In Savonlinna, in the middle of the finest lake district in Finland, Kaarina Staudinger-Loppukaarre paints her Beings every night.
She is amazingly energetic and a natural-born outsider artist, whose eidetic Beings grow, she says, directly from her eyes onto the canvas; the way they are born out of a vision explains the unique vividness of these colourful creatures. A whole new species as well as the man seem to have been created in her works.
Loppukaarre’s cosmos of beings is a dream world without any ill will. Each being blends with the others and also needs them in its yearning for affection. They neither eat nor beat each other. These birds, lizards and mammals cannot be identified on any biological basis; they are variations of some extremely distinctive Kaarina cell, and they seem to develop from each other, thus forming a well-functioning system.
The painting often covers the canvas from corner to corner as if to highlight the infinite number of the Beings. Sometimes her birds and fish form spectacularly colourful groups set in a dazzling space, surrounded by darkness full of beings of the dark. Every Being seems to have its own perspective in this weightless world.
The Beings dance to graphical rhythms in all the primary colours, and yet the colour the artist herself likes best is brown. It is reminiscent of earth, and the visionary artist tells how she, as a child, saw trolls darting around in the woods.
The Beings are not, however, illustrations of spirits or elves, though closely related to these. They are amazingly unique, and one feels that they live in a dimension of their own, made visible for us all by Staudinger-Loppukaarre. They are comical, and even their maker finds them funny as she keeps wondering at the visions that her “silly eyes” see. She talks to them when she paints because they are her best friends.
Occasionally, a human character pops up among the Beings, sometimes taking some characteristics of an animal, and blends in this crowd forever on the move. A realistic creature, say a cat, may also pay a visit to these fantasy images. Each Being has a direction of its own, yet a great and benign life force pulls them all together like a magnet. Every now and then, some twisted creature strays into this fabulously macabre crowd.
Kaarina Staudinger-Loppukaarre has not had any formal art education; she started making her art as a child and taught herself realistic painting as well. She learnt all about colours when she was studying cartography before the Second World War, but then ended up married with a big family. The Beings began to appear from the recesses of the subconscious at night-time while the children were asleep. Because her husband did not have much time for the Beings, Kaarina had to hide them in sawdust up in the attic. They have found their freedom during the past few decades and were a great success at the 2005 ITE and Art Brut exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in Helsinki.
Many of Staudinger-Loppukaarre’s paintings have a quality of Slavic emotion in the way they rock in the cradle of kitsch and imagery, and yet they are never overly sweet. They remind one of the lustre of porcelain paintings, but they could just as easily be found on tattooed skin. They echo the richness of the tropics, and, undoubtedly, Spain has been another great influence as the artist has spent long periods of time painting and exhibiting there. To call these untitled paintings Beings was, in fact, a Spanish invention.
Kaarina Staudinger-Loppukaarre likes experimenting with various techniques and surprising both herself and her beings with fresh compositions. There are astonishing variations among the works, and they show an excellent ear for music and eye for colour. The artist is not afraid to use dramatic tertiary colours, which make her Beings appear more vulnerable and melancholy, though never completely broken. Kaarina tastes (literally!) the watercolours she uses as if to ensure that her paintings get “the right taste”.
It would be difficult to compare Staudinger-Loppukaarre’s Beings to any examples of outsider art. A combination of Italian Carlo Zinelli’s repetitive bird and human motifs and Swiss Aloïse Corbaz’ abundantly colourful parties for princesses might create something similar, but this metaphor does not work because these two were driven to painting by their mental illness, whereas Kaarina’s Beings are creations of a nature’s child.
The secret of Kaarina Staudinger-Loppukaarre’s respectable age, and joie de vivre probably lies in her Beings. They greet us from the realm of eternal life.
Text: Erkki Pirtola. Translation: Kirsti Nurmela-Knox. Photos: Artist’s archives.