The paintings of the Berlin-based artist Olli Piippo play both with decoration and pornography. The artist hold his first exhibition in Norway at Galleri Blunk this week end. Hjørdis-Linnea Myhre asked him some questions about his artistry.
HLM: Could you tell a bit about your background, and about what interests and/or inspires you in your work?
OP: So, I’m Finnish, born and raised there. I got into art through music. From teenage years I used to play in different bands and groups, from punk to jazz and back. I was supposed to make my living with composing and playing the saxophone, but slowly I moved into the direction of sound art and moving image, and thats when I went to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki. After a couple of years I realized that all my favorite artists actually are painters. So it was quite natural for me to shift from “socket art” to the world of matter. I still do get inspired by music, and one of my secret reason for why I changed from making music to paintings, was that I could listen to music while painting. But the inspiration for my works can come from anywhere, whether it be pornography or poetry, or for example, the works that I’m showing now at Galleri Blunk, are inspired by the ornaments of different cultures and a trip to Morocco that I made recently.
Nowadays I work as some kind of a triple agent. I live and work as an artist in Berlin, for six years now. I’m also a part owner and work in the board of a gallery in Finland. Last but not least, I work as a curator in a group called Black Market, which collaborate with both established and freelance artists. Black Marked come in from the far left and “push their goods” to the market, disregarding the tendencies, trends and the established methods of the art market. That´s to say, their works are distributed in an unaccepted manner in relation to the commercial art market.
HLM: Some of your paintings show strongly sexual images. How would you define the way you use sexuality/pornography in your paintings?
OP: Well, my background is from abstract painting, and I still approach my works strongly from the abstract aspect, even though the paintings have figurative motives. The pornographic series I made for the show in Galleri Suvi Lehtinen in Berlin, was actually the first show where I exhibited figurative painting. I wanted to add the figurative motifs to my abstract tool box, so to speak. My goal was to expand abstract, so that I could freely paint what ever i wanted. As I said, this was my first move towards figurative, so I also wanted to make the point quite clear; to show that the image or figure is subordinate to painting. Meaning, that actually the most important thing in my pictures, is the way they are painted, and the motif works as some kind of a fuel, and what better fuel than pornography, simply hedonist and strong, which for sure raises questions and feelings in everybody. One of my guidelines of the exhibition was “if one gets aroused by my paintings, then I haven’t painted them well enough”.
HLM: In the press release for the upcoming exhibition at Blunk, your work is described as related to decoration. How would you define this relation, and how do you view the art/decoration dichotomy today?
OP: The figurative material that I use on the paintings is usually merely my own fetish, or simply just “a few of my favorite things”. The reason why I’m working with motives that seem to be decorative are based on the same reasons for painting the pornographic imagery. The show at Blunk is composed with works where I’m using ornament as the starting point, or as the motif, if you like. Ornaments are some kind of an abstract or empty figure. I go from fully loaded to completely empty, which underlines the function of a picture in my paintings. It creates a certain kind of tension within the paintings when the image is clearly empty or totally full of meanings. When that is done and taken care of, I can forget the picture in order to focus deliberately on the fundamental principles of painting. I myself don’t see any problem in combining decorative touch and art. It fascinates me to deal with such topics that raise questions like; can this be art? Or is it within the accepted taste to use this imagery. I serve it to the viewer on a silver plate, so it can easily be seen that the whole question of its relevance begins to look quite foolish.
To conclude I’ll borrow the words of Mika Hannula, from a text he wrote about my works:
“It is the act of double or nothing. The song says it the most effectively: should I stay or should I go? It is an unfortunate juxtaposition, because the heartfelt answer, in the case of Olli Piippo’s paintings is always this: you take and you do both. Both. You stay, and you try to get away – just in order to keep on keeping on in the acts of push and pull. The abstraction of the signs and their signals is to be respected, but the message it sends, the routes it takes from its abstraction are no longer to be guarded or even protected. The point being: these paintings land on their feet – with their feet running in contrapunctual connection and confrontation with our particular wishes and wants, needs and necessities.”