Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen

MIA GJERDRUM HELGESEN MAKES A GREAT THEME HER OWN


Maternity and motherhood are complex subjects for woman artists, fraught with ambiguity, since giving birth and raising children is a defining experience for so many women yet is also often perceived as all-consuming impediment to artmaking –– a view that was particularly prevalent during the feminist era.

Still, it remains something of a mystery that in the centuries since the obsession with the Virgin Birth among male painters of the Renaissance finally waned, relatively few female artists –– apart from Mary Cassatt, Kathe Kollwitz, and other isolated examples –– have taken up this great theme, which rightfully belongs to them.

Thus it is heartening to encounter the newest paintings of the Norwegian artist, Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen, included in “Blood, Milk & Honey,” a three-woman exhibition presented in Oslo as “a Tribute to the Art of Motherhood.” For Helgesen’s powerful Expressionist canvases provide a vital vision of the vicissitudes of motherhood in a secular age that is a welcome addition to the art of our time.

Reviewing one of her previous exhibitions in New York, one commented on Helgesen’s ability to reveal what Willem de Kooning called “slippery glimpses” of subject matter amid the gestural animation of her active paint surfaces. Here, again, her brushwork is so energetic that everything appears in flux, although the figures are now somewhat more defined than in those semiabstract earlier paintings.

Simply because Helgesen is dealing directly with motherhood in this series, however, don’t expect static icons or docile domestic scenes in the manner of Cassatt, with the patterns on the wallpaper providing most of the action. By contrast, a little more like those of Kollwitz (albeit radiantly colorful rather than darkly charcoaled ), Helgesen’s postmodern madonnas appear beset by tumultuous forces outside of themselves, as they move amid blurs, streaks, skeins, and rivulets of liquified acrylic pigment often as brilliantly translucent as sorbet.

And if, despite emitting luminous auras that could almost resemble nimbi or halos, they appear tremulous as they clutch infants to their breasts or keep a firm grasp on the hands of toddlers or a watchful eye on slightly older children walking nearby, one need look no further than the horrific recent headlines to realize what mothers have to fear in Norway, as in every other so-called civilized country of the modern world.

Indeed, the phantom presences that haunt the perimeters of Helgesen’s compositions like sketchy pentimento or ghostly palimpsests could remind one of the sinisterly suggestive phase in that famous song by The Doors: “faces come out of the rain.” And in others, the clusters of huddled beings within variegated areas of rainbow hues could just as easily suggest either groups of mourners or the ethereal emissaries supposedly sent to guide one into the blinding light of the Afterlife.

Given the provenance and period of these paintings, as well as the emotional climate that they evoke of motherhood, a theme fully as rich in anxiety for the present as it is in love and hope for the future, one can’t help making such associations. At the same time, one is dazzled, as always, by the sheer painterly panache displayed by this thoughtful, gifted artist, as well as the pure visual pleasure it invariably provides.

–– Ed McCormack
Managing Editor
GALLERY&STUDIO
New York

With his wife, Jeannie McCormack,
Ed McCormack, one of the original
contributing editors of Andy Warhol’s
Interview and a former feature writer and
columnist for Rolling Stone, co-publishesthe New York art
journal Gallery & Studio.


ISIONS OF FLUX IN THE ART OF MIA GJERDRUM HELGESEN

by Ed McCormack

Previewing the most recent work of the gifted Norwegian artist Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen calls to mind an evocative phrase from the famous Lerner and Loewe musical “Camelot”: “one brief shining moment.” For that is precisely what Helgesen seems to capture in each of the paintings that she will be exhibiting, under the apt title “Mood, Emotion and Atmosphere,” from May 28th through June 21st at Gallery A, in Oslo.

In a review of one of her previous exhibitions in New York City a couple of years ago, one critic invoked Willem de Kooning’s term “slippery glimpses” to describe how Helgesen’s forms seemed to slide back and forth between recognizable imagery and pure abstraction. However, this aesthetic shape-shifting has become even more evocative in recent canvases that amount to visual odes to life’s ineluctable uncertainty and flux.
Indeed, Helgesen’s approach also calls to mind Francis Bacon’s statement that he did not endeavor to capture the actual appearances of things but, rather, “the elusive clusters of emotion those appearances provoke.” Yet unlike that English painter’s grim visions, Helgesen’s paintings are invariably uplifting, even while suggesting complexities of human relationships ranging from the unconditional devotion of maternal love to the fickle vicissitudes of romantic entanglement.

