Hannaleena Heiska’s solo exhibition Camouflage consists of drawings made on paper and sculptural elements cut out of birch plywood. The medium is velvety charcoal and a new element – the brightly coloured pigments of chalk pastels. Thematically Heiska continues to deal with topics drawn from science, and on this occasion uses camouflage motifs to address the contradictions created by digitality.
One of the inspirations for my latest works has been the way that some types of make-up and hairstyles – the urban individual’s camouflage, and a means of survival and of creating an identity – cause problems for face-recognition systems. For example, some of the most highly developed face-recognition software based on three-dimensional information can be used without the target noticing it. Face recognition without the person’s consent is, nevertheless, a threat to privacy. The right to privacy is in turn one of the basic protections enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The figures in the Camouflage drawing series form a distinctive, anonymous sci-fi tribe, framed and guided by an indeterminate time plane and by timelessness. Heiska situates the works in a broader context by referring to modernism’s promise of a better world, to André Mare, who developed camouflage during the First World War and, in the present, to Edward Snowden, along with the feeling of insecurity surrounding data privacy and big data.
In the drawings we also see futurist structures that have served for the artist as fictive, psychological shelters, sanctuaries from reality. They symbolize another, alternative level of experience. This is about nostalgia and about the longing for security, for a parallel world where people are sheltered, on their journey into the future.
Occupying the space alongside the paper works works on paper are three-dimensional, sculpture-like drawings made on birch plywood. These are a continuation of the drawing structure made for EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art’s In Search of the Present exhibition in 2016, and which is now in Kiasma’s collection. The site-specific work made for the 4th Ural Industrial Biennial of Contemporary Art (2017) is also a part of Heiska’s production that explores the spatial properties of drawings.
The new works can be seen in terms of dystopia and critique of the contemporary world. But the artist does not see the exhibition as gloomy, rather it lives and moves through joyous, open forms. Heiska has sought to achieve a Shangri-La atmosphere or a timeless future state.
Since 2016, Hannaleena Heiska has also been working on multi-disciplinary performances with the dancer and choreographer Minna Tervamäki. Their joint work The Trace received its premiere at EMMA in November 2016. The Trace is an encounter between two modes of presentation and expression, a work that comes into being and develops in space and time, in which painting and dance, colours and bodily movements, are combined, in tandem with profound interaction between the two artists.
To coincide with the exhibition, The Trace will be performed in the Turbine Hall at the Cable Factory, Helsinki, at 18:00 on August 24 and 25. Both performances will be followed by a discussion between Heiska, Tervamäki and the curator Mika Hannula.
Camouflage is Hannaleena Heiska’s (b. 1973, Oulu) fifth solo exhibition at the gallery. Since graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki in 2006, Heiska has actively appeared in exhibitions in various parts of the world, including: the 4th Ural Industrial Biennial, Ekaterinburg, Russia; EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Espoo; Espace Louis Vuitton Gallery, Tokyo; Contemporary Art Centre (CAC), Vilnius; Bomuldsfabriken kunsthall, Arendal, and Momentum – Nordic Biennial of Contemporary Art, Moss, Norway. Heiska’s first solo exhibition in Sweden was at Gothenburg Museum of Art in 2015. In February a solo exhibition will open at Turku Art Museum. In 2011, she was a candidate for the Ars Fennica award. Heiska’s works are in numerous collections, including Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Gothenburg Museum of Art, Saastamoinen Foundation and Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation Collection.