Petri Ala-Maunus: The Great Deluge
16 Sep – 20 Nov 2016
Petri Ala-Maunus (b. 1970) paints ideal landscapes in which he reuses the imageries of kitsch and romantic landscape painting. The pictures conjure up ethereal horizons and magical visions of forests, mountains and valleys that seem to go on forever. The stylistic precursors of his work can be traced back to the aesthetics of German romanticism and realism, the Hudson River School and even the Watchtower Magazine. The outrageous romanticism of his earlier work has lately given way to a more aggressive yet still imaginary vision of nature, and the pedantic attention to detail has been supplanted by broader brushwork that defies illusion.

The Great Deluge (2016) virtually drenches the viewer in a vision of a deluge of biblical proportions, brimming with apocalyptic waves. Ala-Maunus has used large formats before, and now he addresses the subject with a painting that is almost nine metres long. The canvas is shockingly detailed, yet in a way that prevents the eye from resting anywhere. It would be easy to drown in the sheer size of the landscape, yet as if in mockery of his own heroic act, Ala-Maunus has added colour smudges and drips on the canvas that disrupt the sense of immersion.

The deluge in the Bible in presented as a cancellation of God’s creation, a story in which God intends to restore Earth to its original condition by drowning all humanity because of their evil deeds. Ala-Maunus’s version remains open to interpretation. One can see the work equally as a rumbling morality or as an ode to the forces of nature that offers unadulterated viewing pleasure; a reassessment and an ironic take on the tradition of oil painting, or a personal test of endurance and demonstration of mastery by the artist.

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