This joint exhibition by Karoliina Hellberg and Loji Höskuldsson explores night, momentarily vacated spaces, the lightness of summer, and the aesthetics of everyday life. The two artists met in Iceland in 2020 when Hellberg was there on a residency, and she later invited Höskuldsson to participate in this exhibition. In the period preceding the exhibition, they were in constant dialogue with each other, although they created the works independently. They claim to have visited each other’s works in their thoughts, conversations and imaginations.
The setting in Karoliina Hellberg’s paintings and paper-based works is night. Becoming aware of the fact attunes the viewer to the works: the night is quiet and there is a sense of danger. At night one’s body and mind becomes alert and starts to wander. Hellberg’s interiors are empty – momentarily vacated – but not forgotten, for the paintings exude a sense of caring. The human figure, while undepicted, is present in many ways: in the plants, in the containers, in the views. Hellberg’s works do not long for the past but are interested in the future.
In painting the works for this exhibition, Hellberg was reaching for an imagery of memory when she came across 16th century philosopher Giulio Camillo’s idea of a system for developing memory. Hellberg describes her work as a process of opening up memory boxes, perhaps reconnecting with something she had forgotten, and from those memories selecting objects of personal significance. Some of the motifs end up in the artworks, others remain exclusively in her mind.
When she paints, Hellberg also thinks about her earlier works. Their details may reoccur in later works, forming new images in them.On the other hand, nothing is arbitrary: the works are always the result of thorough observation and reflection. An open book on a chair is painted with full knowledge of the mood it leaves behind. The back wall of a cupboard is full of shells. Flowing water carries oysters. We no longer know whether we find ourselves in an interior or exterior space.
The works of Icelandic artist Loji Höskuldsson contain familiar objects and packaging. The stems of his hand-embroidered flowers bend and curve in different directions, and details are captured on the canvas in rich and delicious combinations of colour. Summer lasts long indeed in Höskuldsson’s art.
The rich bouquets of flowers are embroidered with coarse woollen thread on rough jute fabric, with a lonely twig poking its way out of a hole in an orange traffic warning post. The compositions contain echoes of ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement.
Looking at Melancholy Thistles in an Old salmiakki Box, you can taste the saltiness of the liquorice in your mouth and your fingers tingle with the sensation of trying to pick drops from the candy box. Höskuldsson’s works are not only about how things look but also how they taste and feel. The humorous works play with stereotypes.
Höskuldsson chooses the motifs for his works based on the country where the exhibition is to be held. As a result, the textile works are like tiny portraits of countries or nations, although the wild flowers always hail from Iceland because of Höskuldsson’s fondness for the small size and fragility of vegetation in his native land. The embroidered motifs in this exhibition are candy boxes, plastic carrier bags and household objects, such as Arabia’s Moomin mugs or Iittala’s Aalto vases. Höskuldsson has an eye for details: the Aalto vase includes a tiny sticker with Iittala’s “I” logo on red, executed with tiny stitches.
The way Höskuldsson signs his works evokes the 1980s: the methodical process of stitching his name is reminiscent of how computer code used to slowly appear on the screen. That slowness is an essential part of his works, which evolve stitch by stitch, systematically and calmly. You might say that Höskuldsson pixelates the grid of the canvas, populating its surface with his own unique markings.
– Ulla-Maija Pitkänen
Karoliina Hellberg (b. 1987) graduated with an MFA from the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts in 2015. She has held solo exhibitions at Galleri Kant in Copenhagen (2022), Didrichsen Art Museum in Helsinki (2019), Galerie Anhava in Helsinki (2019), the Finnish Institute in St Petersburg (2017) and HAM Gallery in Helsinki (2016). In recent years, her work has been displayed at the ENTER (2022) and CHART (2018) art fairs in Copenhagen, Amos Rex in Helsinki (2021), Ásmundarsalur gallery in Reykjavik (2020), Kuopio Art Museum (2018), Finnish Institute in Stockholm (2017) and Pro Artibus Galleri Elverket in Tammisaari (2016–2017). In 2018, Hellberg received the Pro Arte award from the Didrichsen Art Museum. She has work in numerous collections, including those of the Saastamoinen Foundation, the Päivi and Paavo Lipponen Fund, the Helsinki Art Museum (HAM) and private collections in Finland, Sweden, Denmark, England, Belgium, Switzerland and the United States, among others.
Thank you: Arts Promotion Centre Finland and Ólöf Rut Stefánsdóttir
Loji Höskuldsson (b. 1987) is an Icelandic artist based in Reykjavík. He graduated from the Iceland Academy of the Arts in 2010. His recent solo exhibitions include Safnasafnið, Akureyri (2021), Ásmundarsalur, Reykjavík (2019), and Hverfisgallerí, Reykjavík (2019). In 2022 he participated in group exhibitions at V1 gallery in Copenhagen. Höskuldsson undertook a special project called The Aftermath of a Garden Party with Hay for the 2021 Chart art fair, and in 2021 he published a book on his documentation of the work of Icelandic architect Sigvaldur Thordarson. Loji Höskuldsson is also an active musician, performer and writer who has played music in various Icelandic bands and has performed at numerous music festivals in Iceland and abroad. He has written two radio plays that were broadcast live in the Reykjavik Art Museum in 2010 and by the Icelandic National Radio Station in 2015.