“Self-Portrait (Me and you)” – 1st prize, 2009


Matti Kolehmainen (* 1952)
Self-Portrait (Me and you)
Pastel on paper
140 x 100 cm
Collection of the artist

The jury awards 1st Prize to the Finnish artist Matti Juhani Kolehmainen, with the following citation:

The artist here is looking at the one who looks at art, and at the artist. Because Matti Juhani Kolehmainen has painted a self-portrait. And it is for this self-portrait that the Finnish painter receives the Brewer J.C. Jacobsen Portrait Award.
Originally, Matti Juhani Kolehmainen’s picture – which is thus also a picture by Matti Juhani Kolehmainen – formed one half of a double portrait. Its counterpart is a painting the artist made of his wife. When they are seen in conjunction with one another, they correspond, just as there is a correspondence in the respective titles the artist has given them. For while one is entitled Jeg og du (I and you), the title of the other is a mirror image of the first: Du og jeg (You and I ). And while the light in Kolehmainen’s portrait of his wife is coming from the right, the light in his selfportrait is from the left. The two portraits reflect one another as in mutual respect, but they need not necessarily hang side by side in order to justify themselves.
They can also stand alone, as indeed the self-portrait of Matti Juhani Kolehmainen now stands alone. Based on the artist’s information, we know that the image represents a man who is around 56 years of age. He has presented himself somewhat larger than life-size, as if to ensure that we see him. His face radiates seriousness; his gaze is fixed and concentrated, and by virtue of the portrait’s existence, we know what he is looking at. He has observed himself slightly from below, perhaps in a mirror, perhaps in a photograph, and he has used pastel chalk slowly and gently to transfer his impressions to the image surface. His choice of colors – black, grey, ochre, a little brown – emphasises a restriction that supports the
silent seriousness of the self-presentation. This narrow colour palette also defines a Nordic cultural sphere, and includes him in a coloristic tradition which, from a wider perspective, also includes such figures as Vilhelm Hammershøi and Helène Schjerfbeck. The restriction of the colour fits naturally with the close cropping of the figure. Here, it seems that everything but the most essential has been eliminated.
The shoulder section, with the right shoulder raised above the left, forms one of the diagonals in the image, while the neck, head and hair make the other. Emphasis is always a consequence of omissions, and if the artist had not chosen to show just part of his upper body and the top of his left upper arm, his face would not have been so exposed. As it is, it emerges as the culmination of an honest self presentation, free from both pretensions and illusions.
The competition conditions define a portrait as a work of art that seeks to represent a particular person, and they also require this representation to be based on at least one meeting with that person. This requirement is met in abundance in this portrait. For no one knows Matti Juhani Kolehmainen better than the artist, who has captured his features in this painting quite without grandiosity or compromise.
Matti Juhani Kolehmainen was born on 23 November 1952. He trained at the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts from 1981-85, and has held solo and group exhibitions in various places including Vantaa, where he lives. In 2007/2008, he was among the participants in the first Nordic touring exhibition held in conjunction with the Brewer J.C. Jacobsen Portrait Award.

Peter Michael Hornung