Beauty merges with horror in the art of Kari Vehosalo (b. 1982), which delves deep into the innermost core of humanity. In his new works, existence and the human condition are characterised by searching, uncertainty and fragility. Vehosalo’s style has acquired a certain gentle austerity, its light even brighter and darkness more condensed than before. It is within that tension between glory and destruction that humanity resides.
Among the key themes of the exhibition are our relationship with nature and the ultimate existential meaning of life. Vehosalo sees the compositions in his paintings as arenas of interaction between fields of force that enable him to address concepts fundamental to humanity, such as death, beauty, sexuality and power. It is the interrelations between these qualities that creates meaning.
From occasionally claustrophobic interiors, Vehosalo’s work has moved back to nature, where figures contemplating their inner world are seen in majestic landscapes, above mists and valleys, a reference to the German tradition of wanderers in art. In keeping with the ideas of natural philosophers of the Romantic period, inner forces find an external expression in the landscape. Without a face against which to reflect on your own humanity, the viewer’s gaze flows past the figures, who have turned their backs, and penetrates ever deeper into the landscape. While there is a new sense of peace, hope, light and space in the pictures, the concentrated blackness looming over everything is even more unfamiliar and therefore more terrifying than before.
The exhibition features a wide range of techniques and materials: painted copper, scrubbed linen, 3D-printed plastic, as well as the darkness in the form of carbon dust. To the familiar sense of alienation evoked by the palette of greys and sepias, Vehosalo has added a new layer between the viewer and the motif, one that consists of painted, blown or scratched disturbances – curtains, films, stains and secrets. The black holes connecting the works are perhaps collapsed light, blind spots, or a chasm to scream into. Perhaps sacred, infinite and unidentifiable. Perhaps the wellspring of pleasure, the open wound of humanity, or pregnant pandemic fatigue.
Kari Vehosalo has exhibited in numerous solo and group shows in Finland and internationally. An extensive mid-career retrospective was shown at the Sara Hildén Art Museum in summer 2021. In addition to private collections, he has work in several notable public collections, including Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki Art Museum, Saastamoinen Foundation, Wihuri Foundation, and the Henna and Pertti Niemistö Foundation collection. Vehosalo was awarded the Ars Fennica prize in 2017.
– Oona Latto