Three of a Kind
Kogo gallery, Tartu, 01.07.2022 - 27.08.2022
curator: Jurriaan Benschop
This exhibition brings together the work of three painters who share an interest in ambivalent forms of figuration: Milla Aska, Veronika Hilger, and Paula Zarina-Zemane. Their paintings depict situations or figures that cannot be identified in one singular way but remain open to different readings. Yet in the choice of colours and the treatment of surface and paint, each of the artists develops a specific voice and unique character.
The figures in the work of Milla Aska (1993, based in Helsinki) appear to be behind a veil. They do not seem to be fully developed, but rather in the process of becoming visible and tangible. This impression is evoked through Aska’s approach to building up a painting with thin, translucent layers of paint. “My paintings seek shape around themes such as materiality and bodily sensations – for instance, how something feels against the skin, or what warmth feels like. I am intrigued by forms that seem to be something specific but don’t quite reveal themselves.” Aska earned her master’s degree at the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki in 2020. She has had solo exhibitions at Titanik Gallery in Turku (Warmth on a Chair, 2019) and as part of the Aine Art Museum exhibition project “Lapin Kullanmurut” in Tornio (Vene ja soutaja, 2021), both in Finland.
The paintings of Veronika Hilger (1981, based in Munich) combine elements of landscape, still life, and portrait. Hilger is a specialist in ambiguous figuration. The shapes in her paintings have a familiar, often organic touch but are not specific enough to name. The artist presents them on an elementary level, stripped of detail. As a result, the forms have a dynamic appearance: a foot could be a leaf, a leaf could be an animal, an animal could be a stone. “The organic is something that you can easily dock onto as a human, and that creates a kind of identification potential,” the artist notes. Hilger combines painting with small-scale sculptures. She is represented by the Sperling Gallery in Munich. An extensive monograph of her work was released in 2021 by the Verlag für Moderne Kunst.
In the works of Paula Zarina-Zemane (1988, based in Riga), the distinction between human and the environment is blurred. The works oscillate between abstract compositions formed through clouds of colour, and more concrete outlines of landscapes. The human figure may appear small, or simply as a faint shape or a dot of paint rather than a clearly defined drawing. The paintings are usually the result of a fast process, and they evoke a sense of speed through traces left by the brush. Yet the reduced composition also sets a reflective mood. “I am trying to get the result in one go,” the artist notes. “It’s a fragile process. If something does not work out straight away, then I clean it up and start again.” Recent solo exhibitions have taken place at Maksla XO (Changes, 2021) and at Careva Contemporary (One as Another, 2018), both in Riga.
The exhibition Three of a Kind is curated by Jurriaan Benschop, a Dutch writer and curator based in Berlin. It is part of the exhibition series Past is the Present at the Kogo Gallery in 2022. The works of the three artists presented evade a specific sense of time and of belonging to a certain era. The artists nourish their work with the history of painting to find the point where a present-day approach to painting merges with a sense of timelessness.
The exhibition was supported by the Estonian Cultural Endowment, the City of Tartu, the Finnish Institute and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Estonia.