Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Kirsi Mikkola

Berlin-based Kirsi Mikkola’s first solo show, FLEX, at Sue Scott Gallery features multi-layered abstract paintings-cum-collages. Ranging in small to extra-large, these works take the artist a year to complete. Each piece speaks to one another and the viewer in language both compact and stuttering by way of using thin reeds of painted paper; and wide and expansive, covering larger areas with inspired color, coils and lengths. Peppered throughout are hand-rendered scrawls and scratches as well as found scraps which create a small/large contrast. There’s focus and energy in the work, but only in the context of the artist truly understanding the materials, spending time with each element. Mikkola’s obsessive paper cutting and design gives way to the beaten paper she uses as the surface, creating a scene of use and disuse but balance all the time.
Memory is all in these pieces employing a focused build up of stacked matchstick paper, as well as what Mikkola has chosen to leave behind. What she leaves behind, however, is vibrant and still untouched. Her oscillating use of color is striking. The smaller pieces tend to be louder in vibrancy, while the larger have a calm neutrality that give the pieces their broad expanse, while at the same time showcasing the laborious layering technique. She is creating worlds here with a build up of materials designed to pull the viewer out of their own space and into her ad hoc landscape.


  1. I agree, "She is creating worlds with a build up of materials". Mikkola's seemingly infinite layers give the impression of much more depth than is actually there. I found it striking that her use of simple, traditional materials resulted in a futuristic feel. The smaller pieces gave the impression of a 3-D computer rendering of an imagined environment. The collage elements were less refined in her large pieces, and as a result, did not give the same sense of place creation. As a viewer, I could get lost staring into the small-scale pieces.

  2. There is something about the artist's meticulous creation process that really enhances these works for me. Despite the almost chaotic overlay of each strand of cut paper, the final products convey the long, slow procedure that the artist went through in order to assemble each piece. When considering the devotion and care that must have gone into the production of the works, the viewer can glean a bit of the zen-like, meditative mood that must have allowed the artist to create the pieces over a period of years. I like that you acknowledge the focus and energy that the artist gave to the works in what you accurately describe as her "laborious layering technique", a method which could have potentially resulted in a frenzied mess of colors and lines, but instead actually furthers the balance and tranquility of these elaborate paper constructions.

  3. Your review of Kirsi Mikkola is dead on. I agree completely that the work has focus and energy, and also a strong sense of ballance.
    At the end of the second paragraph you mention that the collages create an "ad hoc landscape."
    I think that bringing in this observation earlier in your critique would be helpful, especially when talking about Mikkola's design and how it creates "use and disuse."
    Also, the last part of the sentance "Scarps which create small/large contrast" seems awkward, though your intent is evident.
    The stutter of her work is an important thing to mention, I agree.