Fokus Gallery: Karin and Åke Hellman

Åke Hellman: Scissors (Karin) (1970). and Painter (Self-Portrait against Arctic Background) (1970). Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen.

Artists Karin Hellman (1915−2004) and Åke Hellman (1915−2017) were in many ways a unique artist couple. Over the course of a long life spent together, they shared both a profession and a studio home in Porvoo, where they worked for several decades. The works in the exhibition are selected from the donation made by the Karin and Åke Hellman estate to the Ateneum Art Museum / Finnish National Gallery in 2019.

LOCATION: SECOND FLOOR, FOKUS GALLERY

The Fokus exhibition gallery presents concise displays, with selected artists or themes from the Ateneum collection.

Karin and Åke Hellman both debuted in 1939. They worked as artists and art teachers in many schools; Åke Hellman also served as master draughtsman in the drawing school at the University of Helsinki. Both created monumental works for public spaces.

Karin and Åke Hellman were active at a time when the field of art was undergoing significant growth in Finland and the methods of artmaking were changing. The Hellmans held technical skill and knowledge of materials in high regard, and their work contains elements of abstraction and surrealism. Yet as artists they were quite different.

Karin Hellman was one of the key artists to use collage in the 1950s and 1960s. Her modernist experiments with combinations of different materials and with readymades served to broaden the conception of visual art. Her large-format collages and object assemblages display her humanistic stance and interest in myths and stories.

Åke Hellman’s work is more firmly bound to the traditions of portraiture and still life, though his long career includes a period when he created abstract works, which left its trace in his later work in the form of a rich palette. An interesting group within his oeuvre are meta-paintings in which he integrates still lifes with open landscape views, close-up observation with far-off vistas.

The works in the exhibition are selected from the donation made by the Karin and Åke Hellman estate to the Ateneum Art Museum / Finnish National Gallery in 2019. Our warmest thanks to Karl Johan Hellman and Åsa Hellman for this important donation. The exhibition is curated by senior researcher Anu Utriainen.

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