Summary of akvarellen 3/2012

Nándor Mikola, 27.11.1911 – 3.5-2006
by Bo Sundström

Nándor Mikola was born in Hungary where he was trained as a litographer besides attending the Budapest Art Academy. In 1936 he moved to Finland to help decorate a Hungarian restaurant in Helsingfors. He stayed on and his big breakthrough came in 1953 at the Strindberg Art Salon in Helsingfors. He was a passionate lover of nature and besides observing the natural surroundings as painting subjects he would often go outdoors (by the beach or in a canoe), and he even made a number of films trying to convey to the audience his own love of nature and folklore. He experimented with many techniques, but always returned to watercolour. In time he freed himself of the subject and simplified the images to an abstract form with merely light and shadow along with the rhythm and the tone of the colours. Though very attached to Finland, his new home country, he travelled a lot in Europe and the Far East. He was greatly moved by the French painter, Georges Rouault, who used black outlines and painted very dark watercolours, but he also found the characteristics of Japanese and Chinese art very inspirational. He has often been referred to as the "Father of Finnish Watercolour" and in 1979 he was appointed professor. He found it important to paint every single day, he taught numerous pupils, had many exhibits and there are at least three mono-biographies published with his watercolour works. The Professor Nándor Mikola Art Foundation was established in 1991.

 

Ia Säflund
by Jacqueline Stare

As a child and a teenager Ia Säflund was often taken to museums and other interesting places by her grandmother. In addition to that she loved to read, and early on she started to copy drawings from fairy-tale books illustrated by Elsa Beskow (1874-1953) and John Bauer (1882-1918). Once she had children of her own, her interest of fairy-tale illustrations rekindled. After having finished art school she began working as an illustrator and she has also been teaching acrylic painting for many years. As an illustrator she often works in small formats and that fact is reflected in her watercolours. The largest are about 35x26 cm. Only quite recently has she stepped up to larger sizes. In 2011 she saw the works of Emil Nolde (1867-1956) at the Nordic Watercolour Museum, and they made a great impression on her. She took up painting on thin Japanese paper in a new and unconventional way. Her first step towards using more striking colours was taken in 2006 during a travel to India, where the encounter with the bright colours of the country left a deep impression. She uses watercolour with gouache, primarily white bodycolour, and she also mixes watercolour with wax or ink. She finds inspiration in Chinese and Japanese ink drawing and has made many ink drawings in her time. She admires artists like Anders Zorn (1860-1920), J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851) and the lesser-known Swedish painter, Egron Lundgren (1815-75), whose Indian watercolours she finds very fascinating.
Teaching has always been very rewarding to her. She thoroughly enjoys the task of conveying basic skills and information to her pupils, but she also finds it essential to stay curious and open-minded to be a successful tutor. Nobody ever gets "full-fledged" as a watercolour artist, since the medium has such a mind of its own, but Ia Säflund finds it important to stay true to herself while still finding new ways of experimenting.

 

Torbjörn Svanström
by Jacqueline Stare

One of Torbjörn Svanström's primary inspirational sources is nature, and he often paints outdoors to be able to catch the light and the changing expressions of the seasons. Among his favourite objects are the trunks and branches of trees as well as poppies. He is intrigued by the beauty of the flowers in contrast to their connection with drug dealing, abuse - and medicine, since they are the source of opium. For many years he worked as an illustrator for the Femina magazine and as an art director. At the end of the 1980s he decided to spend more time painting and teaching. He teaches his pupils that drawing skills and knowledge of composition are essential for all who aim at expressing themselves. It is no use to try the short-cut. Any lack of basic knowledge and training will catch up with you sooner or later, whether your works are realistic or abstract. Life drawing is a perfect way of keeping up your skills, and for the moment Torbjörn Svanström uses a method where he lays down the basic form with black Chinese ink before adding the finer lines of the figure. He is very quick when depicting models – under one minute per position. For the longer positions (say 5 minutes) he will use most of the time just looking at the model and then finally capture the position very quickly. When he wants to produce more copies of a certain image he will sometimes choose to work with watercoloured etchings or litographic prints. He has found a printing company that can provide the old-fashioned techniques and where he is able to control and work with the whole process himself. He seems to have found a lifestyle that suits him perfectly, where he can immerse in his own creativity in various ways, travel in Sweden and abroad, teach, and get response from his audience at exhibitions.

 

Marie Gauthier
by Jacqueline Stare

Marie Gauthier learned watercolour painting at the Gerlesborg School and from the 1990s she was part of the group that traveled with Arne Isacsson to France to paint. She has painted watercolour for about 35 years, full-time for the last 15 years. Since her debut in 1989 she has been very busy exhibiting (40 solo shows, a juried exhibition and numerous Swedish and international group exhibitions). She paints using pure watercolour – no mixed media, but she never tires of the watercolour technique. In her paintings the colours flow and there are strong contrasts between light and dark. Most of her paintings are landscapes - never from photos, but from her memories. Her landscape paintings tend to become abstractions, they are inner visions of her experience and memory, stripped of excess details. For Marie Gauthier it is very important to find the continuity and rhythm of the painting. This is a technical as well as a mental process and paramount for her joy of painting. It isn't enough for her to paint pretty pictures – there must be some substance – a meaning behind the painting that can connect the artist and the viewer. The constant challenge of the media ensures that she never tires of being a watercolour artist

 

Therese Szatek
by Håkan Bull

Suburbian environments are represented in much of Therese Szatek's art - not that the idea is to portray the suburbs as such, but her paintings and drawings of seemingly normal and everyday objects and buildings evoke some uneasiness. Even though the works seem to be based on the visible reality of daily life, the extreme details and the unusual compositions make the images more than realistic, surreal so to speak. I come to think of the concept of "defamiliarization" expressed by the Russian writer Viktor Sjklovskij in 1917: The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects "unfamiliar". This theory influenced the modern avant-garde during the 20th century, especially the surrealism in arts which I connect to Therese Szatek. Her images become psychological pictures, inner visions of dreams as much as depictions of an exterior reality. Regardless of technique, Therese Szatek creates "slow art". The clarity she seeks in the images requires a laborious way of working: the drawings, which often are quite large, are comprised of small lines using quite hard pencils. Slowly she brings forth colour and darkness from the white sheet of paper. With watercolour she works in the same manner: slowly adding small areas of colour, often using dry-brush. Even though she suffers from fear of the empty paper, she is not dogmatic when it comes to watercolour techniques. She will use whichever technique she pleases in a manner that will give her the desired effect. She is currently working with watercolour collages. She has previously made graphic collages, so it seems like a logical step. The first works are ready: various details of chair legs and their shadows in different positions - united in a struggle between the pattern effect and realism. It will be interesting to see the continuation.

 

Maj Simons
by Jacqueline Stare

Some years ago Maj Simons was asked at an art class to send in one picture to illustrate the first five years of her childhood. A single picture was impossible for her to pin out – the memories came flooding back to her: happiness, sorrow, war, peace. In time she had created around 60 watercolours (10x15 cm) all accompanied by short texts. These are now published in the book "Minnesbilder – från en krigstida barndom" (Memories of a childhood during wartime). Maj Simons (born 1939) is at the same time describing the child she was then and the adult woman she is now. I found the book very captivating and it probably will have the same effect on others of my generation born around 1930-40, but it should be equally appealing to readers of all ages.