With this in-depth group exhibition showing 21 works of eleven artists, both established and emerging members alike, the "Helsinki School" can be viewed for the first time in Switzerland. The concept of the "Helsinki School" can not defined specifically by discipline, nationality or style, but rather, it represents an approach, a way of thinking that has evolved out of a process of teaching at the Aalto University School of Art and Design.
Curated by Timothy Persons
Nanna Hänninen, Wilma Hurskainen, Sandra Kantanen, Ola Kolehmainen, Anni Leppälä, Niko Luoma, Jaana Maijala, Susanna Majuri, Jyrki Parantainen, Riitta Päiväläinen, Nelli Palomäki
Showing an exciting and fascinating selection of very diverse works from various artists of the "Helsinki School", the Christophe Guye Galerie is pleased to introduce one of the most exciting contemporary art and photography movements. With this in-depth group exhibition showing 21 works of eleven artists, both established and emerging members alike, the "Helsinki School" can be viewed for the first time in Switzerland. The concept of the "Helsinki School" can not defined specifically by discipline, nationality or style, but rather, it represents an approach, a way of thinking that has evolved out of a process of teaching at the Aalto University School of Art and Design. Its members are, rather than photographers, considered conceptual artists who chose to express their artistic vision through the use of the photography- or film camera, or light sensitive materials. Additionally influential is the extraordinary Finnish light and the specific conditions of almost complete darkness or endless days that result in distinctive interpersonal attributes and social conduct. The show gives an insight into the most recent works of these selected artists, presenting both the school as a strong entity and the power of unanimity, and the artists' distinctly original and individual styles.
Numerous internationally acknowledged artists, who were once graduates of or taught at the Aalto University School of Art and Design (formerly the University of Art and Design Helsinki), have over years drawn together to form the group of artists celebrated as the "Helsinki School". With the upcoming show "Helsinki School" the Christophe Guye Galerie is proud to present, for the first time in Switzerland, the powerful, individual work of eleven of its members. More than a group of artists from a specific locality, this "group" represents an approach that has grown out of a teaching process at Aalto University, where the emphasis focuses on critique, cooperation and exchange of ideas, and where theory meets reality. The concept of the "Helsinki School" is not defined specifically by discipline, nationality or style, but rather, it represents an approach, a way of thinking that has evolved out of a process of this teaching. Including both photography and video artists, photography, the cornerstone on which the "Helsinki School" was built, remains the quintessential tool each of these artists employ creating his or her own photographic process and using the medium as a conceptual means.
The "Helsinki School" is the unique phenomenon in the field of contemporary photography. Now internationally recognized, this movement began in the mid 1990's as a teaching project by the Director Professional Studies Timothy Persons, who has played a fundamental role for the establishing of both this school of thought, as well as the formation of this artistic group. Collectively exhibited and considered, the "Helsinki School" plays a pivotal role in determining a forward-thinking vision of where photography fits into the world today. The artists, as a group, demonstrate a spirit of association while nonetheless, and perhaps due to, lay emphasis on the uniqueness of each individual.
No one style or genre defines the "Helsinki School", nor can it easily be categorised by theme or material. Yet what these artists share is an intense and precise aesthetic awareness; an "approach taken to making photographic art that is uniquely its own and uniquely Finnish in intent, design and execution" (Ferdinand Protzman, award-winning cultural writer and author, and contributor to "The Helsinki School", Hatje Cantz 2005). They work with thoroughly planned concepts and whole thematic series: artists of the school are encouraged to produce series of photographs, to think about an overriding concept and realising it, and to learn both the history of, and the practice of, conceptual art.
Formally the works shown range from abstract to figurative, and the content from conceptual to narrative; portraits and landscapes are illustrated, themes addressed can autobiographical stories, the study of the individual, metamorphosis, nature or the man-made. Whether minimalist compositions, theatrically staged interiors or painterly nature studies, it is the professionalism from the initial idea to finished art work and a refined sense of aesthetics that unifies their works.
