Kaija Hinkula and Henna Aho duo exhibition „Under Conditions“
Under Conditions is a duo exhibition by contemporary artists Henna Aho & Kaija Hinkula. Aho and Hinkula examine painting, its new forms and possibilities in the 2020s – the boundaries, spatiality, materiality, the relationship to one’s own history and to the surrounding reality. The works that freely stretch the traditional form of a painting comment on the surrounding world, creating a space, where craftsmanship and every day life, utopia and criticism of a consumer-centred society combine into a process-like whole in the context of extended painting
On the almost-apparent paintings of Henna Aho and Kaija Hinkula
– text by Eero Karjalainen
Painting as a medium carries a heavy history with itself. As the most studied but also the most sold – and probably most produced – art form, a burden, according to many artists and art historians, has cast itself on the medium. How can one say anything about painting, if so much has already been made and stated? It is safe to say that painting has reached a kind of oxymoron: it’s role in museums and text-book examples is solid, but in the infrastructures of contemporary art it is not always taken as given – it is not too visible. The paradox lies in this notion of visibility since a change in the reception of painting has become apparent, having time to spread its roots. It is not, anymore, interesting to recognize something as a painting; the focus has rather shifted to the medium as an area of artistic operation.
Above stated is the main historical and methodological frame in which Henna Aho’s and Kaija Hinkula’s new duo exhibition Under the Conditions at KCCC settles. It also the only settling that takes place in the exhibition, which is constantly in movement. Comprised of new works from both painters, the movement could be described as a kind of double-choreography: that of the artists with the space, and of the visitor in the space. This is not to emphasize a sense theatricality, but to point to the stage-like essence in the way the exhibition is constructed. There is an active relation to this world in the exhibition, but it operates like a game with its own set of rules.
What could be the rules, then? The space is the first dimension – concretely and conceptually – to consider. Tactful and precise attitude towards an exhibition space has been important for both Aho and Hinkula in their practices and previous exhibitions, but in Under the Conditions a notion of site-specificity is taken further. The space, as the artists have stated, is the third agency participating in making the exhibition, and spatial intervention is the main starting point for Aho and Hinkula. It is still not meaningful to place the works in this exhibition to a certain category of site-specific art, since different categories of site-specificity – phenomenological, discursive, or institutional, to name a few – are constantly getting mixed and blurred. I would rather speak of performative site- and situation-specificity, where performativity points to a number of directions: conceptualizing the exhibition, building it with in part materials found in the location, or visitors engaging with the works. Could even this text be seen as an extension for the question of what site-specific painting is?
The artists engage with the space through the artworks in a multitude of ways. After thinking about the space, the urgent question, arising from the title of the exhibition, is that of what are the conditions under which the artists operate. Aho and Hinkula have both experimented at the borders of painting (un)systematically – one should not argue that they stretch the borders, since the borders know no limits. For example, ready-made objects, which are a seminal part of the artists working habitudes, are re-contextualized in the works. This happens by relocating the ready-made objects to the area of painting, but without them losing their relation to everyday realm. The usage of ready-made objects in the paintings is taken so far that it is not clear where the work starts and where it ends. Is the monitor presenting a video work physically essential part of the work? Or the heater, around which a site-specific painting is built? In the exhibition even painted colors have a ready-made -character to them, as they are chosen by color code rather than by mixing or experimenting. The burdensome history of painting is thus faded, only to emphasize the fact that it is first and foremost painting that is being considered here.
Still, there is nothing mystical in Under the Conditions. The references to this world are so direct that it is actually difficult to name them as just references. The works in the exhibition approach painting as a medium in painterly conditions. The rules applied are, thus, strict and loose at the same time: working-in and thinking-with painting, moving as far and as close as possible, and preferably at the same time.
About the artists:
Henna Aho is a multidisciplinary Finnish artist, known for abstract, large-scale, material- based constructions combining painting and hand-woven textiles. She has received grants, residencies, and commissions from the Kone Foundation, Finnish Cultural Found, the Arts Promotion Centre Finland, and Justheat pan-European research project. Aho obtained her MFA from the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki, and the University of Arts and Design, Helsinki. Her work has been exhibited across Finland in shows such as in Wäinö Aaltonen Museum, Turku Art Hall, and Mänttä Art Festival. Aho´s work is represented in several collections in Finland; HAM Helsinki Art Museum, Oulu Art Museum, Turku City, Turku University of Applied Sciences, and Finnish National Gallery.
Kaija Hinkulas (b.1984) artistic work operates within the field of expanded painting, where conventional two-dimensional paintings expand into sculptural and spatial experiences. In this expanded field, colours, paint, and compositions familiar from the tradition of painting combine with the methods of sculpture, and time and space arts. Finland-based visual artist Kaija Hinkula has graduated as a Master of Fine Arts from the Helsinki Academy of Fine Arts. Hinkula has held solo exhibitions and participated in group exhibitions in Finland and abroad and her works are featured in the Finnish State Art Deposit Collection and in the collections of HAM Helsinki Museum of Art.