Emma Helle: La passion selon Ève
9 Jun – 27 Aug 2017
The exuberant works of Emma Helle (born 1979) challenge conventional ideas of sculpture and femininity by deploying a gaze that moves with equal facility in the history of art as well as sacred and profane imageries. Usually taking the form of a human figure, Helle’s sculpted works are mostly made of wood or coarse-grained, sandy clay. The ceramic pieces are often adorned with colourful glazes or feathers, the wooden ones are finished with paint. In exhibitions the works are presented on objects found in the artist’s studio or other improvised bases. The Baroque aesthetic of the pieces is also reflected in the visual playfulness of presentation, steering the viewer onto paths across the history traversed by the artist.

La passion selon Ève consists of ceramic and wooden sculptures, most of them completed in 2017. The exhibition first took form in early 2017 in Paris, where Helle was working in a Cité residence. When she was sketching iconic works of Western art and medieval ecclesiastical gems, Helle’s attention was drawn to motifs that kept occurring across time and sometimes between worldviews as well.

“I have studied pictures and sculptures that have disappeared in different ways and in different times, only to reappear, many times in some cases. It makes me think of memory, in which things appear differently in different moments. Early forms of the image may contain things that today seem surprising or even inappropriate. Are they vestiges of other, completely forgotten images, or traces of thinking that was centuries ago very different from today? Where do the loins of the wooden crucified Christ come from? A pagan god or medieval theology?”

In a tabernacle on the wall of a world-famous church, a revolution has maimed Eve beyond repair, whereas Adam, with his hands inherited from Afrodite, remains intact. But the destroyed Eve will most likely also have been modelled on Afrodite, the embodiment of sensual nudity. Helle studies even older clay images of a bathing goddess of love, and also a later interpretation by Botticelli that relies on the same conventions of presentation as the 13th-century Adam. Moving from one vanished image to the next among the bright clearings and dim foliage of one’s personal memory and the memory of art, one cannot ever be quite certain whether one has created an image of Afrodite or Eve.

The exhibition has been generously supported by the Arts Promotion Centre Finland.

Turun taidemuseo, Aurakatu 26, 20100 Turku, Puh. 02 2627 100. © 2014