While allusions to landscape and marinescape seemed the most prominent representational elements in earlier compositions, now figurative allusions are more readily discernible. Like a kindred spirit of her illustrious fellow countryman Edvard Munch, albeit with a somewhat sunnier disposition, Helgesen conjures them up with broad areas of shimmering color, which she lays down with bold, Expressionist strokes of the brush or palette knife.
Vibrant reds, blues, and golden yellows that initially command our attention for their sheer visual power ultimately yield visions of youthful couples enacting their intimate dramas; mothers tenderly cradling their offspring; and a mysterious group of spectral souls keeping a vigil on a shore overlooking a luminous body of water, among other compelling subjects.
All are evoked with the gestural vivacity and the chromatic beauty that makes Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen a singularly engaging contemporary painter.

––Ed McCormack

ED McCORMACK, one of the original Contributing Editors of Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, has written extensively on art and popular culture for Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, and numerous other publications. Presently, with his wife, Jeannie McCormack, he publishes the New York art journal, Gallery & Studio.

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Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "REISEN I" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "REISEN II" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "SUMMER GLIMTS I & II" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "BLÅ FRAGMENTER"
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
REISEN I
(2018)
paint filled wood engraving
103 x 733
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
REISEN II
(2012)
paint filled wood engraving
103 x 73
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
SUMMER GLIMTS I & II
(2018)
acrylic on canvas
150 x 100 each
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
BLÅ FRAGMENTER
(2017)
acrylic on canvas
120 x 180
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "ILLUSJONER" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "GJENNOM" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "FRAGMENTER (2016)" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "FRAGMENTER"
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
ILLUSJONER
(2017)
acrylic on canvas
140 x 120
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
GJENNOM
(2016)
acrylic on canvas
100 x 120
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
FRAGMENTER (2016)
(2016)
acrylic on canvas
120 x 120
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
FRAGMENTER
(2015)
crylic on canvas
200 x 200
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "SUNNY LAYERS" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "EVENING GLIMTS" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "LIGHT II" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "SUMMER IN THE CITY"
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
SUNNY LAYERS
(2015)
acrylic on canvas
150 x 150
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
EVENING GLIMTS
(2014)
acrylic on canvas
70 x 70
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
LIGHT II
(2014)
acrylic on canvas
110 x 200
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
SUMMER IN THE CITY
(2012)
acrylic on canvas
140 x 140
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "LIGHT" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "BELONGING" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "WHAT IS MOTHERHOOD"
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
LIGHT
(2011)
acrylic on canvas
200 x 140
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
BELONGING
(2011)
acrylic on linen canvas
70 x 70
  Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
WHAT IS MOTHERHOOD
(2011)
acrylic on linen canvas
70 x 70
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "FALLING" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "LIFE II" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "LIFE" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "TOGETHER"
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
FALLING
(2011)
acrylic on linen canvas
150 x 70
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
LIFE II
(2011)
acrylic on linen canvas
70 x 70
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
LIFE
(2011)
acrylic on linen canvas
50 x 33
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
TOGETHER
(2011)
litography
50 x 33
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "ANOTHER PLACE" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "BLOOD, MILK & HONEY" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "CREATION" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "EARLEY AWAKENING"
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
ANOTHER PLACE
(2011)
acrylic on linen canvas
150 x 100
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
BLOOD, MILK & HONEY
(2011)
acrylic on linen canvas
200 x 200
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
CREATION
(2011)
acrylic on linen canvas
120 x 120
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
EARLEY AWAKENING
(2011)
acrylic on linen canvas
120 x 120
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "FOREVER MOTHERHOOD" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "HEART OF LOVE" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "HOLDING ON" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "LEGACY OF MOTHER"
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
FOREVER MOTHERHOOD
(2011)
acrylic on linen canvas
110 x 110
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
HEART OF LOVE
(2011)
acrylic on linen canvas
70 x 70
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
HOLDING ON
(2011)
acrylic on linen canvas
70 x 70
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
LEGACY OF MOTHER
(2011)
acrylic on linen canvas
70 x 70
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "LOVE TAPE" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "MOTHERS LOVE" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "STANDING TALL" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "TO GO"
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
LOVE TAPE
(2011)
acrylic on linen canvas
70 x 70
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
MOTHERS LOVE
(2011)
acrylic on linen canvas
120 x 120
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
STANDING TALL
(2011)
acrylic on linen canvas
110 x 110
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
TO GO
(2011)
acrylic on linen canvas
120 x 120
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "TO HOLD" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "TO SEE YOU" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "TRUST" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "UNCONTITIONAL LOVE"
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
TO HOLD
(2011)
acrylic on linen canvas
70 x 70
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
TO SEE YOU
(2011)
acrylic on linen canvas
70 x 70
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
TRUST
(2011)
acrylic on linen canvas
70 x 70
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
UNCONTITIONAL LOVE
(2011)
acrylic on linen canvas
70 x 70
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "MOTHERHOOD IS FUNDAMENTAL AND UNIVERSAL" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "JOURNEY" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "TO MENNESKER" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "CLOSE"
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
MOTHERHOOD IS FUNDAMENTAL AND UNIVERSAL
(2011)
acrylic on linen canvas
70 x 70
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
JOURNEY
(2010)
acrylic on linen can
140 x 140
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
TO MENNESKER
(2010)
acrylic on linen canvas
150 x 100
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
CLOSE
(2009)
acrylic on canvas
50 x 50
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "ALWAYS" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "BACK" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "LATE" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "YOUTH"
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
ALWAYS

