Karoliina Hellberg

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Elizabeth Xi Bauer is delighted to present Karoliina Hellberg’s first UK solo exhibition. The Gallery will exhibit new works by the artist and a wallpaper print designed and executed by Hellberg for this upcoming solo show. 

Karoliina Hellberg lives and works in Helsinki and is known for her large, vibrant oil, acrylic, and ink canvases. Her work immerses the viewer in a world of repeated imagery, signs, and symbols, a labyrinth of spaces and places, combining layers, forms, and elements. The artist blends dream-like visions and narratives that merge the every day with the ethereal. This is explored with pictorial tropes such as indoor scenes, plants, flowers, clouds, animals, and textiles, which are remembered, imagined, or inspired by researched source material.

“Spaces and moods in my paintings have been influenced by the environment in which I grew up and the kind of places I feel to be important…spaces in [my] paintings are collages of metaphysical and psychological elements; they do not just reflect just one place or experience’’, Hellberg explains. 

Hellberg paints the space between memories and fantasies, heightened by her recurring use of intense colour throughout her works. Confident yet sensual brush strokes merge the foreground and background, highlighting areas rich in detail while allowing the works to appear flat and challenge our understanding of how we navigate the physical world. Employing these techniques, Hellberg builds a captivating and enchanting world.

The settings depicted in Hellberg’s paintings are often interiors, such as rooms in a home, which act as a container for the elements within them. The works in this upcoming exhibition at Elizabeth Xi Bauer will include spaces between the interior and exterior—for example, the view of a house as seen from a garden looking in. Although an outdoor space, these gardens have still been designed and created by a person. Rather than linear, they operate across multiple levels of time as they are a mixture of real, remembered, and imaginary places. Hellberg’s works depict fictional spaces that interpret instances or objects that originate in reality. The artist omits human figures from her works and instead portrays objects and elements brought in or discarded by humankind. In Hellberg’s works, the ghosts of human presence remain. “I enjoy the recurring theme of aesthetic ghosts and labyrinths; my paintings are like chapters in a book of short stories”, explains Hellberg.

Rather than guiding the viewer, Hellberg wants the audience to have their own understanding when encountering the work and to enjoy losing themselves within it. Whilst the references may be personal or from her research, Hellberg does not always desire to disclose her inspiration by not inflicting her interpretations on the viewer.

Hellberg works on one painting at a time, turning other artworks around so she does not see them. The artist does not always finish a painting before deciding to work on another. This allows time to reflect and continue working on another canvas, returning to the other paintings later. This intense focus is reflected in her works.

“It’s more like one thing leads to another; you can’t predict all the choices you’ll make in a painting, how you will feel about it or what you might need to solve in the painting”, Hellberg explains.

This upcoming exhibition of new works by Karoliina Hellberg at Elizabeth Xi Bauer will include large canvases, smaller paintings, framed watercolours, and prints in a wallpaper format, the latter of which the artist has received a grant to create from Arts Promotion Centre Finland (Taike). These wallpaper prints will serve as an accent feature, exploring the motifs embedded within Hellberg’s works. The familiarity of wallpaper further layers and extends Hellberg’s depiction of domestic settings. This new wallpaper is similar to a project by Hellberg, commissioned by the Didrichsen Museum, upon her receiving the Pro Arte prize in 2018. This 2019 solo exhibition at the Didrichsen Museum was the first time Hellberg created and executed her wallpaper prints. The artist included new wallpaper prints in exhibitions at Galerie Anhava, Helsinki, Finland, and Galleri KANT, Copenhagen, Denmark.

The exhibition will be curated by Maria do Carmo M. P. de Pontes.  

Image Credit: The reappearance of the snakevase, 2023. Acrylic and oil on canvas, 170 cm x 140 cm. Photograph: Jussi Tiainen. Courtesy of the Artist and Elizabeth Xi Bauer Gallery, London