Ola Kolehmainen: Back to Square Black – Experimental works
August 13–September 13, 2020
In his new exhibition, Ola Kolehmainen (b. 1964) examines both art history and his own personal timeline. The multi-layered nature of history is the connecting thread that runs through his latest works, which take their cue from The Black Square, the iconic 1915 painting by Kasimir Malevich (1879-1935). With this new show, the black square makes a reprisal in Kolehmainen’s work, for it was already the hero of his graduate exhibition at Kluuvi Gallery in 1997, which highlighted futurist-inspired lightbox pieces and black squares. His latest works are similarly inspired by futurism, constructivism, and minimalism, but it is Malevich – whose work was greatly influenced by church architecture and icons – with whom Kolehmainen has an enduring personal connection.
After immersing himself in art history, Kolehmainen grew interested in turning his gaze toward his personal history. His career timeline spans from his abstract graduate exhibition through his Istanbul commission to his later projects photographing church architecture. The countless hours he spent poring over old negatives in the photo archives of the Cologne photo archive marked an important turning point in his career, inspiring him to begin compiling his own archive.
Not a single new photograph was taken for this exhibition: for the first time ever, this show consists purely of the artist’s archived material from the early 2000s. Processing these existing images came closer to painting than the genre of photography. Kolehmainen reworked the photographs so that they become almost fictive and acquire new levels of historical significance. The artist describes his process as experimental mixed-media photography. The complex technique involved re-photographing existing images and printing them on a variety of different materials. The process began with the negatives, but the final outcome was impossible to predict.
Kolehmainen graduated from the University of Art and Design Helsinki in 1999. The Berlin-based artist is a leading name in Finnish photography. His works are found in numerous major international museums and collections in Germany, Spain, and the Nordic region, including famous institutional collections such as the Malmö Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma.