“These heads have become a sort of home for me. It’s good for me to go back to them again and again, since I feel safe and familiar when I am with them. Even if they are, of course, an exceptionally recognizable theme, at the same time, they are at least partly manifestations of an interiority that is hidden from me. I sometimes feel like they are echoes of something that is intrinsic, even essential, to me, but, at the same time, there is a powerful mystery present in them.”
Henry Wuorila-Stenberg’s exhibition continues this series of works in which heads appear in various positions and in different ways. The series had its beginnings in the artist’s previous exhibition at Helsinki Contemporary and was last seen in the Amos Anderson Art Museum’s exhibition The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa in the fall 2015.
For Wuorila-Stenberg repetition of the motif means working on a particular issue. He himself is unable to say what makes him repeat the heads in his paintings or what it is that he is working on, but it is specifically this that makes him carry on.
“My paintings actually involve the repetition of things that have previously been done in another form. Apart from my own emotional tempests and my unconscious, they come from the painters’ shared server and exist in a relationship with the heritage of painting.”
Apart from paper, Wuorila-Stenberg has also been painting on canvas – for the first time in six years. He himself was surprized, since he thought he would never go back to canvas again. He felt stuck in a certain way of working that was taking the joy out of painting. Present in the new oil paintings is an airiness, a lightness, and a new colour world that are unprecedented for the artist. His attitude to painting has changed, too.
“Previously I would slog away at a single oil painting for an average of two years. Now, it is important to me that I don’t force anything. Either the paintings come about effortlessly or then they don’t get made. Willpower can’t have anything to do with it, but that doesn’t mean they don’t involve a struggle, since nothing interesting comes about without the tension between the powers of destruction and creativity.”
Henry Wuorila-Stenberg (b. 1949) is a key figure in Finnish contemporary art. He studied art in Helsinki, Rome and West Berlin at the turn of the 1960s–70s. He has been showing in exhibitions in Finland and Sweden for more than four decades, and has taken part in group exhibitions in Europe, Asia and South America. His works are in the most important Finnish public collections, and in numerous company and private collections. He was awarded the Finland Prize in 1996 and the Pro Finlandia medal in 2004.