Thursday, 25 March 2010

Hide and Seek

To the opening of an exhibition of works by my friend Sirpa Pajunen Moghissi (details here). The exhibition is called 'Hide and Seek', a title that at once invokes childhood. The central image, which reappears several times, is of a piano. The piano - or rather beneath the piano - was Sirpa's vantage point as a child, from which she observed her parents entertaining their VIP visitors (Sirpa's father was a very senior Finnish civil servant). These observations have now, decades later, been transformed into the paintings now on show.

There is nothing strident about these pictures. They are understated, as though memory was not entirely trustworthy. The many layers in most of them - a landscape overlaid with a wallpaper pattern overlaid with the filigree outlines of socialising guests, and finally the placing into the guests' hands of icons of childhood - suggest memory's shifting priorities, its power to form narratives out of the chaos of experience. Sirpa's colours, her palette, are fine, washed-out, restricted, blues and greys, touches of ochre, the occasional smudge of crimson or claret, again implying that perfect bright recall is beyond reach.

There are repeated themes - a sofa, a sailing boat rising or falling, a library, a lake, Sirpa's mother. These repetitions give the exhibition a sense of wholeness, as with a piece of music; they are variations on a theme. The pictures seem to talk to one another.

It is well worth mooching around them and allowing their gently insistent patterns to grow on you. They might take you back to your own childhood. If not, that's fine, stick with Sirpa's. but don't take it too literally.

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