Karoliina Hellberg is a young Finnish painter who graduated in 2015 from the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki. At the moment she has her first solo show at the Didrichsen Art Museum in Helsinki, a part of the Pro Arte award that she won for 2019. The prize is offered every few years to a young, promising artist and apart from the exhibition, it includes a stipend and publicity support in the form of acquisition of a painting to the museum’s collection.
Although works on paper and canvas are at the centre of Hellberg’s production, she often completes her works in other techniques, a decision she explains that “painting was not a self-evident decision when choosing my studies. I’ve also created spaces and built decors and sets. I have always been fascinated by ideas and themes that can be realized with various media.” The major themes are memories and secrets, which are brilliantly narrated by her installations in which she combines atmospheric spaces with paintings on paper and canvas with glass objects.
“I listed words that describe what I have wanted to capture in my paintings: memory, dreams, presence… and heard Yves Saint Laurent’s farewell speech. He talked about his childhood’s aesthetic ghosts, it’s like aesthetics that goes into your life.” Karoliina does include ghosts in her paintings, too: every element of her interior has its own symbolic meaning, which remains a secret of the artist. However, what is not a mystery is her visual inspiration. Are you able to guess which artists she lists as her masters?
Paintings and their new lives
Look at the strong colours and you will find a reflection of Henri Matisse’s interiors. The observant and detailed observation of daily moments is drawn from David Hockney, while intimacy and delicacy definitely have something from Pierre Bonnard. Karoliina lists also Mamma Andersson, a contemporary Swedish artist who to my eye makes works in aesthetic similar to Edward Hopper. Yet, as Karoliina admits, her paintings often turned out different from what she had planned, almost as if they began their independent lives: “Yes, I’m often surprised by the places and ambiences of my paintings. Sometimes they become completely different from what I had originally envisioned”.
If you’re curious what her installations look like, check out her website here.