Janne Laine’s (born in 1970) latest works deepen the mystic and romantic tendencies in his production. Questions of life and death unfold through the sophisticated subject matter. The works, however, retain their edginess, which leaves room for viewers to create their own interpretations of them.

Laine uses the photographs he has taken himself both as a source of inspiration and actual working material. The images are exposed and etched onto a copper plate by using a traditional technique of heliogravure, after which the plate can be worked on with other methods of metal graphics.

The final works are almost invariably nearly black and white. The different shades and tone values of grey, which Laine uses with expertise, bring richness into the works. The minimalistic scale of colour creates the feeling of estrangement, which gives the pictures a sensation of timelessness.

Character studies of lifeless horses

Janne Laine engages himself to a completely new theme, when he portrays old Parisian hobby horses. Riders on traditional French carousels ride on hobby horses the same way the young noblemen used to ride when they practiced for tournaments with the help of wooden horses rotating around a central pole. Traditional carousel animals were long made of wood, and at least the heads were usually hand-carved. Esthetically, they share a perceptible affinity with medieval sculpture.

These unique figures have been immortalized and worked on in Laine’s production. Figures cut through the surfaces, which are not as minimized as in Laine’s portraits of people. Besides, the horses are not photographed straight from the front – instead, they create a diagonal construction to the pictures.

The threatening atmosphere in the pictures is far from any childhood experiences of amusement parks. The works reveal how time changes our way to look at things. Childhood ends when the memories are looked at too close quarters.

In his portraits of people Laine usually tries to obtain lack of expression. Wooden horses, expressive, even grotesque, make an interesting parallel to them. Although horses are untamed, they are stiffened to the moment and they embody the same emotion year after year. Laine encaptures the essential nature of a carousel animal the same way he captures a human being through his lense.

Horses, shiny with lacquer, show the erosion of time. The anguished eyes of the horses add to the overall impression of melancholy. The hobby horse becomes an European totem animal, which can be seen symbolizing the cultural history of the Old Continent.

Deeper and deeper into the landscape

The scenic pictures can be regarded as universal achetypes of landscape. Laine removes all unnecessary layers in order to get closer to the core. The images move in between darkness and light, where the myths are born. Foaming water is the primal sea, where life is born. The works are not bound with any particular myth of creation, but they unite different ideologies, which contain a conception of water as a birthplace of life.

Apocalyptic surrealism dominates Laine’s dreamlike visions, which refer also to a medieval conception of the world. In the mystic experience dwells a source of human knowledge. Likewise, Laine does not hesitate to show the egde of the world, where the sea ends and the unknown begins. These minimalistic landscapes can also be seen as self-assertive trips into the realms of abstract art.

The same kind of flirting with non-representational art takes place in Laine’s works which are based on television. When you look at a television set at close range, it loses its narrative contents and is left with quivering forms only. In our culture television has attained the role of a landscape window, and Laine likes to toy around with that idea. Photographs taken of a television screen are like pictures coming out of the subconscious of programmes. They present the same primordial force as in Laine’s earlier Icelandic landscapes.

Person in a new role

The only person in Laine’s latest works can be found in the dark, yet erotic, series of pictures, where an adolescent has turned his back on the viewer. This man depicted in the dark, together with the orchids, form an entity, which is sexually at least as intense as Laine’s pictures of men kissing each others.

The series is also an homage to Robert Mapplethorpe, whose photographs influence Laine’s other works merely as a basis for discussing identity questions and as a striving force for his reduced, yet powerful expression.

In his more serene works Laine gives a pictorial image to the state of quiet waiting. An empty, deserted bench becomes a metaphor for a human being. The bench is a human mark in an intimate landscape. The romantic undertone behind the works is not disturbing – in contrast, it veils the ambiguous works with secrecy.

Veikko Halmetoja
Art critic

Translation, Anne Paldanius