In December 2018, I was sitting in a crowded cafe along Vaasankatu with Marika Maijala, who was going into residency in Paris next month. “How do you picture Paris?”, I asked her. I was interested to know, if she already had some image of the city in her mind, and how would it feel to work there? “No, I don’t have a clue what it’s going to be like. I’m only very excited,” she answered. After this conversation over coffee we made a loose agreement for the future works and thoughts from Paris would somehow be a part of an exhibition.
Back then, I was especially interested to know, how would the personal experiences affect Marika’s interpretation of Parisian life. I knew she was using some of our favourite Parisian clichés such as the Eiffel Tower, in her works. I was wondering how would her motifs differ for example, from Maria Herreros‘ illustrations from the brand new book Paris Sera Toujours Paris (Lunwerg 2018), after staying in there. Would she find the city of light and of romance, or a dirty old town some call “a mess”, or something in between?
On the left: Marika’s sketchbook from the time before the residency in Paris.
On the right: Màxim Huerta & María Herreros: Paris Sera Toujours Paris (Editorial Lunwerg, 2018)
A couple of months later, I travelled to Paris to meet Marika. In my bag I had packed a Paris city map from year 1976. The cover image of the map is painted by Robert Delaunay, an artist who lived in Paris between 1900 and 1940. He is best known for his paintings the Eiffel Tower Series. To be honest, to navigate Paris, I used more Katariina Lamberg’s excellent little book Sacre Coeur and the Google Map, but to me the paper map felt like the base for the exhibition’s whole visual identity. I wanted the exhibition to have the same feeling of old, worn and beautiful than the map and some other inspiration materials I had been carrying with me for years:
Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince), first published in April 1943, is a novella, the most famous work of French aristocrat, writer, poet, and pioneering aviator Antoine De Saint-Exupéry. “Avec des aquarelles de l’auteur”, says the text on the book cover. With watercolors by the author. This reminds me of Marika Maijala and her debut picture book as a children’s book author, Rosie’s Journey.
Gloria Vanderbilt, Artist Book by Ismo Kajander. Galerie Pieni Agora, Helsinki 14.8.-6.9.1992.
Robert Delaunay, Tour Eiffel, 1926. Courtesy of Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Image from the free media repository Wikimedia Commons.
Located in the northern part of the Marais, Ofr., 20 Rue Dupetit-Thouars, is a unique bookstore also offering a collection of art, photography and independent magazines. The shop hosts events every once in awhile and small exhibitions in its gallery space. In Ofr., which was one of the destinations of my trip, I found Robert Delaunay’s exhibition poster just by chance. I was delighted and felt that it was a good sign.
Seven months later, I feel I have succeeded in bringing my original tenuous ideas and escaping thoughts along to the final result. The role of paper in the exhibition has been clear to me from the beginning, so it’s not a coincidence that the exhibition will be featuring mostly unique, original paper-based works. Maria Herreros’ works are mostly watercolor and graphite on classy 300 gram, watermarked cotton paper. Because of the large amount of works I have decided to display many of them unframed, which offers the visitors a great opportunity to have a closer look at the smooth matte surface of the paper. According to Marika Maijala, the paper and the way it feels is maybe the most important thing to her. Her new works are also made on fine papers manufactured in various weights. “Paper is all around us. Legal documents, advertising, packaging, leaflets, currency – paper is exchanged on a daily routine without us even paying much notice to it. Paper is propaganda, it is learning, it is a necessity as much as it is plaguing us with its abundance.” (Pontus Kyander, 2015) I truly love paper because of all its possibilities, easiness and at the same time, its fragility.
In response to the question what Marika found in Paris, I would say that she gained more confidence in her unique way of seeing things, and herself as an artist, no matter what the environment. In the exhibition, her drawing Madame Tour is a hilarious example of this.
To see in the exhibition:
Marika Maijala: Madame Tour, 2019
Maria Herreros: Tejados (The Roofs) I, 2018