings out. For her the significance lies somewhere else. "The way the imagery moves between personal and popular fascinates me," she remarks. But for her, the main focus has always been in the painting itself, both in the act of painting and the result. However, in a curious way, thinking about the slightly banal point of departure – postcards – brings forth a setting that connects Mielonen with the traditional questions of painting. I am not so much referring to the classical repertoire of landscape that inhabits Mielonen’s paintings but more to the multi-layered play of perception that these paintings seem to incorporate.

Intersecting eyes

Somewhere in the beginning there is always a picture postcard, a scene caught by the photographer's trained eye. To us this card seems to be nothing out of ordinary, as the postcards, in their conventionality, often seem almost transparent, as though we are not looking at them at all. Nevertheless, there has been something particular in the card that caught the artist’s eye. Maybe the composition, a distinct colour perspective, or a weird detail? The postcard that serves as a point of departure for the painting is never preserved by it. On the contrary, the painting necessarily gives birth to something new. In it, we find the perception of the artist, a study of a particular feature of visibility. And then, in the final painting, all the previous perceptions are fused together with our gazes. The possibilities that Mielonen’s works open up are numerous. The feature brought up above is only a single point of view. Yet it seems essential to emphasize the problem of perception: The multi-layered perception contained in painting is made up of various layers of gazes, different ways of looking, tradition, and inevitably certain time-lapses in between. No wonder then, that when looking at her paintings, I often have a feeling that the painting is escaping from me. It's as if I am not quite able to look at it. Either way, I am pretty certain that this captivating effect is one of the reasons that make me look again.

Articulate finish

For Mielonen the use of plexiglass and the lack of hooks and frames are an essential choice, as the materiality is, too, playing with ambivalence. The gestures of the painter have to be well controlled and thought out, since the thin layers of colour dry quickly and the brushstrokes remain visible. “I use oil on plexiglass, because I like the way plexiglass catches the light and how it makes the colours look so disembodied.” Indeed, the way glass sets the colours alive is worth striving for – the subtle, immaterial feel of the paintings is born out of the glow of light. The artist admits that she is enticed by certain spontaneity or lightness: a painting is not supposed to embody artist’s skills, but a fortuitous painting should give air of contingency. All the same, Mielonen makes always plenty of sketches and a delicate plan, and prefers to complete a painting in one go, as the finish has to appear fresh. “Often when I am sketching, an accident occurs and that mistake starts to really inspire me.” This twofold idea of controlled chance or looseness seems to call up various different traditions, not the least Surrealist methods or Chinese calligraphy. And alike, her comments on intriguing forms and colours pull her towards modernism, too. “I think it is an interesting tradition. I love Mondrian, especially his Dune Landscapes.”

A suspense painting

The imagery Mielonen is processing varies. Quite frequently, though not always, her scenes are emptied of people, and the unoccupied spaces carry a peculiar ambience, as if we are in anticipation of something, possibly alarming. Yet this impression is rather strange, as one remembers the point of departure. We are talking about shared imagery of touristy bliss! Whatever happened to the picture postcards and brochures of wherever, that were meant to make us want to travel? “I’m fan of Hitchcock”, Mielonen comments casually. The scenes of valleys, bridges, riders, cars and trailers – all having a mobile feel in them – seem to bring fore contemporary landscape. Even though the choice of motifs does not add up into a single narrative, the fragmentary scenes, or episodes, appear to have something in common: certain suspense out of reality. It’s a trailer on the loose.