Saara Ekström’s new video portraits revealed at Amos Anderson Art Museum

Saara_1 The Ever Changing Portrait feat. Saara Ekström at Amos Anderson Art Museum in Helsinki 19.6. – 28.7.2014

A man raises his hand and gives a slow, light and deliberate spin to an old terrestrial globe. His eyes study the seas and continents, the topography, the shifting borders of countries and faraway cities. What is he thinking when the globe spins around to reveal a new continent, a new sea?

Saara Ekström’s latest work is represented by two very exceptional portraits that comment on the traditional concept of portraiture while bringing it emphatically into the sphere of contemporary art. The portraits of Wivan Nygård-Fagerudd and Björn Teir, commissioned by the Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland, use video as medium. The works seem almost like photographs, until the illusion of still life is broken by motion – the portrait comes alive, the sitter lifts up his face and meets the viewer’s gaze. In the slowly moving images, time passes as if in a dream, lending a monumental and surrealist air to the works. By referencing such works as Hans Holbein’s famous portrait The Ambassadors from 1533, Ekström employs symbolism and attributes to comment upon the sitters’ personality, status and values. The portraits are like visual conundrums in which objects contain clues and comments on the sitters, their qualities and dreams.  These are the first ever moving image portraits made by a Finnish contemporary artist using video as medium. 

The exhibition also features portraits from the museum’s collection by such renowned artists as Christian Krogh, Tyko Sallinen and Carl-Gustaf Lilius, and Mikael Stierncreutz, Marjatta Tapiola and Icelandic Love Corporation.

Saara Ekström (b.1965, Turku, Finland) often combines animate and inanimate materials in works in which the bond between ugliness and beauty is unbreakable. Ekström’s art speaks to viewers and challenges them by juxtaposing and contrasting death and birth, or the organic and the inanimate. Saara Ekström held a solo exhibition at Kiasma in 2011. Next autumn, she will work in New York in the ISCP residency programme.

Amos Anderson Art Museum
Yrjönkatu 27, P.O. Box 14, 00101 Helsinki.
Opening hours Mon, Thurs, Fri 10–18, Wed 10–20, Sat–Sun 11–17. Tuesdays closed.
Extraordinary opening hours: 19 June 10 a.m.– 5 p.m., 20–22 June closed.
Tickets: adults 10 €, pensioners 8 €, students 2 €. Under 18s free of charge.