Tuulikki Pietilä

Tuulikki Pietilä exhibition. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Jenni Nurminen

Tuulikki Pietilä (1917–2009) is one of key Finnish graphic artists of the post-Second World War period. This exhibition will present an overview of the extensive body of work by the experimental and technically versatile artist, in honour of the centenary of her birth. The Pietilä collection, bequeathed to the Ateneum, includes almost all the artist’s works.

A total of about 170 works, dating from 1933 to 1985, will be on display. Tuulikki Pietilä’s exceptionally extensive body of work comprises more than 1,400 works. The works reflect the various life stages of the artist and her unceasing interest in various printmaking techniques. Many of these printmaking methods require skill, patience, and plenty of experimenting. The exhibition will also illustrate the various stages in making prints.

The exhibition will focus, in particular, on works from Pietilä’s informalist period. In addition to non-representational subjects, Tuulikki Pietilä and Tove Jansson’s common interests feature in the works: the couple’s travels around the world, the summers they spent on Klovharu island in Pellinki, and their cat, Psipsina. Pietilä and Jansson, who also had their work in common, had separate studios in the same building in the Ullanlinna district in Helsinki.

The exhibition will also illustrate the various stages in making prints. Other exhibits include a selection of Tuulikki Pietilä’s tools, which  she bequeathed to the graphic artist Inari Krohn. The exhibition will also feature a short film entitled Post Scriptum (2014) by Anssi Pulkkinen and Eeva Siivonen. The film was shot in Pietilä’s studio apartment in Helsinki in 2010, before it was cleared of her archives and tools.

The exhibition team includes the curator Anu Utriainen, the special researcher Erkki Anttonen, and, as an expert, the Ateneum’s long-term chief curator Heikki Malme, who has made an inventory of all the works in the donated collection. The work has been made easier by the ever-methodical Pietilä documenting every print she made, starting in the 1930s.

A mistress of multi-colour prints explored a variety of styles in her work

A technically versatile artist, Pietilä incorporated a variety of styles in her work, from realism to cubism and abstract art, mainly constructivism and informalism. Pietilä created her first non-figurative, or non-representational, works as early as 1948. She took the stylisation and abstraction of her subjects further and, during in the 1950s, moved naturally towards constructivist expression. In the 1960s, Pietilä moved towards free-form informalist expression. She also began experimenting with various printmaking techniques, including combining intaglio prints with woodcuts, and lithographs and serigraphs.

Tuulikki Pietilä became interested in the use of colour as a student in Paris in 1953, which is when she started to create multi-colour prints on a regular basis. At first, she made 2-6-colour lithographs, and she then moved into creating colour woodcuts and serigraphs, in which she used up to 12 different colours. In the 1960s, she also started to favour more colours in intaglio prints.

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