I was born in 1955 inTampere, Finland. The road I travelled to become a painter who makes salvation visible for the church has been a long one. It started when I was 9 years old. I come from a non-believing home. On my own I began to visit services in the Lutheran church near our home on Sunday mornings. I was impressed by the services, but even more so by the paintings and stained-glass windows. God put a seed of faith into my child’s heart, yet it took about 20 years before I got to know Jesus as my Saviour. This happened while I was studying art in Germany, just before my graduation. After moving back to Finland I worked as an art teacher, art therapist and painter.
In 1999 I was given a grant to travel to Florence in Italy to study ecclesiastical art and theology for some months. Just before I set off, I had lost all my near relatives in a very short time. In the middle of deep sorrow and alone in a foreign country my only comfort and consolation were the paintings in the churches and convents that described Christ’s suffering and salvation. This is when I wanted to become a painter who makes visible God’s creation and salvation. To do so, I want to base my paintings on God’s Word. Also the tradition of images of the church – the inheritance of all Christians – is important to me. Recently I am also studying Jewish history and the art of the synagogue as I want to understand Jesus’ background as a Jew.
I have been given the opportunity to paint several altar pieces for churches in Finland after winning some competitions. To paint to God’s glory has become my inner calling and vocation. I try to make his Word and mercy visible in the middle of this modern world, where we are surrounded by so many pictures that do not honour him. I teach and lecture about early to contemporary Christian art in various Christian schools and churches (my heart is ecumenical, even though I belong to a Lutheran church). I live and work inTampere, Finland.
About my work
For me painting is like breathing and a necessary part of self-reflection. I cannot exist without it. Painting helps me to process life’s realities, its cruelty and beauty. The painting process often springs from a challenge to solve a problem or the quest to find an answer to a question. It can also be a way to thank and praise the Lord for his merciful love and creation.
My pictorial language is based on colour and light and fragmented colour surfaces, especially in the large wall paintings with cosmic blue underwater scenes. In my landscapes my brush work often transforms into pointillism. My own experience of life is expressed in the way I treat pictorial surfaces: the boundary line between life and transcendence is not sharp and clear, it is fragile and transparent.
1. Stranger in the Night, 1990-1992, oil on canvas, 80 x 100 cm.
I wanted to express the reality of nature in my northern home country, where the winter and especially the long and cold polar night time last so long. The wild wolf in the painting is not just a romantic, symbolic figure. Wolves are on the increase in Finland. The wolf also symbolizes extreme loneliness, which is based on my own experiences in life. The painting has a simple style and composition and an extremely melancholic expression (with so much indigo blue). It is a personal portrait of my soul. However, the night is not completely dark: the stars are twinkling and pointing to God’s presence.
2. Archangel Michael, 2008, oil on canvas, 80 x 100 cm.
3. The Narrow Gate, 1984, oil on canvas, 50 x 50 cm.
4. Mother and Child, 2014, gouache, 16 x 10 cm.
5. Santa Lucia, 2005, gouache, 17 x 17 cm.
6. Angel of Praise, 2014, gouache, 17 x 11 cm.
Finnish Painters`Union, www.painters.fi
Tampere Artists´Association, www.tampereen-taiteilijaseura.fi
CAF (Christian Artists of Finland)
Finnish Art Therapy Association
Exhibitions and collections
My works have been exhibited in many exhibits in Finland and abroad and they have found their way to many private and public collections in Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Japan and the USA. As to churches, they can be found in (among others) the Evangelical Lutheran congregation of Tampere: Messukylä Church, Pispala Church, Chapel of Silence in University Hospital, Chapel of Silence in Viinikka Church, Cathedral Chapter of Tampere, congregational halls in Linnainmaa and Kaukajärvi; Hervanta Church, Ylöjärvi Congregation, Hämeenkyrö Church, Jyväskylä Church, Ikaalinen Church, Vantaa: Korso Church; Espoo: Leppävaara Church; Hämeenlinna: Church of penitentiary; Lieto: Home Church; Evangelical Institute Karkku; the Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Kuopio and Lahti.
* Holy pictures - Salvation in Paintings (according the Lutheran church year), 192 pages, Publisher Kirjapaja, Helsinki, 2012 (www.kirjapaja.fi).
* Lichterbögen-Hoffnung in tiefer Winterzeit, 2014, Heiner Labonde Verlag.
* Lob der Schöpfung, Catalogue of my paintings, October 2014, Heiner Labonde Verlag.
On the Internet
33470 Ylöjärvi, Finland
Tel. 00358 (0)50 345 1904
Contact via firstname.lastname@example.org (Jessika Kuehn-Velten and Heiner Labonde)