Photography has developed into one of Finland's most successful cultural exports, and the "Helsinki School" one of the most famous Finnish art movements ever. The international reputation of the school's artists has continued to rise with major exhibitions worldwide including the current show "Touching Dreams" at the National Museum of Photography in Copenhagen. The "Helsinki School" currently presents works from over forty different artists who have been studying or teaching at Aalto University, eleven of whom will be presented in the show "Helsinki School".
"Helsinki School" shows a dialogue between recent works of selected artists from various generations, and both established and emerging alike. While some of the members of the "Helsinki School" included in the exhibition have already gone on to receive international acclaim - Ola Kolehmainen, Jyrki Parantainen, Nanna Hänninen, whose works are in the Fotomuseum Winterthur's collection, Sandra Kantanen, Niko Luoma, and Riitta Päiväläinen among them - Helsinki School also introduces some new and exciting names, such as Jaana Maijala, or Anni Leppälä and Susanna Majuri - who both attended Fotomuseum's "Plattform 2009" - and Wilma Hurskainen and Nelli Palomäki - who both took part in "Plattform 2010", the latter of which was awarded.
Leppälä for instance visualises photography's desire to capture moments and retaining these for eternity with her images of a sensitive, mysterious dream world inhabited by female characters. Humorous but no less intriguing are the works of Hurskainen, who explores concepts of identity and memory through visual representations of personal memories accompanied by text. A curiosity for people is what inspires the dark, profoundly simple portraits by Palomäki, while Paratainen's exploration of man's physical and psychological vulnerability result in cinematical set ups of moments where future, presence and past collide. Majuri on the other hand creates an underwater world of fictive reality; her images like illustrated novels whisper stories of mystical fear and love.
Similarly Päiväläinen and Kantanen look to nature as their "setting"; Päiväläinen theatrically stages, creating haunting and vivid installations of figureless bodies, while Katanen seems to be using a paintbrush rather than a camera. Contrastingly, works by Kolhemainen, Hänninen or Luoma visually present us shapes and forms; a play of colours, lines and minimalist geometry that let us see, wonder and be astonished about the infinite possibilities a single camera can present us with.
The choice of these eleven artists and their works, though technically and visually so diverse, together present a very fantastical, almost surreal visual language; a fascinating forward thinking approach to the medium photography. "Helsinki School" gives an insight into the artists' distinctly original and individual style, while never losing sight of the school's strong entity and the power of unanimity.
The Aalto University School of Art and Design is an international school, which gives education and pursues research in the fields of design, motion picture, new media, audiovisual communication, art education and arts. Originally founded as the School of Arts and Crafts in 1871, it has evolved into a dynamic university of its areas of competence. It is the largest university of design in the Nordic countries and one of the most highly respected institutes in its field in the whole world.
Timothy Persons is the Director of Professional Studies Program and a Senior lecturer at the Aalto University School of Art and Design in Helsinki, Finland. Along with his position at the Aalto University School of Art and Design he is also Gallery TAIK's (Berlin) curator, artistic leader of VIPS (Video Photography Stockholm), in Kulturhuset, Sweden, and senior advisor to the Borås Art Museum, Sweden. Furthermore Persons is a member of selection committee of Paris Photo, Senior Curatorial Adviser at KIASMA (2008-2010), Museum of Contemporary Art Helsinki, Finland, for the Kulturhuset in Stockholm, as well as the Danish National Museum of Photography in Copenhagen, and has been an adviser to the board of the Claremont Museum of Art, California, as well as juror of the Swiss Photo Award.
Image: Nelli Palomäki: Elsa at 10, 2009
Pigment print on aluminium, 125 x 125 cm
Opening: 7 July 2011 - 18:00
Christophe Guye Galerie
Dufourstrasse 31 8008 Zurich
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 11 am - 7 pm, Sat 11 am - 6 pm