Sampo Apajalahti

Born 1980 | Works and lives in Helsinki, Finland


At first sight Sampo Apajalahti’s paintings are hard to decipher. They contain expansive, empty spaces and are devoid of visible human presence. In one picture we see a board with a photographtaped to it, but on closer inspection we realize that it is all a skilfully painted illusion.


Apajalahti’s painting process is slow and incorporates multiple phases, a large part of it involving more than just brushwork. The completed painting requires extensive source material to be acquired through drawing from observation and taking photographs. The groundwork is followed by transferring the observation to the painting’s base using precise calculation and measurements. It is only then that the painting begins, and it is deliberately traditional – applying oil paints to two-dimensional surfaces. The paintings are realistic in character, but despite their links with photographs, they are anything but simple copies of photographs: instead of the perspective created by the camera lens, Apajalahti lets his eyes dictate the dimensions, colours and values of the space.


Apajalahti’s paintings often contain a “picture within a picture”, which he uses to challenge habitual ways of looking. He thus calls into question what is to be identified as the object of the gaze – the painting itself or the (painted) photographcontained in it. As a consequence, the picture has at least two different subjects: the spatial painting, and the subject of the photographshown in the painting. The photographs in the works in the Wanderer exhibitionare snapshots of graffiti and tags in bar toilets, electrical enclosure cabinets or apartment-block walls, all taken by Apajalahti with his mobile-phone camera as he roams the urban space. He has said that one of his most important role models is the Dane Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916) with his finely balanced depictions of rooms. In the works in this exhibitionApajalahti combines subtle spaces with expressive painting gestures on the walls of seedy bars.