11 December

Art critic Helen Korpak lists this year’s most invigorating exhibitions in Helsinki.

Marjatta Hanhijoki, Spatial Self Portrait, The Blue Room, water coloer painting, 1999.

Marjatta Hanhijoki, Visibly so, Kunsthalle Helsinki, Helsinki

Ingenious richness of detail can make me childishly excited, which is why I fell hard for Marjatta Hanhijoki’s retrospective at Kunsthalle Helsinki. The carefully executed watercolours depicted rooms crammed with art-historical references and enigmatic allusions in the form of various interior-design objects. Mirrors were a recurring feature, and the precision with which Hanhijoki represented reflections of all kinds was impressive and moving. In Visibly so, everyday surroundings and ordinary objects were significant and charged with symbolic meaning. 

Katarina Reuter, 4 am, oil painting, 50 x 50 cm, 2019.

Katarina Reuter, Paintings from a room, tm-gallery, Helsinki

Several of the oil paintings in Katarina Reuter’s solo exhibition at the Finnish Painters Union’s gallery were theatrical in a way that came across as brusque, and their literal and figurative darkness made me quite uncomfortable at times. Still, I haven’t been able to shake this exhibition, and the power of its ominous mood can still overwhelm me. In retrospect, Reuter’s dark twilight landscapes populated by wild animals feel like fragments of a visual hallucination. I also saved the leaflet with Tua Forsström’s wonderful exhibition text, as a reminder of how beautiful sincerity is.

One to 100, Galleri Mutteri, Helsingfors.

One to 100, Street Gallery Mutteri, Helsinki

The street gallery Mutteri is a large glass vitrine that is empty most weeks, despite it being available for rent at a reasonable price. That’s why the artists Hikari Nishida and Emil Lyytikkä’s playful One to 100 project was especially invigorating: they managed to bring a tired edifice located on an ugly street to life with an exhibition that was both ingenious and alternative. Fifty artists exhibited small-scale works on custom-built shelving, all of which were for sale for a maximum of one hundred euros. Despite the sales aspect, the selection wasn’t particularly commercial. A punk art bazaar put together in a friendly spirit – the atmosphere was inspiring.

– Helen Korpak is a regular contributor to Kunstkritikk and writes about art in Swedish and English. She is part of the team behind the artist-run gallery Kosminen in Helsinki.

For this year’s contributions to the Advent Calendar, see here.

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