Critics’ Picks

View of “Matti Kujasalo,” 2016

View of “Matti Kujasalo,” 2016

Helsinki

Matti Kujasalo

Galerie Anhava
Fredrikinkatu 43
March 3–March 27, 2016

The Finnish artist Matti Kujasalo defines himself as a systematic constructivist. He executes his paintings according to precalculated rules, based on various ways of dividing up square grids. And yet these rules are so complicated that—rather than attempting to figure them out—it is better to enjoy the paintings just as they are: intricate and exact patterns made up of thousands of small squares on large circular or square canvases.

Kujasalo’s practice has its roots in 1960s Op art, especially in the work of artists such as Bridget Riley and Richard Anuzkiewicz. Kujasalo spent several decades working exclusively in black and white, observing that colors prevented viewers from seeing the mathematical structures he was developing. But in some of his new paintings Kujasalo returns not just to color but specifically to the highly interactive reds, greens, and oranges of early Op. The shimmering fields of tiny squares in close-valued colors can bring to mind the Post-Impressionist paintings of Georges Seurat and his ideas about the systematic use of color.

While these pieces readily evoke visible and invisible phenomena ranging from misty sunrises to magnetic fields, their strong, unequivocal presence effectively prevents such associations from taking flight. The artist makes his paintings by hand, employing a time-consuming method involving overlapping masking tape. Once the tape is removed, the multiple layers of paint give the works a physicality that ultimately shows them to be paintings rather than just systems, while the occasional pencil mark brings us more closely in touch with the actual working process.