Marja Pirilä’s atmospheric series “Like a Breath in Light” casts a spell on the viewer. The images present Finland’s lake Nässijärvi in the many moods of natural light. They can be seen as emotional landscapes, whose essence evokes memories of Caspar David Friedrich and the romantic idea that nature presents a mirror to the soul.
Clouds, water, and endless expanse – everything seems to blend, almost dissolve, into one another. The topographic features of the landscape recede and the image space is flooded with a light that shines, depending on the time of day, in glowing red, warm honey yellow or melancholy blue-violet. These emotionally-charged photographs, captured by the artist using a self-made pinhole camera, appear almost as abstract paintings. The monochrome aesthetic and the use of light as a distinct artistic tool lead to parallels with the Colour Field Painting of Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman.
Despite their art-historical allusions, Pirilä’s works are deeply personal. As we gaze upon the landscapes, we are invited to project our own interpretations, and to follow their mood in a meditative trance.
About the Artist
Finnish artist Marja Pirilä gained international recognition for her diverse use of the camera obscura, a tool she has applied to a range of different projects since the 1990s. The theme of her work is always light, whose multi-faceted forms and effects she explores artistically. Her influences include the oeuvre of Cuban photographer Abelardo Morell, who turns darkened rooms into cameras obscura – an approach Pirilä adopts and expands to the concept of mental landscapes in her series “Interior/Exterior”. To Pirilä, working with light also means working with the influence of light on people, on their emotions and their dreams.
Pirilä’s oeuvre is dedicated to the camera obscura and its miniature form - the pinhole camera. The artist explores the possibilities of the medium in her works, focusing her attention not only on the images she creates, but also on the construction of these viewing machines. Together with photographer Petri Nuutinen, Pirilä has built numerous cameras obscura, which can be found on display in both museums and public spaces.
The principles of optics, recognized since antiquity, served as an aid to the renaissance painters who sought to portray perspective. In 1826, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce produced the world’s very first photograph with the help of a camera obscura. As a metaphor for vision, this historical medium has lost none of its relevance, even in contemporary art. It allows artists to explore and experiment with human perception itself. Not least, this gentle, slowed-down method of image production serves as a counterbalance to the instant photography of the digital age.
|1957||Born in Rovaniemi, Finland|
|Studied at the University of Helsinki and the University of Arts and Design, Helsinki, Finland|
|Lives and works in Tampere, Finland|
|2010||Art Award of The Arts Council of Pirkanmaa, Finland|
|2008||Werstas Award, Finnish Labour Museum, Tampere|
|2002||State Art Prize, Finland|
|The Finnish Museum of Photography, Helsinki, Finland|
|The Finnish State Art Collection, Helsinki, Finland|
|Art Museum of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina|
|City of Turku, Finland|
|2015||Marja Pirilä. Carried by Light, Almlof Gallery, Malmö, Sweden|
|2014||Carried by Light, TR1 Kunsthalle, Tampere, Finland|
|2013||Milavida, Gallery Katve, Artikum, Rovaniemi, Finland|
|2013||Interior/Exterior, Nordic Light Festival, Norway|
|2012||Herbarium, Gallery Ibis, Vaasa, Finland|
|2011||Speaking House & Interior/Exterior, Gallery La Chambre Claire, Rennes, France|
|2010||I am, Gallery Heino, Helsinki, Finland|
|2007||Speaking Light, National Centre of Photography, St. Petersburg, Russia|
|2005||Interior/Exterior, Finnish Institute, St. Petersburg, Russia|
|2002||Interior/Exterior, Turku Art Museum, Turku, Finland|
|2001||Interior/Exterior, Studio Marangoni, Florence, Italy|
Group Exhibitions (Selection)
|2015||Within/Without, C. Grimaldis Gallery, Baltimore, USA|
|2014||Nature and More, Kunsthalle Rostock, Rostock, Germany|
|2014||Poetics and Light, New Mexico History Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA|
|2013||Photography into Art: Hannula & Hinkka Collection, Finnish Museum of Photography, Helsinki, Finland|
|2012||Mazzano! – 20 Years for Art, Museum of Estonian Architecture, Tallinn, Estonia|
|2011||Bodies, Borders, Crossings, Governors Island, New York City, USA|
|2011||5. Triennale der Photographie, Hamburg, Germany|
|2009||(De)konstruktionen, Fotogalerie Wien, Vienna, Austria|
|2007||Mapping the Unknown, Overbeck Gesellschaft, Lübeck, Germany|
|2005||To Look or to See, Finnish Museum of Photography, Helsinki, Finland|
|2004||Facing East, Bournemouth Photography Festival, Bournemouth, UK|
|2004||Contemporary Finnish Photography, House of Photography, Prague, Czech Republic|
|2003||Photography & Video Art from Finland, Center of Photography, St. Petersburg, Russia|
|2001||Time in Mazzano, Kunsthalle Helsinki, Finland|
|1999||Light, Finnish Museum of Photography, Helsinki, Finland|
|Carried by Light, Marja Pirilä, Aalto 2014.|