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Helsinki and Espoo

I'm in Helsinki Finland this week. I have an exhibition at beta SPACE Aalto University, a group show with international artists responding to the theme 'Dark Days, White Nights'. Tomorrow I'm giving a paper at the InSEA European conference and I'm talking about 'The unfamiliar grey matter(s).' However, thats not what I want to talk about. Yesterday evening and first thing this morning I took some time out of writing & listening to others to look at some of the local collections and galleries and I have not been disappointed. Yesterday evening we were hosted by the Mayor of Helsinki, the Mayor of Espoo and the Director of EMMA museum. This morning I went to Kiasma and Ateneum.

EMMA museum is a magnificent space, the second level containing the main body of the exhibitions. It has a bank of windows the entire length of one side of the building, its open and airy with well planned and organised sub sections.

I was impressed by the 'Mirrors of the Mind' a comprehensive retrospective presenting the work of Meret Oppenheim. It covered several decades of her work, including objects, paintings, drawings, fashion, photographs (it just went on). But I was equally impressed by a Danish artist John Kørner who has transformed EMMA’s Areena Gallery into a three-dimensional painting into which the visitor can enter. Kørner’s art touches upon global topics such as migration and inequality to more personal themes such as identity, relationships and happiness, sparking the viewer’s imagination. You can even get in the boat and dance!

Yet, my favourite had to be the Mellors & Nissinen 'The Aalto Natives' at Kiasma contemporary art gallery. Simply hilarious. The pair represented Finland in the 2017 Venice Biennale. The work is spread over five rooms, including video, animated puppets, music, lights, sound action... its an installation which is a humorous yet a critical examination of Finnish identity that involves creativity, nerdy humour and a cast of national celebrities. The work reflects on themes such as national identity, creation myths and nationalism. I laughed all the way through as it really hit home commenting on hard issues about society, culture and the future.

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