Computers, Electronics and Engineering
“I am interested in computers, electronics and engineering... I find the computer screen inspiring.” Early evidence of his painstakingly detailed, hand-finished yet machine-like work, was created at university, with Colour Mixing System, a system of 2500 communicating chambers where textile dyes and milk float into each other, creating a gradient colour chart.
Juri Markkula is an artist who makes the industrial and the technological beautiful, turning chemicals into art. Often getting up in the middle of the night to tend to machines that fire his projects, he is an artist who brings an obsessional detail-orientation, producing lovingly rendered abstract surfaces which call to mind objects of a hyper-natural essence.
Comic Books for Fun
Juri Markkula’s earliest inspirations artistically were comic books. Rather than being content to read them, by 13 he was creating his own, with their own characters and visual style. He traces his fascination with the square (“the ultimate image”) to his early interest in comics.
Ironically, art critic and philosophy lecturer Lars-Erik Hjertström Lappalainen notes that: “Juri Markkula’s art has no relationship whatsoever to fun.”
The intensity of his work in relief, where painted surfaces project forward at us from multiple angles, can be overwhelming. Works such as Carmin Ground from his RGB Ground series, the art pieces appear in different sizes, and call to mind leaves and grass in a magnified, brittle state which serves to create an altered sense of what is natural, what is real.
Markkula applies his unique creative process, which includes a 360 high-resolution scanning system and a custom built digital sculpting system, to celebrate the pure beauty of the ground he sees every day in the rural area of Sweden where he resides. His RGB series is a elaborated representation of nature, with the forms synthetically bolder and digitally amplified.
RGB (Red Green Blue) refers to the additive colour system that is used in every digital screen and video equipment. Markkula purposely chooses these three vibrant artificial colours to create his abstracted beauty. His artworks become this hybrid of the digital world with the physical world.
As Markkula explained: “Well it’s about how I think RGB series work. They seem to be enlightened like a screen. To me, the colour is the surface, the interface to connect with spectators and induce emotions.”
The Diversity of Perspective
The Interference series, which changes colour according to the perspective of the viewer, demonstrates the artist’s keenness to present and offer multiple angles and perspectives to the viewer, inviting them to observe their own world of colour and substance within his creations. With this series, Markkula begins directly with the computer coding and programming before he hand-paints the pigmented colours This digital sculpture creation combines the duality of machines and humans, precise digital computer engineering technology and traditional artistry, providing viewers with a multi-angle perspective. How the world is depends on how we see it, and everyone has a different angle.
Juri Markkula grew up in Finland, and moved to Sweden for a year of preparational art school, before being admitted to The Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm, for a Master Programme In Fine Arts from 1997-2002. School had its challenges for Markkula. “I started with my own language quite early” – he acknowledges that at that stage it was as yet underdeveloped. Soon, things were different: painted in the ways we were taught, but in the last two years, I focused on my own style. My own language has been there for the last 15 years.”
Impressionist master Claude Monet was one of Juri’s earliest inspirations. On a visit to Prague when he was 21, Juri recalls being transfixed by Monet’s paintings of Rouen Cathedral, before returning home to attempt to discover how Monet had created such a work. In May 2017, Juri Markkula visited Rouen and Monet’s studio. A pilgrimage which may further influence the direction of his work from here.
For Juri Markkula, art is an ideal and a state of mind: “Once I started painting, I couldn’t stop. There are lots of rules in art, but it is also absolute freedom.”
Leaving the City
After the academy, Juri wanted to get away from Stockholm. The urge to create meant that the big city was a distraction: “I got a cheap studio, and I had a lot of time to work.” He currently lives on the Island of Gotland, frequently exhibiting in Gothenburg and in Stockholm.
Art itself is an inspiration here, its tradition, its history. He revels in the creation of illusion, which both presents a mirror to our world and a new life for the materials themselves. His Fort Knox Series from 2005 offers the visitor, among other perspectives, the chance to enter a a new state of mind, where the value of gold becomes relative, worth more for its beauty than its commercial power.
His work ethic is intense, but it isn’t simply a matter of work: “Most of the time I spend looking. It’s an intimate relationship with materials.” Focus is key: “Homelessness as an attitude is good. You should stay homeless. Its hard to do. With every piece you do, you have to start again, it’s painful.”
The Human Industrial
Juri Markkula’s huge project for Stockholm’s MTR is an enticing draw to the Stockholm City Train Station. A vast project made up of seemingly infinite glass tiled mosaics, Juri made the initial sketches in 2012, and finished painting the last pieces in 2017. The scale of this project is such that it is both monumental and humane, walls which reflect light as if the outside has been brought inside, and the industrial has been tamed.
Markkula names his Stockholm City Station project "La Divina Commedia", nspired by Dante's work of the same name. Covering approximately 300 square meters, it consists of thousands of glass mosaics treated with color-changing interference pigment.
The journey begins at the entrance hall, as we are preparing to descend into the underworld, down the escalator shaft to the northern intersection. This journey is one that underlines the companionship and the sense of not being alone that inherent in a train journey.
The first thing we see is a colour-shimmering wall illuminated from above by daylight, a glass wall of mosaics in ever changing colors of gold and green surrounds us. The colours change depending on how the viewer moves. With our own bodily movement, new colours are always emerging for our perspective alone. Everybody sees the same, but different, and no one sees the same colour at the same time.
The escalator takes the traveler deep down. We rest assured that we are not alone, we travel with a companion of colours that follows us all the way, which forms a space for us to live in. On the way down, the colours change at the escalator, ranging from shining golden yellow to green cucumber shades. As we approach the platform, purple evolves to deep green and light blue. From here our journey continues.
We are all going to different directions, towards different goals. We are all a different colour.
As we leave the underground to look up to the light, the colours change again, this time in reverse, when we are lifted from dark to light, from dark green and violet to golden gold. The artistic journey is about traveling. The colour experience acts as a companion on the journey into the underground and up to the light.
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