Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: The art of preserving a moment

Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen about the direct connection between the soul and the wood, the way forward and this autumn's book publication.

We can almost soon call it a tradition. This autumn is the third time I am so lucky to talk to Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen. The prolific visual artist, sculptor and graphic artist never stagnates. With an inexhaustible energy, she surprises time and time again. With new techniques, new expressions and in new forums. Our first meeting was several years ago. Then I got excited about the recent collaboration she had had with designer Tina Steffenak Hermansen. The two had made a clothing collection that almost took my breath away. Mia's paintings did the same. They touch one, in a very special way. More than anyone else, Mia manages to convey the contrast between our delicate emotional life and the sometimes tough demands we face from the outside.

- This is still a topic that concerns me, but the expression itself changes. It does it all the time. The life situation you are in affects what you create whether you want to or not, and as you know, life does not stand still. Nevertheless; one should be able to see that my works are a "Mia picture", says Mia. 


New book - new exhibition!

The second time we talked was autumn 2018 and Mia had recently left behind an inspiring stay in New York. As one of four Norwegian artists, she was fortunate enough to be awarded a work grant from Mana Contemporary, and was on a so-called "summer residency" there the same year.  - It's funny that you mention it, she says on the phone a few days ago.

Korona has put its clammy hand over life and this time we avoid meeting physically. In addition, Mia has very hectic days. 

- In fact, it was during my stay in New York, where I could only concentrate on my work, that I got to immerse myself even deeper in the technique I have now developed. It started with woodcuts, but I moved on. Instead of mirroring the wooden board and then printing the picture, I started painting on the board itself. Scratch on, paint and then scratch again. 

The relief painting is briefly explained a combination of painting, wood carving and relief work, where the artist works both in and on the plate. In the relief painting, the two most important lines of development in Mia's art also meet; the opposition between abstraction and figuration, as well as the desire to convey an existential drama. 

This autumn, Mia's story and work in book form will be launched. 

- I have participated in various book projects before, but this is the first time that a book is just about me and my art. The question of book has been up before, but it has never felt right until now.

It had to have a relevant topic and an interesting dispute, and when the art critic and author Lars Elton announced his interest, it became exciting. It has been an intense journey for Mia, for example, the last sculpture was completed just two days before the photo deadline. 

"Indefinable existence"

The book presents a selection of the art Mia has created in the new hybrid technique, but is also a retrospective of Mia's artistic work. Sculpture, painting, graphics and drawings are also discussed and reproduced. In the book's essay, Lars Elton tells the story of an artist who has tasted both challenges and success. He tries to find out what "indefinable existence" means, while at the same time explaining the special features of Mia's relief paintings.  - The concept of "indefinable existence" has been a clue throughout my art. But when Lars Elton began to delve a little deeper into what I really mean by that, it gradually became clear that the theme contains more than I might have understood myself.


"Indefinable existence" is a lot about the hustle and bustle of everyday life and the time that apparently runs away from us. The individual's experience of not reaching for and of living a life that may not fully harmonize with the existence that many define as "the good life".  - I think there are many who recognize themselves in. Everyday stress and expectations are often referred to as a cliché, but are nevertheless important. 


The book and an accompanying large separate exhibition will be launched at Soli Brug Gallery on 24 October.  - Soli Brug is a fantastic place for an exhibition. The gallery consists of several buildings and the old timber walls are as created for my new pictures. Tree against tree feels organic, in a way. I'm really looking forward to it and hope that everything goes as planned. The corona constitutes a certain element of uncertainty, but we are betting that it will go well. I have worked with this for three years, and then it would have been nice and important if something happened.


- Do you feel that with this new form of expression you have "landed" as an artist? - Never! For me, it is fantastic to be able to explore and I will continue to do so until I no longer exist. This is rather just the beginning of something new, Mia concludes.

The book will be launched on October 24 at Forlaget Press (fpress.no/boker). ISBN 978-82-328-0354-5.


FACTS Exhibition and new book

• The book, Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen, will be launched on October 24 at Forlaget Press, see fpress.no/boker . ISBN 978-82-328-0354-5. The book costs 499, - • The exhibition opens at Soli Brug on October 24 at 13. Soli Brug is barely 50 min. south of Oslo, on the border between Råde and Sarpsborg municipality. Take the E6, take exit 9 and follow the signs immediately! Soli Brug, Aagaardveien 177, 1719 Greåker. See soli-brug.no for more information • Mia Gjerdrum Helgesenis an artist who has transformed the lived moments of life into images that are loved by a large audience. In recent times, she has developed the relief painting, a distinctive combination of painting, wood carving and relief work where the artist works both in and on the surface. The book presents the works she has created in this new mixing technique, in addition to a wide selection of sculpture, painting, graphics and drawings. Art critic Lars Elton has written the book's essay.

Text: Siri Gerrard | Photo: Vegard Kleven and Mona Nordøy

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