Juha-Heikki Tihinen: An Altered Self-image

“A constant dialogue between photography and painting has prevailed through Tiina Heiska´s (born 1959) production from her very first solo show. From back when the art of photography was invented, relations between photography and painting have been extremely loaded and competitive. Heiska’s works tackle this relation in an open manner. The main idea might be seemingly simple: Heiska alters her photographs into paintings by painting new works, using the photographs as a starting point. It should be noticed, though, that the photographs might serve more as a fountainhead of inspiration or as material than as independent works. Heiska has used some of her own pictures from her childhood, but most of the photographs have been taken by her.

The following can be used as an example of Heiska’s working methods. By studying the phenomena familiar to most of us, where a fast movement has been caught in the photograph as a result of the camera stuttering or the model moving, the artist brings new meanings into the work. The artist herself feels enthralled by the phenomena of the fast movement caught in the photo changing when painted slowly. The relationship between the quickness of photography and the slowness of painting becomes an essential element of the work. While painting a photograph, Heiska becomes “guilty” of double “alienation from reality”. Thus the realm of the real world becomes twice translated material. Paradoxically enough, this double copying of the real world, as Plato would call it, breaks new ground for totally new points of view and perceptions.”

…”Confronted with those works based on self-portraits, also the spectator can sense her/his own physical insecurities and feelings of shame. The ideal and unanimously integrated self cannot, after all, be reached, but inside ones “self” you may be confronted by an “other”. At the same time, “self” gets its counterpart: an alien lives inside each of us. Self is not as undivided as most of us would like to think. Alieness, otherness, lives also within us.

By exposing in her self-portraits her inner contradiction, the artist, in turn, faces the spectators with the question of their margins, their tolerance of conflict. The meaning of the original photograph also offers more to reflect on. The mere flatness of a photograph is a clear sign of how its essential limitations should be exploited. As we perceive the environment three-dimensionally all the time, the two-dimensionality of photographs demonstrates things in a different way. When the flatness of a photograph is, through the physical process of painting, transformed into three-dimensionality with its sense of space, we approximate a kind of a third spatial state which surpasses a mere description of its process. In front of Heiska’s art, we stand face to face with these complicated and, perhaps, even insoluble questions.”

Juha-Heikki Tihinen / PINX – Painting in Finland 2003