Henry Wuorila-Stenberg

Paula Holmila

Henry Wuorila-Stenberg has many times wanted to discard everything he has learnt and “started from the beginning”, cast his skin. In the early 1970s social realism dominated Finnish painting and upon return from studying in Italy and West Germany, Wuorila-Stenberg also worked in this style.

In the mid-70s he continued to study painting in East Germany and returned to Finland renewed, switching from oils to acrylics and shifting his vision from an outward reality to his inner world.

By the end of the decade a series of unrecognisable self-portraits appeared, featuring a lonely figure in cold and empty spaces. “I painted insecurity and unceasing loneliness”, Wuorila-Stenberg says. Vertical planes, garish blue, green and red oppress a gloomy anonymous type surrounded by a mechanical waste-land.

This figure was then eliminated and although the theme remained somewhat similar, the artist experienced a cul-de-sac feeling. He decided to begin painting all over again, discarding his paint brushes and taking up his childhood crayons. It was at this point the energy and suppressed radicalism, that could be sensed already from the early times, took charge in his paintings

At the end of the 70s during his waste-land period, Wuorila-Stenberg often explained his reluctance to hold solo exhibitions. However in group exhibitions his paintings began to attract the type of attention which he strongly resisted.

It was only in the beginning of the 80s that he exhibited his large pastels, the results of his crayon stage. These were orange explosions, which viewers associated with comets, fireworks and volcanoes. “Orange has nothing to do with the Italian Enzo Cucchi”, Wuorila-Stenberg says of the often heard comparison, “rather it is Fassbinder’s film Querelle, which had more influence on my colour at that time.”

“I depict the moment, the mystical and unique moment. I choose colours to suit my mood. Sometimes l feel that in order to learn anything new I must tear down everything, become free of ties and begin all over”, he explains his need to change.

Subsequently, Wuorila-Stenberg was prepared to take up his brushes again and continue his chosen calling!