”Holistic” is the word that might best characterise the artistic image of Markku Pääkkönen. Holism here not only refers to making art, but also to the artist’s ability to indulge in the surprises and challenges of life to the full. This feature has not saved him from long wanderings in the valley of grief in his private life, but it has led into an exceptional, uncompromised artistic career. Yet it must be borne in mind that Markku’s holistic search and habit of putting everything at stake has primarily yielded euphoria and bliss, a general optimism towards life.
Curiosity has been, and still is, what makes Markku tick. Sometimes it manifests itself as an ostensibly haphazard exploration of various, even contradictory, themes in his art. But if you know him well, you know that the explorations that may seem to be in conflict in terms of visual appearance still have a common basis: an instinctive pursuit of the fountainheads of truth and beauty, without a trace of external speculation or intellectual calculation. When dealing with the concept of beauty in terms of art theory, we come dangerously close to the grey zone of pathos, and it would indeed be easier to simply overlook the theme. But when it comes to Markku Pääkkönen, that is no option. What his works have in common, from the transcendental ones with strong against-the-light qualities to more recent, three-dimensional, topographic paint surfaces with figurative elements, is beauty created through instinctive sensitivity, beauty in its classical, aesthetical sense. Adopting a Romanticist approach in the art historical framework and dealing with the great themes of life cannot be deemed outdated or obsolete when it comes to Markku Pääkkönen – quite the opposite: the act of making matter immaterial lies at the very core of his art. Markku is a Romantic, and to him the spirit of art is ubiquitous and eternal, yet concealed: the duty of the artist is to reveal, to carve out the beauty that existence possesses. In the case of Markku Pääkkönen, this takes place through absolute exposure, subjecting oneself to vulnerability, in a state that is guided more by sensitive intuition than intellectual reasoning. The process is not unlike breathing: it is not something you think about, but you cannot survive without it.
Although Markku Pääkkönen’s artistry is characterised by a Picassoesque pursuit of the sources of creativity, of the child-like, selfless state at the moment of creation, we must not forget his vast theoretical knowledge of colour theory and the elements of the scientific worldview. Pääkkönen’s art does not emerge in a vacuum void of theory, although this is what he likes to claim, in an attempt to lighten up the atmosphere of excess theorising and serious discourse. In real life you will rarely meet an artist who is able to provide such subtle, analytical assessment and account of his work, if need be and if he feels like it. This quality is what makes Markku Pääkkönen a splendid, inspiring teacher and a brilliant conversationalist. The same uncompromising attitude which characterises his own art also applies to his teaching, which – his students are sorry to say – naturally only comes second when things need to be prioritised.
As a long-time personal friend and collaborator, I must mention my observation of Markku’s capability of empathy, which is not only a character trait, but also the base of his artistry. You seldom meet a visual artist who can be a perfect team player if need arises, without showing any jealous attempt to guard his own territory. This is manifest in his unique ability to face the challenges presented by all kinds of projects, be they in terms of scale, context, material, schedule or expression. In this sense Markku Pääkkönen is a great partner for architects, who are often involved in a multitude of different tasks. The most important thing is this: his empathy and ability to recognise resources do not entail lowering the standards of his own artistic objectives – quite the reverse. He likes to rise to the challenge, and judging by my own experience, he has been able to contribute to the high quality of a project with his own, original touch and a new level of sensitivity that an architectural mentality could not possibly produce. He is open to suggestions, but fortunately filters them in order to spot the ones he finds the best for all concerned. Pääkkönen takes the building and the environment as opportunities: as three-dimensional painting surfaces or frames, as places for the emergence of a sublime touch.