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Markku Laakso exhibited his large-scale triptych ‘Trivial’ and other paintings. As with much of Laakso’s other work, ‘Trivial’ seamlessly combines deep Finnish iconography with visits from ‘The King’ himself (Elvis Presley), employing painterly techniques and aesthetics artfully aligned with vanished Golden Eras.
Markku Laakso is from the village of Koppelo, near the Lapland town of Inari. The landscapes of the North have a strong presence in his work: the deep snow banks and the characters in traditional Lappish dress relate to Laakso’s northern roots.
Laakso draws on a wide range of inspiration for his paintings. His birthplace, popular culture and the history of Finnish art – in a wider sense, all of Western art – are transferred into his paintings which in many senses look to the past, yet clearly belong to the here and now.
His work must be examined against a backdrop of the tradition of Finnish art, which helps comprehend his sun-speckled snowdrifts, eloquently bending pine trees and blue skies billowing with cumulus clouds not merely as images of nature but rather as historic paintings of a sort. Finland experienced an unprecedented cultural heyday in late 19th and early 20th century. It was in these years that the foundation was laid for Finland’s national identity, and landscape was given a key role in this undertaking. Pristine nature in particular was perceived as a setting that best embodied what it was to be Finnish, and accordingly it was much portrayed in the art of the time.
For Laakso, landscape is also a key motif that at times appears as borrowing from art history, at others as a self-selected view. The replications of the national romantic landscape imagery arise from an homage to the traditions of art; yet one could also read a post-modern irony into the images. Major influences on Laakso’s expression include Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865–1931), Eero Järnefelt (1863–1937) and Pekka Halonen (1865–1933).