Calina Pandele Yttredal / Gallery Ava, Helsinki / Catalogue text 2016
REPORT FROM PARALLEL REALITIES
When an artist is confronted with the landscape, her possibilities are boundless. Both in Norwegian and Finnish art the depiction of landscape is of great, historical importance. For some that is a problem. For the Norwegian artist Calina Pandele Yttredal tradition is a platform that allows her to make art quite different from anybody else’s.
Calina Pandele Yttredal is an artist unlike any other. Her pictures may seem realistic and “common”, but that is a notion which appears only at first glance. Although – the close to realistic illusion in her paintings make you wonder – exactly where might this waterfall or that glacier be? Her pictures are of a sort that makes you think that you have seen them before. It is easy to be enticed into believing that there is an easy way into these pictures. That you understand them without making an effort. You could not be more wrong.
Pictures are pictures. They are not reality. There is little doubt that Calina Pandele Yttredal’s pictures invite us into an imaginary world. Her paintings are inviting because they depict something that is recognizable and fathomable. Still, these landscapes are not to be found in the real world. They are “possible landscapes”, possibilities that are constructed in the artist’s head. They are made up of thousands of pictures that she has accumulated during the years. Out of this cloud of images she constructs her own pictures, her own landscapes. They are built on a mixture of memories, experiences, paintings, photos and real landscapes that she has visited.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” The river is in the same place as last time you saw it, but the water that is streaming past you is not the same as last time. In the same way as this simple truth, Calina Pandele Yttredal’s possible landscapes point to the fact that nature (and reality) is an everlasting process of change. This recognition leads to the conclusion that all the experiences you have must be revised. When you are confronted with nature’s everlasting modus of change, you have to realize that you have no guaranty that what you learned and experienced yesterday is valid today. You are doomed always to question what you have learned already. Calina Pandele Yttredal’s paintings are freezing time. But the concrete images are first and foremost a synthesis, or a compilation, of many possible experiences. This simple recognition is part of the fascination.
The fact that Calina Pandele Yttredal’s “possible landscapes” are staged does not make them less valid. From my perspective her pictures becomes a symptom or an image of the fragile balance that exists in the interaction between man and nature. We know that the climate is changing; we know that the greenhouse effect is valid; we know that small changes in temperature have enormous consequences; and we know that natural disasters are increasing by the numbers. We also know that it is difficult to realize the seriousness of those phenomena because you don’t see and experience them on a daily basis. Therefore it is easy to understand that we have become immune to the threat of climate change.
In order to be aware we need to be reminded repeatedly of the manmade threat that manifest itself in the hidden forces of nature. It is this imminent force that lies as an undertow in Calina Pandele Yttredal’s pictures. They present us with “possible landscapes” that seem idyllic, but always contains the possibility of a disaster. The glacier may calf and fall into the sea and make a huge wave, the grotto may overflow; the river may exceed its limits.
Recently she has had two exhibitions, in New York and Oslo, under the title «Through Possible Landscapes». With the exhibition in Helsinki she takes a step further towards an investigation of the imminent threat of natural disasters. For the first time she paints the results of the disaster. Calina Pandele Yttredal places us in the middle of chaos. But she does it with an unmistakeable zest for the inherent beauty of these phenomena. Whether it is “just” an enclosed cave or the towering waves in a storm, her motifs encloses the beauty of the (nearby) catastrophe.
In the cathedrals of the medieval ages mankind got a revolutionary, new experience. With the help of radically new principles of architectural constructions, and new methods of making and mounting coloured glass, the architects and artists of its time were able to create giant glass windows that told the history of the Bible in pictures. The glass paintings depicted God’s greatness; they visualized the power of God’s light. The new technique became an important element in the struggle to behold the belief in God among the people of the medieval ages. The lucidity of the glass became a part of the religious fascination.
Today we may recognize the same fascination when confronted with Calina Pandele Yttredal’s paintings. She works with them like few other painters, and she works relentlessly in order to make light an active participant in her pictures. Not only does she paint in thin layers, one upon the other, in order to make them translucent. She also applies different media in order to create special effects. She uses paint that is matt, shiny, opaque and translucent. She applies, among others, interfering and iridescent paints that delivers effects close to the mother of pearl-like effect you can observe on a bird’s feather, an insect’s or a butterfly’s wings. Depending on the angle you watch Calina Pandele Yttredal’s paintings from, you will experience differences in the surface, in the way light is reflected and how colour is presented. This experience make her pictures stand up against the wear of time, and it contributes to the fascination that makes them into an expression of the necessity of change.
A part of what makes Calina Pandele Yttredal’s paintings extraordinary is her skilled approach to highly specialized, painterly techniques. More important is her ability to make hostile and harsh environments seem inviting and seductive. The combination of the two manifests an artist with special abilities. Recently Calina Pandele Yttredal has taken up again the technique of pastel that she performs with both pastel chalk and -pencil. The special, tactile quality of the pastel ads an extra dimension to her newest pictures. In this way she expands her artistic realm.
That it is the people of Helsinki who are the first to experience the result of this development is not purely coincidental. When the invitation from AVA Galleria to exhibit in Helsinki came, it took Calina Pandele Yttredal back to a period that was important for her artistic development. Years ago she was awarded a grant and stay in one of the studios at Nordiskt Konstcentrum, Suomenlinna. Her meeting with Finnish art and culture, and with other Nordic artists whom she later exhibited together with, gave her strong resonances to places and landscapes that she, from early childhood, had seen through her inner eye. Since then she has tried to recreate those memories through her works.
Therefore this exhibition is important in and for Calina Pandele Yttredal’s development. Her paintings – and now also her pastels – exists in the chaotic realm where idyll and catastrophe are two sides of the same experience. The span between personal recognition and common belief are crucial in order to experience and understand her pictures. The complexity of the many issues that pieces together our world make Calina Pandele Yttredal balance on a knife’s edge, in order to exceed the threshold of all those obstacles that are immanent in our daily struggle. Her pictures are beautiful to watch, but they are also packed with meaning that is not obvious to all.
I have followed Calina Pandele Yttredal during a long period of time. During the last years her efforts have turned into a new assurance that is obviously present in her pictures. The self-consciousness that these pictures radiate is of a sort that gives me and the rest of the audience a possibility to think, reflect and act. Calina Pandele Yttredal’s art is beautiful, but it is also mysterious and meaningful. The best thing is that her art raises both aesthetic and ethical questions for us to discuss and wonder about. Enjoy.
Lars Elton is a Oslo-based, Norwegian freelance journalist, critic and editior. He is the art- and architecture critic of the daily newspaper Dagsavisen. As a freelancer he writes about art and cultural subjects in a wide variety of publications.