Heidi Ukkonen ‘Hide and Seek’ By Angeliki Kim Jonsson

November 16, 2020 | Angeliki Kim Jonsson

The Uncanny, Ugliness and Beauty, Pain and Humour,
Yin and Yang.

“My aim is to bring the audience into a world where the usual becomes unusual, where the ugly becomes beautiful and where pain becomes humour.” 
– Heidi Ukkonen

Back in University where I studied Art History and Visual Culture, I also had a great passion for psychology. One of the concepts that I remember studying was Ernst Jentsch ‘Unheimlich’ the study of ‘The Uncanny’, a concept that Sigmund Freud further developed. The uncanny is the psychological experience of something strangely familiar, rather than simply mysterious. It may describe incidents where a familiar thing or event is encountered in an unsettling, eerie or taboo context.

Something like our current lives, finding ourselves in the midst of a worldwide pandemic and between in-and-out of lockdowns. We recognize our surroundings but they are strangely different, the myriad of people usually filling up the streets are gone, local shops and restaurants are closed. We are definitely walking down memory lane.

We are on a journey, even though we are at a complete stand still but thank goodness for art! because it makes us travel, it invites us in. So do come along on this Hide and Seek with Heidi Ukkonen.

Heidi Ukkonen’s practice is all about mantle and dismantle her subject matters. Whilst asking her viewers to challenge fixed concepts such as ‘ugliness’ and ‘beauty’, ‘fear’ and ‘happiness’. In her work pain becomes humour and we are constantly reminded to read inbetween the lines rather than fully trust what is in front of us.

The artists takes inspiration from the surrounding world and its current events and foremost led by her intuition Heidi paints with complete freedom. Her technique is a mixture of egg-tempera acrylics and airbrush on linen. Yet again, the opposites meets, where two very opposing styles, antique and contemporary, are entwined making the art works ever green.

Her research is done in the evenings, working late at night “when the usual becomes unusual” and that is the essence of her practice and her subject matter. Turning and twisting things, making them look like something they are not and presenting something that might look in one way at first but then within a second look start to change.

“My aim is to bring the audience into a world where the usual becomes unusual , where the ugly becomes beautiful and where pain becomes humour.”

Ukkonen paints everyday objects while ever- exploring the plot, nothing is simply given away. The figures are both humours and heartening and that sort of emotional combination becomes the driving dynamic force in her work. At first glance we might overlook these figures but quickly our curiosity takes over, and we want to know more. We want to get to know them. Essentially, this is how the artist is grabbing us into the play of “Hide and Seek”.

In some of the works there are a direct reference to artist such as Magritte, Da Vinci and Munch. As the reference is clear and it is something the artist speaks both open and proudly about, the style is inevitably her own.

She is also taking inspiration from Hieronymus Bosch, Phillip Guston and David Hockney. Yet again as one can find the traces of such an inspiration but she clearly offers something new. She is a master in all her own rights.

Being anxious about the outcome of the paintings is in the past, perhaps is it because of the current events around the world, that have made the artists reflect too: what it means to human. One does not need to be perfect but all of us are rather a mixture of emotions, memories and dreams. It seems like she is on a mission to make these figures as real as they can be, uncensored.

Good and bad, funny and sad, pleasure and chaos, contemporary and antique, figurative and abstract. It is a game of opposites and we as the viewers are found unfolding these art works and when we do, we often note that the subject matter and the narrative within them, change. The grotesque figures suddenly become sweetened and charming. We learn how to look beyond our first impression and the result is a deep connection with the works on display. The artist is pushing the extremes and turning the contrasting entities facing each other. The outcome? Strangely pleasing, unlocking. And it doesn’t stop there, but instead it has us wonder and reflect back onto our own current situations, perhaps that is life?

The absolute balance.

Like Yin and Yang, which is thought of as complementary (rather than opposing) forces that interact to form a dynamic system in which the whole, is greater, than the assembled parts. So according to this philosophy, everything has both yin and yang aspects, for instance shadow cannot exist without light. In this spirit, I trust Ukkonen’s artworks that may be on a turbulent journey for now, but as she hopes, they will end with a resounding “everything will be fine” and so will we.


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