Baby Monster, 2002
Ink on paper
31 x 24 cm
Merenmies has portrayed her acquaintances as if the vehemence and recklessness lent by the colour and its appliance are qualities found in the personalities of the portrayed people as well.
Merenmies says of her pictures: - I don't believe it is my paintings' task to try to make people happy or to contribute to a happy mood. I prefer that people look at my paintings and find that all the evil they have experienced has also happened to this person. But that now everything is good.
IMAGES OF SOULS
Working in watercolours necessitates a spontaneous expression in Merenmies' pictures. It is impossible to control every detail of the process and so the ensuing result is characterised more by suggestions than specifics. We are not supposed to be able to see the character's complete physical appearance.
To the degree that we focus on the exterior, it functions as a mirror to the portrayed person's character – or the character as interpreted by Merenmies. The unorthodox passport photos are a kind of X-rays of the model’s soul.
The relation between model and picture is saturated with Merenmies' dark interpretation and the image of the soul that she presents is terrifying – and odd. Despite the savage images Merenmies stresses that love and compassion are important ingredients in her portraits, otherwise they would not work at all.
Elina Merenmies' art in generalThe point of departure for Merenmies' art is the unconscious spiced with the nightmares and surrealist stories we encounter on a daily basis in the movies, TV and comics.
In her pictures customarily innocent cartoon characters and assorted bright toys are transformed into nightmarish monsters with fangs and blood dripping from their mouths, ripping out the heart of another strange creature.
Childhood is no secure place in Merenmies' pictures, quite the contrary. Many of her characters are updates of customarily comforting figures like dolls and teddy bears but with added qualities and temperaments that we hope they do not possess. The one given in Merenmies' art is that everything that can go wrong will go wrong. The figures have run amok or seem about to.
COMICS AND SEVENTEENTH CENTURY FLEMISH ART
Merenmies draws her inspiration from cartoons and comics as well as Flemish art from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when a number of artists were occupied by the stark contrast between good and evil. In elaborate paintings they unfolded complex stories of man's divided mind and the consequences of good and evil.
Merenmies' oils and tempera paintings contain a similar attention to detail and extreme precision. Individual parts of the pictures can be gorgeous with a multitude of colourful designs, however, the beauty is often interrupted by the unsettling story that unfolds on the canvas. Other sources of inspiration are newspaper headlines, telling stories of murder, cancer and other hazards of the modern life.
BIZARRE HORROR FIGURES
Great and small creatures of horror, staples of bizarre comics, populate Merenmies' works. However they are not simply disgusting, they can also be funny freaks. And Merenmies uses just this freaky quality to underscore the considerable significance of the irrational to our lives and our perception of the world.
With her composite visual universes she creates fascinating stories about a bizarre childhood and youth world outside rational understanding. The pictures bear a certain resemblance to fairytale illustrations whose closing lesson is a combination of visions of horror with a healthy dose of gallows humour. Merenmies deliberately treads the thin line between good and bad taste but without the result turning into kitsch.