“The difference between oils and works on paper is enormous in my case. Before, I used to fight my way forward with macho bluster, the taste of blood in my mouth, throughout the night, unable to stop. Now, I have learned to work in a considerably calmer, and more contemplative, way. It feels amazingly good. It presumably comes partly from my getting older and more fragile.”
Henry Wuorila-Stenberg’s exhibition at Helsinki Contemporary – as the title implies – focuses on works on paper. It includes both thematic series and individual works, drawings on paper, the technique variously being charcoal, grease crayon, crayon, gouache and watercolour. And its subject, neither more nor less than death, and its perpetual nearness, sexuality, facing it in some way or other, and the presence of our fellow human beings, the impossibilities and possibilities that this involves.
These are works that outright force us to ask: who are you, where, why and with whom – and above all: how? They are works that are new openings, settings in motion. Very personal, and they expect and demand a corresponding personal involvement from viewers, inviting them to join the works in facing the hideousness and extremity of being in the world, as well as, always and forever, its beauty and splendour.
It is alternation, it is conflicting pressures, and it is a motion towards greater depth. It is art, but in meeting it there is no relief, there is no emergency exit. An encounter is created, brought about simply and solely by being with the works, by looking at them and allowing them to look back, and enjoying it. The world, that plural, cross-stitched entity, is never finished. It is both/and: it protects and prods, holds your hand and slaps your face. In turn.
“These new works are for me like a cosmic dance of life and death. They are images of being human. They relate to history, and to themselves as part of it.”
“Without tension art is just a surface, a performance. Then, too, it can – of course – be enjoyable and fluent, but it lacks depth, and in the end is totally pointless. The essential thing is to evade and avoid productization. This is possible only if what you are doing constantly involves danger, a destructive energy. This is an understanding of historicity and recognizing your own limits – hence, in fact, a liberating activity.”