ARTHELSINKI 2016

September, 7-11 2016

Habitat 

For the second time ART re.FLEX is participating ArtHelsinki and bringing the developing project Habitat, a multimedia exploration of humans and their environment.  ART re.FLEX Gallery is going to present an exposition that includes art by Mina Milk, Alexander Morozov, Anders Schönborg, Dmitry Zhukov, the duet SASHAPASHA, Ingegerd Schönborg, Viktoria Ikonen, Liudmila Belova, Maria Arendt, Anna Bittersohl and Susanna Storch. We choose these artists for their fresh, arresting works in diverse media and techniques, spotlighting their personal perspectives on the subject. At the same time, these artists engage in dialogue with other contemporary art, creating both connections and disagreements between different treatments of the theme in present-day artworks.

What is human habitat? What was it for people of the past, and what does it mean in today’s world? Not so long ago, an essential part of being human entailed nature: living in forests and fields. As centuries passed, we formed busy urban areas, and cities became our habitat. This transformation of the environment led to profound mental, physical and social changes. The artists participating in this project demonstrate a variety of views on these lasting changes.

Mina Milk, a Moscow- and London-based artist, pays special attention to nature and animals in her projects. Visitors at Art Helsinki will be able to see her graphic works picturing forest creatures, including animals that can be frightening at the first glance. It appears that the animals are coming at us from the walls and trying to attack, yet they become more welcoming and loving as we interact with them.

When looking at the works of Alexander Morozov (St. Petersburg, Russia), we can see how he depicts lost and abandoned humans in the urban jungle and the subway system. His works, which are painted in egg tempera on gesso, are freeze frames. This medium serves Morozov to show the lost time, moments that have gone by and are irretrievable.

Viktoria Ikonen, a young artist from St. Petersburg, states that the analysis of interaction between the natural world and the realm created by human beings is the main theme of her art. Her art evokes a melancholic mood about the nature that has vanished, revealing another important interpretive layer in her works: our relationship with time. Her oil on canvas paintings are full of lyrical expressionism in their depiction of nature.

Another St. Petersburg artist, Lyudmila Belova, depicts natural environments with traces of human presence. She works with a range of media, including video, photography, and making installations. Her media landscapes in combination with audiovisual installations show us how the seemingly ordinary world of nature influences our senses. Belova points to the incredible speed of how we perceive, evaluate, and react to nature in our times. The contemporary individual is so influenced by screens and cameras that he or she cannot take in the environment slowly, as our vision is accustomed to watching rapidly changing pictures of the world. To capture this physiological and cultural shift, Belova’s works show us blurred and quickly advancing images of landscapes.

In contrast, the Swedish photographer Anders Schönborg brings us into the urban jungle, made of metal, concrete and glass. His imagery attempts to swallow a viewer whole, much like cities do. Schönborg is engrossed by industrial and urban landscapes, and focuses on them heavily in his work. Choosing the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao for his photographic explorations, Schönborg uses unusual angles, bringing incredible transformations to our usual view of this building.

His spouse Ingegerd Schönborg displays a similar sensibility very much connected with nature. Ms. Schönborg works with textile materials and creates various patterns and forms. The viewer can see a deeply felt oasis of green grass and plant motifs.

The creative duet SASHAPASHA, based in Helsinki, took a long road trip through Russia. They succeeded in revealing a mechanism for the birth of an idea. A metaphor of the creative path became a real road – the highway from St. Petersburg to Altay republic. Throughout their trip they collected various items. At home they created art objects based on their findings.

The sculptor Dmitry Zhukov works with metal. His series of sculptures entitled Russian Lace show us the artist’s reaction to the world surrounding him, while posing the question of how time shapes nature and humans. He uses the highly traditional graphic language of embroidery, yet transforms it into metal works made of barbed wire, a modern medium.

Another artist who relies on traditional techniques in contemporary art is Maria Arendt (Moscow). She works with textile materials. In her embroidery, she depicts nature as well as urban elements such as airplanes, towers and buildings. Yet all her pieces are filled with spiritual reverence for the human habitat, and with the hope to find beauty in the world around us.

The German painter Anna Bittersohl presents a gendered perspective on the topic of people and nature in her painting. It is the symbol of the beginning, the interaction of a human being with environment. A woman holds a plant with a piece of soil protecting it, and sees new life in it.

The main subject of Susanna Storch’s art is Man. The idea of contradiction between man and the world that dates back to Romantic era of 18th century is vividly brought to life in the ”Fassaden” series started in Paris in 2013, however gets fresh and up-to-date incarnation. No detail in appearance of protagonist or his shelter reveals nationality or location of both, and more intriguing is to discover their origin: Fassadens are from Mainz, where Susanna lives and works, London, Lisbon, Frankfurt; one can (or rather can’t) recognize Fassaden X as the real building at the center of Santiago, Chili.

Our gallery’s key interest is to let the artists explore the idea of a human and the environment and display various fresh approaches to the topic. We trust that with the range of media and a variety of philosophical underpinnings of the works included here, the exhibit will make a set of lasting imprints on the viewer’s psyche.