Painters 2013

Pekka Hepoluhta

“Everything is so different here in Lamu,” says Pekka, “nothing is familiar.” He speaks in a soft low voice and searches for words to describe the differences and his fascination with them. “I love how people are close with one another and how they come near when I am painting.” It is a contrast to Finland where Pekka lives. “People live more isolated in Finland” he explains, taking time to think out his words. “People can be alone a lot.”  Not in Lamu. Here families are large extended circles interacting and engaging with one another daily. For these people, alone is not an option. Pekka is drawn to this bewildering constellation of connections and interactions as he is to the light of the equatorial sun.

“The African light is not easy to paint” he insists, but so worth trying. He begins to name the kinds of light he has seen here and describes their attributes: “morning light is beautiful, noon is bright and harsh, late afternoon is soft, an easier light to work with but it moves so quickly.” His paintings seek out the light’s exposure of the landscape. His palatte of colours are dominated by light creams and yellows that accentuate the sun’s saturation on coral walls and sand. “Light is the story being told,” states Pekka describing his paintings. According to the artist, it is not important whether someone looking at the painting recognises the place but whether the light itself is recognised. Painting in Matondoni village is a good example. Pekka stood in front of his easel under the shade of a small overhanging roof. The scene he chose to paint was exposed to the harsh light of the mid-day sun. The landscape in front of him was so bright that the light seemed to wash out its colour. “The light is intense,” he said from the shade of a small overhanging roof.  “But not too much; it is interesting to paint.”

Pekka Hepoluhta was born in 1957 in Finland. He was trained at the Free Art School, which focuses on traditional painting techniques. He is the artistic director of the school, a part time position that allows him to devote time to his own painting.