The Arts Night is one of the most attended arts events in Helsinki: museums and galleries open their doors late, all kind of spaces (studios, libraries, restaurants, shopping malls, parks, homes…) organize happenings and the streets are crowded with people of all ages.
Out of the many events taking place this 25th August (http://www.helsinginjuhlaviikot.fi/taiteidenyo/), I recommend not missing the meeting with Warren King at Galleria Sculptor just across the Kaupatori/Kauppahalli (Etäläranta, 14 – see map below).
This Stockholm-based American artist (soon to be living in NYC) will certainly inspire you: firstly because his path to art was not typical. Instead of art school, he studied to be an engineer and worked in construction for several years. And then he jumped on the technology wave and worked for software startups in Palo Alto for over 10 years. It was always a loving hobby for him to amuse his children by making masks and costumes, but it was only three years ago that he took THE big “creative” leap and turned this hobby into an art career making stunning cardboard sculptures. This quest to reach out to our creative selves is in the air of our “innovation” intensive era and Warren King is a remarkable example of how creativity can turn into artistry and bring out a world of shared emotions.
The second reason I recommend meeting Warren King and his art work this Thursday (the show runs until 4th September), is the manner in which he tackles the issue of “identity”. The catalyst to his artistic work was the return visit of his entire family to their ancestral village in China, a village his grandparents left after the Chinese Civil War. The people and the surroundings had not changed much, which was surprising considering the speed at which China destroys its villages to be able to build cities. But this reinforced the feeling of belonging to the place. King was born and raised in the US, so the reconnection to this village was very emotional — especially because several villagers that he met on the street that day actually remembered, and resembled, his grandparents from 50 years ago. But soon King experienced the limits of his newly “recovered ” Chinese identity: because he was the product of another culture, this Chinese heritage could never be fully restored.
Where do migrants belong? This is certainly a rich area to explore, because so many of us are expatriates at one moment of our lives and build our belonging to several cultures, tie our personal history to several places, sometimes not even reflected in our names or IDs but present forever on our minds, in our behaviors, our ways to fathom the world around us, even unconsciously. In his Helsinki exhibition, King has rebuilt this encounter with people in his grandfather’s village of origin in China, creating a human-size cardboard sculpture per encounter: an old couple here, a man watching him pass by there, etc. This project to recreate the villagers as sculptures seems to be a quest by the artist to understand who he is.
artist at conveying emotions with sculptures made of cardboard: the faces are expressive without the addition of any colour or material, they have a narrative posture and seem to be saying something. He truly brings this disposable material to life. King makes no secret about the structure of his statues: if you turn around them, you will see that their back is revealed, enabling you to see how the various pieces are held together with glue, clips, etc.)