Or is it?
It is much easier to like art than dislike art. Why? Because you have to justify your opinion when you do not like a certain work of art, whereas if you like something it is as simple as that - you just like it and no one questions it.
Well, this is rather simplified. Many times have I been asked why I like something, but I find it much easier to motivate that opinion than the rather negative opinion of disliking something. Naturally, this is not always the case. Often, explaining why you like an artwork is very difficult. Somehow it is not enough that you “like the colours” or “the material is interesting”. Usually, as an art historian and theorist at least, you have to go further than that. This is anyhow how I have experienced discussing art with other people. Still, I find it easier than explaining why i do not like something.
As an example, I really do not like naivistic art. I have not been able to explain why to myself or anyone else. I just do not like it. It is ugly and I find it hard to understand the talent behind drawing like a child.
I know that many artist struggle to find their way back to that unconditional way of drawing most children possess. I really cannot get why. If you are capable of drawing or painting beautifully, cherish that talent and use it, no? I mean, put a pencil in my hand, and I will show you how a child draws.
Well, let us not be too upset about that. I think it is perhaps more about reaching that state of mind you had as a child. Either way, I do not think that mindset delivers very well in most naivistic art. For some it works, like Maria Ahlsved, but for others, like Kalle Leino, it just does not. This is my personal opinion.
I am now going to compare Ahlsved’s and Leino’s works, to figure out why the other, in my opinion, makes better art than the other. (Because this is what it is all about; Who makes good art, and who makes better art?) First of all, they use different media. Leino uses oil, where Ahlsved uses watercolour. Ahlsved uses drab colours and Leino uses brighter but not clear colours. They both picture rather ordinary everyday life situations, with a hint of surrealism. Leino sometimes with a leaning towards the exotic (for Finnish surroundings, not so much, let us say, for Indian surroundings). They both use elements of humor in their works, with an underlying seriousness, which is actually something I like in both their works, but still I prefer Ahlsved’s aquarelles to Leino’s oil paintings (and I am usually not the one to pick the aquarelles, but let us not get into that now).
As you notice, I really cannot put my finger on it. To take the discussion further; I do not like the way Leino uses his brush. He uses it quite roughly and makes wide strokes, which is something I do not always, or even usually, mind, but he does not vary the strokes very much in the paintings. This might be a huge difference between Ahlsved and Leino, coming to think of it. Ahlsved is much better at varying her brushstrokes and using the watercolour in different ways.
See, it took me this long to find out one thing that could possibly be the reason to why I do not like the works of Kalle Leino that I have seen so far. To be fair, I am not overly excited about Ahlsved’s work either. They are okay, I like the colours and the tematics, but still, I have this problem with naivism in art.
I do like Leinos pooping elephant though, mostly because it is funny. You can still see it in Helsinki Contemporary until the 2nd of June. Unfortunately Ahlsved’s exhibition in Gallery Huuto ended already on Sunday.