The Painting Rituals with Anja Salonen


I used to be embarrassed to call myself a painter.

I believed painting was too antiquated, traditional, obsolete, steeped in history, etc. And yet I couldn’t stop. The material and process have always resonated with me: the slowness, subtlety and nuance, the cycle of building up and breaking down, and particularly the mental space painting evokes. It is a state of analysis and questioning, decision-making, and intense focus, producing a deep connection with my own intuition. This slowness and emphasis on process exist in contrast to our environment of hyper-fast cuts and disposability, and thus provide a unique space from which to observe and comment on this environment.

I think that the visual arts in particular have the power to evoke recognition of shared experiences that are difficult or impossible to pinpoint through language, and I am often reminded that it is the visceral and almost physical pull of interacting with a powerful work of art that feeds my drive to create. I want my work to be accessible to anyone on a fundamentally human level, to hit some core of what it feels like to be alive today. While social media has made the world more interconnected than ever before, it has also created a deeply felt isolation and fragmentation of self. People are splitting their identities into constructed personas, performing as digital entities, and losing touch with the physical nature of human connection. As technology develops, the border between “real” space and digital space becomes increasingly permeable, and our society values breadth, speed, and convenience over depth, contemplation, and content. I am using the latter to comment on the former in my work. By situating the viewer in a seamlessly realized un-reality, painting provides the viewers the space to observe themselves, how they interact with others, and how their environment affects them.

I want to jolt my viewers, even for just a moment, into some recognition of the surreal in reality, as I believe that fantasy can be a powerful way to comment on the state of contemporary life.

Anja Salonen is a painting student at Rhode Island School of Design, currently working in Los Angeles. She seeks to make work that is immersive, creating a sense of seamless unreality, which removes the viewer from the banal provoking both introspection and external reflection.

Anja Salonen’s work appears in our upcoming GRAPHITE ISSUE SIX: PRACTICE. The new issue comes out June 5th.