Myths and mythological symbols touch our lives in ways that logic and reason cannot. Their function is to bring to waking consciousness an intuitive awareness of worlds beyond and beneath the scope of rational thought. This awareness can never be fully realized, only experienced vaguely through the merest traces, half-perceived images, suggestions and intimations. Even these experiences are enough, however, to make us yearn for communication and harmonious relationships with the eternal mysteries glimpsed through mythology. Earthly Earthlings is an exhibition of images which suggest this relationship between the conscious world and the mysterious world beyond normal consciousness.
Elina Tolonen's works are about our attempts at communication and harmony with 'other' worlds. They are about bringing disparate images, feelings and experiences together, so that the total effect is far more than just the sum of the parts. They do this by exploring what Carl Jung would refer to as archetypal images and symbols.
One of the most obvious references to this other world is made through the representation of light. Morning in a Wood shows the sun coming up as a large luminous disk behind some trees. As it rises the trees are illuminated and thrown into relief. Enlightenment seems to emerge out of the darkness, the pale glow and the circular shape of the sun suggesting eternal consciousness struggling into the darkness of the natural world of sky and trees. Lap of Earth shows a stand of trees rising up out of 'pools' of blue light. Again, there seems to be a sense of emergence from one level of consciousness to another as the 'heavenly' blue of the lakes float on the background formed by the red earth.
Midsummer Night combines light, darkness and dance. As in the famous Dance by Matisse, the figures here are transported by the movement of their dance. They are highlighted against the darkness of the night sky, as if in a stained glass window with light behind it. Dancing is always reminiscent of cosmic energy, an imitation of the divine rhythms of creation. Circular dances are re-enactments of the sun circling around the heavens and for this reason they often represent the encirclement of a sacred place. Again, earthly and spiritual dimensions are brought into relationship.
In a series of works entitled And Then There Were Two, embryonic forms generate typical 'twin' significances. In mythology, twins often represent the dualities of human nature, imaginative and intellectual, active and contemplative, extrovert and introvert. They are conceived together, and their activities represent the need for these two aspects of human nature to remain together throughout life. When twins fall out, as they often do, this represents their failure to stay together. In these images, one twin seems to be whispering secret messages to the other, as the two sides communicate. In the work entitled Before, the two forms embrace in pre-lapsarian innocence. In the After image, however, despite being bathed in a spiritual light, the two figures face away from each other. One carries what could be an apple, symbolizing the 'fall' from innocence and the estrangement from divine grace, which took place in the Garden of Eden.
Another image used by Tolonen, to convey a sense opposing elements engaging and disengaging, is that of the human face, especially when it takes on the appearance of a mask. Harmony shows what appears to be a happy couple. Their faces are so close together that the two eyes could belong to the one face. However, these eyes are larger than life, they are looking in different directions and the faces in general have a detached, mask-like quality. The graphic outlining also suggests the style of a religious icon. This detachment and other-worldliness gives the impression that the relationship between the two has the potential to transcend their physical existence but it is also fragile and vulnerable, in danger of being destroyed.
Friends, and Attenzione show human beings in harmony with one another. In Attenzione a small family group is enclosed in their love and care for each other. This love and care is symbolized by encircling lines and by a glowing light behind the figures. The shape of the hair suggests halos so that there is a reference to the holy family and to the possibility of earthly families sharing in their spirituality. In Morning at the Railway Station the figures are also placed within graphic, encircling lines, but this time the lines keep them apart. Each figure is enclosed in its own space, so that communication does not occur. When read as masks, the human faces in these works speak of the possibility of communication between the inner person and the external presentation of that person. They can, however also speak of the difficulties of such communication, and the possibility its failure.
Another image in Tolonen's exhibition to speak of harmony and communication is that of birds. In Life and Silence birds symbolize a relationship between the natural world, the human soul, and the spiritual dimension. Life shows a group of birds, each of which seems to be in harmony with the others. They are drawn so that the lines continue from one bird shape to another, connecting them to each other. Silence shows a single white bird looking towards a source of mysterious light. Birds, especially white ones, symbolize the human soul, and in this image, there is a strong feeling of harmony between the soul and the heavens beyond.
This particular image seems to encapsulate much of what Tolonen's work
is about. Most of it speaks of the possibility of communication between
the human world and the world beyond. Such communication, however, is extremely
fragile, and this is suggested by the whimsy and the sensitivity of the
Read Another Art Seen Home