Jeppe Hein specializes in tricks that draw viewers into his buoyant world. It is there—amidst spinning mirrors, mischievous peepholes, and fountains with minds of their own—where the Danish artist suggests that active interaction (whether it be with others, or with ourselves) is not only fun, but fundamental.
In “STILLHET,” now at Galleri Nicolai Wallner, Hein siphons his passion for social sculpture (his work has been referred to as a scion of Relational Aesthetics and Minimalism) into an ethereal grouping of works that center on the concept of silence as a conduit for contemplation. Here, mirrored surfaces, diffused scents, and all-encompassing paintings create a space for reflection.
In Breathing Watercolours (2014), Hein imitates rhythmic inhalation and exhalation in long strokes of blue on skeins of white paper. The 10 sheets are pieced together on a freestanding, circular armature that recalls shrines, blanket forts, gaps behind waterfalls, and other small, comforting spaces. The narrow opening that allows viewers to enter also encourages them to stay—perhaps to be affected by the cascading scrim of strokes.
Smells like … Stillhet (2014) plays with the conceptual connection between linguistics and sensory experience by mixing, emitting, and suggesting a definition for the smell of silence. Viewers might agree or disagree with Hein’s fragrant interpretation, and this range of responses, of course, is his intention. What does silence—amidst our constant din of cell phone cheeps—mean (or smell like) to each of us?
The three mirrored works in the show most directly implicate the passerby, commingling passing reflections with phrases and forms that connect exterior and interior selves. In a time when selfie-celebs reign over the social media realm, Hein adorns our heads and bodies with the words “stillhet” and “I don’t expect anything but I’m open to Everything,” suggesting that there is more to a person—and perhaps their effect on the world—than their portrait. Third Eye (2014), the most playful work in the show, tops viewers’ heads with a glowing flame that insinuates sight beyond the visible world—into minds, auras, and other introspective spaces that just might be starved for interaction.