The latest oil paintings by Raili Tang (b. 1950) are an exuberant riot of color. Their palette celebrates the artist’s favorite colors – colors that generate positive energy. Her preferred hues vary with changing fashions, seasons and locations: Tang literally hunts for new colors among department store clothes racks and cosmetic displays. In her latest works, she has consciously avoided black, which has been weighted down with dark connotations over the past year: black seems to be the predominant shade of the violent events splayed across newspapers. Tang expresses the rebellious spirit of black in a completely different range of shades. This apolitical act is, in its own way, a gesture of political defiance: she eschews the stark contrasts of somber tones in favor of joyful variations in color temperature, as if to express a refusal to buckle in the face of disquieting turns in global events.
Tang paints with a masterful command of color and a very physical style of handling the brush, sometimes violently slamming thick layers of paint onto the canvas. Her process is intuitive, with one shade spontaneously transitioning to the next. Tang engages each hue and variation in color temperature in a dialogue, continuing to paint until the colors collectively begin to tell stories. She describes this process as the “anthropomorphization” of color and form. On her canvases, balcony-grown tomatoes and juicy grapes are transformed into abstract, ambiguous forms. The paintings derive their content from plump shapes inspired by fruits and vegetables which the artist endows with a sense of movement. The perfection and clarity of round forms is a perpetual source of fascination for Tang.
Tang’s paintings have been exhibited widely both in Finland and abroad. Her works are represented in major Finnish museums including the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art and the Helsinki Art Museum. Tang received the Pro Finlandia prize in 2015.