Between Us at Amos Rex

28.5.2021 Teksti: Anni Korkman Kuvat: Sofia Okkonen, Tuomas Uusheimo

The Between Us exhibition at the Amos Rex museum presents the works of Karoliina Hellberg, Tero Kuitunen and Raimo Saarinen outside the exhibition hall in premises that have not been used for exhibition purpose before. Weekly met with Tero Kuitunen who united the three artists for the first time in 2017. Back then, their project was called “Unifinished Utopias” and took place in Sunila, a district of Kotka, where Alvar Aalto designed a pulp factory and related residential area. Just like in Kotka, at Amos Rex on Mannerheimintie in Helsinki, the venue is made to participate in a dialogue with the exhibition.

“Throughout the process we thought of the venue as the fourth member of our group with plenty to say. Amos Rex is so pompous and yet so human. When the Between Us exhibition began and we got to choose the locations of our works, we were allowed to tour the entire building freely. After the tour we went to have lunch and carried on with our brainstorming. We immediately knew what to do,” Kuitunen tells Weekly.

The exhibition flows between the various levels of the building, from the underground exhibition hall to Bio Rex cinema’s functionalistic interior of the 1930s. The title of the exhibition refers to the encounter between the artist and the viewer. The artists studied the relation of their works with the various premises in the venue, from the plain white-walled exhibition hall to the colourful, history-rich cinema foyer, as well as the interaction of their works in the premises.

In the exhibition, you move from an overwhelmingly red world via a trickling ecosystem to the threshold of parallel realities. En route, the works stimulate us to delve into the concept of memory, our complex relationship with nature and the hard-to-grasp essence of beauty.

“We are good friends and we share our lives in other respects, too. Although our ways of working are very different, they do include some similarities. There is the richness of details and storytelling aspect that may not be understood immediately but reveals itself after closer examination. Moreover, it is very important to all of us to work by taking others into consideration. Mutual solidarity defines our cooperation, which has proved invaluable in this uncertain world situation,” Kuitunen says.

A key theme in all three artists’ works is examining the relationship between art and the built environment. Inspired by the various temporal layers and mood shifts in the museum and the rest of the Lasipalatsi building, the artists have created works that take over the space and grow from and around it.

Kuitunen works with art, design and crafts. In the installations that he built for the exhibition, he plays with colour, dimension and various materials, expanding our way to perceive the environment and the concept of beauty. The aesthetic and material worlds of Bio Rex and Amos Rex merge as Kuitunen allows the deep red colour of the cinema’s ceiling spread like a virus. In the underground exhibition hall of the museum, a fascinating unbalance re-programmes the space with other elements familiar from Bio Rex. Meanwhile, the idiom of the museum spreads to the foyer of the cinema, where impossible valuables lay on pedestals reflecting the interior. 

In her works, Karoliina Hellberg studies remembrance, invisible concreteness and the intersecting dimensions of art, the viewer and space. In the Between Us exhibition, her works consisting of paintings, graphics and moving pictures are thematically connected with Bio Rex, the iconic cinema of the 1930s. In the installation located in the underground exhibition hall of Studio Rex, the artist addresses the idea of hereafter or parallel realities. Hellberg’s works can be taken as psychological states or as intimate film scenes without straightforward narration. They are in dialogue, citing and exchanging the elements of their visual interaction. This dynamic generates the peculiar tension of the works.

In his art, Raimo Saarinen studies the western idea of nature, among other things. He often combines plants, water, soil and other organic matter with man-made materials in his sculptures. A huge overgrown talisman hangs above the heads of the visitors, as if reminding us of what was once here before the underground museum, and on the terrace of Bio Rex, a dystopian oasis is flowing. Through his works, Saarinen studies what is meant by nature in post-industrial western societies. 

Kuitunen has a tip for the Weekly readers wanting to visit the exhibition: “I recommend you start upstairs, in the cinema foyer, then continue downstairs. There is cross-reference between the works, and the conversation continues. The rooms all tell their own little secrets. You just need to listen.”

Between Us at Amos Rex from 12 May to 15 September 2021. You can make an appointment for a visit in advance online. For more information, please visit here.