Karoliina Hellberg: E / Joseph James: Transmutation – Paper and Steel Cuttings
27 Oct  – 20 Nov  2016
Karoliina Hellberg’s (born 1987 in Porvoo) exhibition E at Galerie Anhava presents the latest work of this young, emerging artist. The exhibition features paintings in oils and acrylic alongside works on paper in ink and watercolour. In her works, the familiar objects and places that are in themselves ordinary are replaced by something alien, and seemingly normal things are different in indefinable way. This creates the tension of her works that appeals to the viewer and which she develops with a determined and strong approach.

Hellberg paints a uniform story, or ‘compiles a collection of short stories’ as she puts it, where the individual works are part of a broader narrative. Hellberg’s core motifs are rooms, interiors and buildings in verdant natural settings. She draws inspiration from places and stories that appeal to her, such as the life of designer and architect Eileen Gray. One of the main themes of the exhibition is the famous modernist Villa E-1027 at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin in France designed by Gray in 1926–1929. Hellberg rarely depicts people, but their marks can be seen in a half-full wine glass or flowers arranged in a vase.

She is interested in the notion of aesthetic phantoms, which has become a methodological approach for her, an element of visual language. Aesthetic phantoms appear as people who are absent, enigmatic rooms, recollections of old buildings or nostalgic visions. In Hellberg’s works they are given their own space, where silence, an arrested state, momentariness and a tensed mood of expectation are present.

Karoliina Hellberg graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in 2015 and in recent years she has participated in group shows in addition to holding solo exhibitions at HAM Gallery in Helsinki (2016) and Gallery Kulma in Porvoo (2015), among other venues. Her works are in the collections of the Päivi and Paavo Lipponen Fund, the Saastamoinen Foundation, the Helsinki Art Museum, and in private collections in Finland, the United Kingdom and Belgium.

Joseph James (b. 1979) is an American-born artist residing in Finland. He holds the degrees of Bachelor of Fine Arts from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, USA, and Master of Fine Arts in printmaking from the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki.

Over the years, Joseph James’s works have moved on from the traditional methods of graphic art: printing and the preparation of works as several identical copies. His works are mostly paper cuttings based on drawings. He draws on the reverse face of a coloured, often painted, stiff sheet of paper and cuts the designs with a scalpel. In fact, he cuts away the unnecessary parts, leaving only the drawing. The resulting cobweb-like paper cuttings are placed on top of each other, with the lower ones visible through the openings in the upper pieces, and the background on which the work is mounted becomes part of it. He may also use laser-cut parts or digitally drawn forms which he then cuts by hand.

These unique, one-off works may be based just as much on observation as on a mental image: a street scene or a photograph seen in a magazine or the notion of the structure of the human face, or how fast drawing feels, and how that feeling might look. The works are in fact sculpted drawings, or sculptures based on drawings. Their material is unassuming and physically light, but there is much to see in them. Their preparation is demanding and painstaking work, but viewing them is enjoyable, producing a rewarding feeling of abundant airiness.

Joseph James has recently expanded the range of his cuttings to stainless steel, a more traditional material of sculpture. These laser-cut pieces are, of course, more physical and sturdier than the works in paper, but they, too, retain the lightness and feeling of immateriality of the original starting point.

His works are found in various private collections as well as in the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, the Saastamoinen Foundation, the Helsinki Art Museum and the Hämeenlinna Art Museum, among others.