Olli Piippo – Huhu

JAN 31 - FEB 24, 2013

CV Olli Piippo


Sweet and Tender Hooligan

Decoration is a sin. It is not permitted, not tolerated. All traces of the decorative touch are eternally on the top of the list of no-nos, to be avoided fundamentally, positively and totally.

Or are they?

What if traces of the decorative touch – what if they are like that original notion of a sin? Not completely commodified fetish objects, but an open-ended conflictual process that seeks chances and challenges, confrontations and collisions? Touches and traces that have re-generated, re-won, re-actualized their inherent elements of surprise, their sense and sensuality, which cannot be reduced to just a flat, sorry, sordid image?

In the works of Olli Piippo, the decorative mode and mood is strongly present. To be precise: it’s thrown straight in our face. With no mercy and no apologies, they do exactly what should not be done, but not with any kind of annoying, violent frenzy, or an outburst of aggression. These paintings talk to us, they take us for a ride with full and beautiful persuasion that has a name: seduction.

The notions, in and through emotions and motions, used in these acts of seduction are as simple as they are effective. What’s more, and what’s the very point of this particular strategy of a seduction, is that it is done with the inherent means of the act of painting. They are works of art that painstakingly claim to be nothing more and nothing less than paintings.

It is, oh yes it is, the original sin, and the promise, of the act of painting. It is like the horror and pleasure of the white A4 page, or an empty stage, or a stadium – waiting for something to fill the frame: sites and situations that are wanting and anticipating – something is just about to happen, but what and how is yet unknown. With Piippo, this play, this exchange between expectation and experience, the act of telling the tale and spinning of the web, is done with the means and methods of abstract touch and trace. It is an act of a painting that begins with abstraction and stays true to its roots. There is nothing in itself outside of the painting. But the routes it takes, individually in each singularity of a work, reaches out and touches – the world out there, within which we watch, react and relate to and with it.

It is a double or nothing act. The song says it the most effectively: should I stay or should I go?

It is an unfortunate juxtaposition, because the heart-felt 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 respected, but the message it sends, the routes it takes from its abstraction, are no longer to be guarded or even protected. The point is this: these paintings land on their feet – with their feet running in contrapuntal connection and confrontation with our particular wishes and wants, needs and necessities.

We are pushed, and we are pulled. With tender touches and traces. Like with the current series called HUHU (Finnish for ‘rumour’), we get one and we get many, a single work and the whole – a careless whisper of a temptation and a full wall of works, like an overflow of a yellow sea.

The numbers in this new series are telling. It is not a series of ten, or of 30 works. It reaches out towards the one hundred mark, not yet arriving at it.

It is a game between the whole and the individual, where the figures and visual images used by Piippo – ranging from deliberately banal versions of a boat to a mountain, and coming back with flowers or bees – become what they are through releasing their expected content and turning into abstract notions, like empty carriers of meanings. But it is an emptiness that gains its newly developed, newly won property and power as a painting. And it is a route from an image that needs to be worked through and through, emptied of its denotative meanings so that it can reach out and become a paradoxically full and intensified element in a work of painting. It is a difference – from something general towards something specific – that underlines and actualizes what is the potential inherent value and content of a painterly process.

These paintings gain their momentum through the process of repetition. Or, not to put too fine point to it: a ruthless repetition. The rules of the procedure stay the same: the almost over-done simplicity of the act, and the ongoing repetitions in terms of the chosen theme and its realization. But what happens within the act of coherent and continuous repetition is the act that flirts and mimics – it makes fun of itself, and it invites us to laugh with the process. The act is devoted to its rather cocky but pleasant coquetting attitude, its hinted potentialities of lazy Sundays and hyper-active Monday afternoons spent … together – somewhere, somehow and someday.

With the simplicity and the repetition, what we gain is the unique sensibility of the time of the painting. It is a time that is constantly a little ahead and a little behind, a little off and too much pressing on, boiling over and freezing over – a time of pleasure produced and provided by the touch and traces of a sweet and tender hooligan.

Mika Hannula