ART should confront people in everyday life and not only be confined to museums and galleries, says Maiju Tirri, whose sprawling canvases are creating a new talking point aboard Gibraltar’s swanky yacht hotel.
“The average person spends 17 seconds looking at an art piece in a museum,” says the striking blonde artist whose work has been chosen to inaugurate Sunborn’s new Go Culture series of twice-yearly art exhibitions. “To understand art it requires time to check every detail and the story behind the painting.”
We’re seated under a canopy on the roof deck of the hotel’s elegant seventh-floor restaurant, which showcases several pieces from her collection. She calls it ‘a kind-of experiment’ to see if people can gain ‘energy and happiness’ while being surrounded by art.
In a study by University College London, she tells me, researchers found that people exposed to artworks they considered to be the most beautiful registered a 10% increase in blood flow in a part of the brain which creates the same feeling as gazing at a loved one.
“Art is not supposed to give answers, it’s supposed to provoke questions,” she says.
“That’s why I don’t explain my pieces – I want the viewer to see themselves what they think.”
Contemporary art’s abstract nature forces spectators to view it more actively, arguably alienating those who prefer more easily-digestible figurative compositions.
Exhibiting on Sunborn opens up the genre to a wider audience by offering it to the general public.
Maiju uses the ancient technique of gessoing her canvases to create tactile textures but you don’t need to be an art snob to appreciate them. It’s not about knowing the intricacies and history of the genre. It’s about how it makes you feel, she assures me.
“Of course I would like viewers to feel joy and happiness and relaxation from viewing my work, but they get their own personal reaction from their own history – their memories and early experiences.
“The emotion that comes from the painting is either positive or negative – I hope it’s not neutral, though!” she continues.
“I hope that the viewer doesn’t walk away but asks more questions and goes deeper, asking themselves: Why do I like it? Why don’t I like it? What does it mean? Why do I interpret it in this way? What’s the link between the painting and the name?”
The theme of the exhibition is The Mystery of Life, with 20 pieces chosen from her portfolio of the last five years. Like all Maiju’s work, they are inspired by everlasting forces of nature like the sea.
“The sea is always there, it’s everywhere, but life is precious, short and delicate and it ends. And the question is why does it end and does it really end? And so there are a lot of emotions in the paintings.”
They are emotions like love and hope bearing names like I Do and Call it Sensation, expressed in startling monochrome or vivid bursts of colour.
“The Finnish winter is very grey and dark. There were times when I couldn’t even take a decent photo,” Maiju recalls, the Mediterranean sunshine reflecting off her glasses.
That’s one of the reasons she moved to Spain with her family six years ago.
“It has brought lots more colour into my work … turquoises, greens, pinks and different shades of red.”
“Gibraltar is a particular source of inspiration. Much of my work is affected by stones and the sea, and so I think people in Gibraltar will be able to relate to it, as it’s what they see in their daily environment.”
To create the highly-structured pieces, Maiju usually starts with a sketch before adding gesso – a paint mixture which creates the interesting textures characteristic of her work.
The pieces contain multiple layers which have to dry separately, so they take shape over a period of time.
“There are structures and layers in people and in feelings,” says Maiju.
“A boring person is like like a blank a4 piece of paper.”
“Then you add a story, emotions and creativity and then they become interesting.”
Maiju’s exhibition at the Sunborn runs until the end of summer.