Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen makes a great theme her own
Tekst: Ed McCormack, Managing Editor, GALLERY&STUDIO, New York
Maternity and motherhood are complex subjects for woman artists, fraught with ambiguity, since giving birth and raising children is a defining experience for so many women yet is also often perceived as all-consuming impediment to artmaking -- a view that was particularly prevalent during the feminist era.
Still, it remains something of a mystery that in the centuries since the obsession with the Virgin Birth among male painters of the Renaissance finally waned, relatively few female artists -- apart from Mary Cassatt, Kathe Kollwitz, and other isolated examples -- have taken up this great theme, which rightfully belongs to them.
Thus it is heartening to encounter the newest paintings of the Norwegian artist, Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen, included in "Blood, Milk & Honey," a three-woman exhibition presented in Oslo as "a Tribute to the Art of Motherhood." For Helgesen's powerful Expressionist canvases provide a vital vision of the vicissitudes of motherhood in a secular age that is a welcome addition to the art of our time.
Reviewing one of her previous exhibitions in New York, one commented on Helgesen's ability to reveal what Willem de Kooning called "slippery glimpses" of subject matter amid the gestural animation of her active paint surfaces. Here, again, her brushwork is so energetic that everything appears in flux, although the figures are now somewhat more defined than in those semiabstract earlier paintings.
Simply because Helgesen is dealing directly with motherhood in this series, however, don't expect static icons or docile domestic scenes in the manner of Cassatt, with the patterns on the wallpaper providing most of the action. By contrast, a little more like those of Kollwitz (albeit radiantly colorful rather than darkly charcoaled ), Helgesen's postmodern madonnas appear beset by tumultuous forces outside of themselves, as they move amid blurs, streaks, skeins, and rivulets of liquified acrylic pigment often as brilliantly translucent as sorbet.
And if, despite emitting luminous auras that could almost resemble nimbi or halos, they appear tremulous as they clutch infants to their breasts or keep a firm grasp on the hands of toddlers or a watchful eye on slightly older children walking nearby, one need look no further than the horrific recent headlines to realize what mothers have to fear in Norway, as in every other so-called civilized country of the modern world.
Indeed, the phantom presences that haunt the perimeters of Helgesen's compositions like sketchy pentimento or ghostly palimpsests could remind one of the sinisterly suggestive phase in that famous song by The Doors: "faces come out of the rain." And in others, the clusters of huddled beings within variegated areas of rainbow hues could just as easily suggest either groups of mourners or the ethereal emissaries supposedly sent to guide one into the blinding light of the Afterlife.
Given the provenance and period of these paintings, as well as the emotional climate that they evoke of motherhood, a theme fully as rich in anxiety for the present as it is in love and hope for the future, one can't help making such associations. At the same time, one is dazzled, as always, by the sheer painterly panache displayed by this thoughtful, gifted artist, as well as the pure visual pleasure it invariably provides.
|1999||2000||Hovedfag (MA), Kunsthøgskolen i Oslo (SHKS)|
|1996||1999||Kunsthøgskolen i Oslo|
|1995||1996||Academy of Art College - San Fransisco - USA|
|1992||1993||(BA ) Westerdals College of Commercial Art|
|1990||1991||Nesbru VDG - Artium|
|1989||1990||Advanced Studio Art/High school - USA|
|2016||"Udefinert Eksistens", Bærum Kunstforening|
|2016||"Fragmenter av lys", Aalesund Kunstforening|
|2015||TSH//ARTMIA Pret a porter collection & exhibit, Savior fair, Oslo|
|2014||"Fragmenter", Galleri Elsa, Namsos|
|2014||"Mia suites" art launch, NYC-JC suites, New York, USA|
|2010||Galleri Plysen, Stryn|
|2008||Galleri A, Oslo|
|2007||Galleri Tjømes Kunstsalong Oslo|
|2006||Art Mine, USA|
|2006||"Pathway to Reverie", New York, USA|
|2016||Sommerutstilling, Galleri Fineart, Oslo|
|2016||"A-laget", Galleri A/Minor, Oslo|
|2016||"Udefinert eksistens", prosjektrom, Kunst Rett Vest 10 år|
|2016||Galleri A og Måløy Kunstlag|
|2016||"Etterklang", Hydrogenfabrikken, Fredrikstad|
|2016||HYDROGENFABRIKKEN Fredrikstad "Etterklang"|
|2016||GALLERI A og Måløy Kunstlag Collectiv utstilling|
|2016||KUNST RETT VEST 10 år - prosjektrom "udefinert eksistens"|
|2016||A-laget Sommer Galleri-A/Minor Oslo|
|2016||Galleri Fine Art Tjuvholmen sommer 2016|
|2015||Asker Lions Høstustilling Hovedutstiller|
|2014||ART EXPO NEW YORK|
|2014||2015||Lions Lilleakers Høstutstilling|
|2013||Brygger J.C. Jacobsens Portrætpris, Det Nationalhistoriske Museum på Frederiksborg Slott|
|2013||"The Greatest Show on Earth: The Northern Lights", LONDON Cass Gallery|
|2013||"Stemmerett, likestilling og representasjon", Galleri SG, Trondheim|
|2012||"Blood, milk & Honey", Verdens Ende Kunstforening|
|2012||Sommerutstilling, Galleri Fineart, Oslo|
|2011||Nordstrand Lions, 2010 ART ARENA, Telenor arena, Fornebu|
|2011||"Blood, Milk & Honey", Galleri A, Oslo|
|2011||"Blood, milk & Honey", After work-event, Galleri Fineart, Oslo|
|2011||"Young art for a good cause", Scandic Vulkan, Oslo|
|2010||"Erkjennelsen av Munch i meg", Galleri Åsgårdstrand|
|2010||"Norges kunstnerdal", Høstutstillingen i Asker|
|2008||"A-laget, Utvalg 2008", Galleri A, Oslo|
|2008||Juleutstilling,Nordstrand Lions, Oslo|
|2007||"Protid", DOGA, Oslo|
|2007||"The young promising", Bærum kunstforening|
|Wellheeled Spa Décor, San Diego, USA|
|UP SOURCE Oslo|
|Norges Diabetesforbund Oslo|
|Barnas Hus/Fru Lyng, Osl|
|Damm forlag, Oslo|
|TV Vestfold, Tønsberg|
|Protid DOGA, Oslo|
|Offshore PG AS|
|Hydraslip AS, Oslo/London|