acrylic on canvas
100 x 100
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
BACK

acrylic on linen canvas
50 x 50
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
LATE
(2009)
acrylic on linen canvas
50 x 50
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
YOUTH
(2009)
acrylic on linen canvas
50 x 50
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "CHILD " Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "FAMILY " Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "SILENCE" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "UNCONDITIONAL LOVE"
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
CHILD
(2009)
acrylic on linen canvas
100 x 100
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
FAMILY

acrylic on wooden plate
70 x 70
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
SILENCE
(2009)
acrylic on linen canvas
100 x 70
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
UNCONDITIONAL LOVE
(2009)
acrylic on linen canvas
50 x 50
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "TO RETURN" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "SUNNY LOVE"
  Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
TO RETURN
(2009)
acrylic on linen canvas
150 x 100
  Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
SUNNY LOVE
(2009)
acrylic on linen canvas
50 x 50
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "SUMMER GLIMT" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "STRONGER" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "SINKING" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "SENSITIVE"
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
SUMMER GLIMT
(2009)
acrylic on linen canvas
50 x 50
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
STRONGER
(2009)
acrylic on linen canvas
50 x 50
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
SINKING
(2009)
acrylic on linen canvas
50 x 50
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
SENSITIVE
(2009)
acrylic on linen canvas
50 x 50
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "SEARCH" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "RELATION" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "REFLECTION" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "OUTSIDE"
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
SEARCH
(2009)
acrylic on linen canvas
50 x 50
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
RELATION
(2009)
acrilic on linen canvas
200 x 200
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
REFLECTION
(2009)
acrylic on linen canvas
200 x 200
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
OUTSIDE
(2009)
acrylic on linen canvas
100 x 100
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "ONE STEP " Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "ONE PATH" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "MOMENT" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "LOVING"
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
ONE STEP
(2009)
acrylic on linen canvas
50 x 50
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
ONE PATH

acrylic on wood
70 x 70
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
MOMENT
(2009)
acrylic on linen canvas
50 x 50
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
LOVING
(2009)
acrylic on linen canvas
50 x 50
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "LEFT BEHIND" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "LAST DANCE" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "INSIDE"
  Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
LEFT BEHIND

acrylic on linen canvas
50 x 50
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
LAST DANCE

acrylic on linen canvas
150 x 100
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
INSIDE
(2009)
acrylic on linen canvas
100 x 100
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "GONE" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "FOR YOU" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "DAYLIGHT SISTERS" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: ""
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
GONE
(2009)
acryl on linen canvas
50 x 50
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
FOR YOU
(2009)
acrylic on linen canvas
50 x 50
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
DAYLIGHT SISTERS
(2009)
acrylic on linen canvas
50 x 50
 
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "ONE OF A KIND" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "BONDING" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "BEHIND" Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "APART"
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
ONE OF A KIND
(2009)
acrylic on linen canvas
50 x 50
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
BONDING
(2009)
acrylic on linen canvas
50 x 50
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
BEHIND

acrylic on linen canvas
50 x 50
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
APART

acrylic on linen canvas
50 x 50
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen: "ANOTHER STORY"    
Mia Gjerdrum Helgesen:
ANOTHER STORY

acrylic on linen canvas
50 x 50
   
Norwegian English