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Heli Hiltunen, “It didn’t happen here”

Stockholm, 29.3–13.4  2012

Paintings by Finnish artist Heli Hiltunen fill our gallery in Stockholm with dreamlike and melancholic atmospheres, throughout the years Hiltunen’s foremost mark of distinction. Through painting and photography, she traverses the alleys of memory, searching the roots of her childhood and the magically charged expanses of Karelia, a Russian-Finnish landscape imbued with folkloric soul. Hiltunen creates a unique narrative tapestry inspired by everyday tales, of dialects and embroidery, dirty windows, and bittersweet landscapes. Depicting nature itself is not her primary focus; she loads her painting with the organic language of nature, with the whole of its gnarled entanglements and trampled paths.

Hiltunen’s new works exhibit further development of her artistic voice. The canvases have expanded. Single works now find room for a plurality of landscapes. Her painterly craft has been enhanced, the level of detail intensified: When I start a new work I spread paint on canvas and follow arbitrary or incidental traces left by brush. The question is about touch, which is very slow, precise and meticulous. I begin to follow these traces and brushstrokes as if I was looking for something to emerge. And finally these traces and spontaneous stains tend to resemble mimetic forms and details such as roots, branches, and landscapes.” This creative process of extraction results in painting which scrutinizes one’s vision and challenges its ability to form conclusions. Large scale combined with intricately detailed rendering allows one the liberty of enjoying the work as equally close-up as far away.

In her photography we find similar qualities. Hiltunen is fascinated by divergent conceptions of time communicated by painting versus photography. The experience of painting is anchored in the present; the flow of time materializes in brushstrokes uncoupled a specific moment in time. In a developed photo however, a tragic presence tinges the length of time between the snap of the shutter and the viewer’s gaze. A wedge in time is rendered visual and what we see in a photo is inescapably of the past. By alternating between these mediums and placing them in dialog with each other, Hiltunen exposes our own dependence on time, which itself lies at the core of her artistic expression.

“In my work, I think the main theme is memory and oblivion. To remember and maintain a lived experience we often have an image made of it. Subject matter for me is hovering between that experience and its image. Thus, memory and remembering is analogous with construction of an image.“ Cinematic sequences of recollection and dream are created as one’s eye wanders between Hiltunen’s works. In the dimly smouldering images, reality is defragmented into a fertile soil for dreams. Hiltunen’s melancholic landscapes are stage curtains, not merely for her own fragments of memory, but for our own as well.

Heli Hiltunen was born in 1960 in Heinola, Finland. She received her artistic degree at the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki, Finland, where she now lives and works. In 2001 she was awarded with the Ars Fennica prize, an annual Finnish award for the visual arts. Her work is included in the collections of Kiasma, Helsinki Art Museum, the Finnish state, and the National Public Art Council in Sweden, to mention a few. This is Hiltunen’s second solo exhibition at Galleri Andersson/Sandström, the first one produced in Umeå in 2006.