Photo reportage from the exhibition 'Three of a Kind' at Kogo Gallery

July 20, 2022
Author Echo Gone Wrong

Currently, Kogo Gallery hosts an exhibition Three of a Kind curated by writer and curator Jurriaan Benschop. Three painters Milla Aska, Veronika Hilger, Paula Zarina-Zemane participating in the exhibition. The exhibition is open until 27 August.

Jurriaan Benschop, a Dutch writer and curator based in Berlin has invited three painters to participate in the exhibition Three of a Kind – Milla Aska, Veronika Hilger and Paula Zarina-Zemane. The artists share an interest in ambivalent forms of figuration – their paintings depict situations or figures that cannot be identified in one singular way but remain open to different readings. Yet in the choice of colours and the treatment of surface and paint, each of the artists develops a specific voice and unique character. The works of the three artists presented evade a specific sense of time and of belonging to a certain era, the artists nourish their work with the history of painting to find the point where a present-day approach to painting merges with a sense of timelessness.
The exhibition is part of Kogo Gallery’s this year’s programme Past is the Present.

The figures in the work of Milla Aska (1993, based in Helsinki) appear to be behind a veil. They do not seem to be fully developed, but rather in the process of becoming visible and tangible. This impression is evoked through Aska’s approach to building up a painting with thin, translucent layers of paint. “My paintings seek shape around themes such as materiality and bodily sensations – for instance, how something feels against the skin, or what warmth feels like. I am intrigued by forms that seem to be something specific but don’t quite reveal themselves.” Aska earned her master’s degree at the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki in 2020. She has had solo exhibitions at Titanik Gallery in Turku (Warmth on a Chair, 2019) and as part of the Aine Art Museum exhibition project “Lapin Kullanmurut” in Tornio (Vene ja soutaja, 2021), both in Finland.

The paintings of Veronika Hilger (1981, based in Munich) combine elements of landscape, still life, and portrait. Hilger is a specialist in ambiguous figuration. The shapes in her paintings have a familiar, often organic touch but are not specific enough to name. The artist presents them on an elementary level, stripped of detail. As a result, the forms have a dynamic appearance: a foot could be a leaf, a leaf could be an animal, an animal could be a stone. “The organic is something that you can easily dock onto as a human, and that creates a kind of identification potential,” the artist notes. Hilger combines painting with small-scale sculptures. She is represented by the Sperling Gallery in Munich. An extensive monograph of her work was released in 2021 by the Verlag für Moderne Kunst.

In the works of Paula Zarina-Zemane (1988, based in Riga), the distinction between human and the environment is blurred. The works oscillate between abstract compositions formed through clouds of colour, and more concrete outlines of landscapes. The human figure may appear small, or simply as a faint shape or a dot of paint rather than a clearly defined drawing. The paintings are usually the result of a fast process, and they evoke a sense of speed through traces left by the brush. Yet the reduced composition also sets a reflective mood. “I am trying to get the result in one go,” the artist notes. “It’s a fragile process. If something does not work out straight away, then I clean it up and start again.” Recent solo exhibitions have taken place at Maksla XO (Changes, 2021) and at Careva Contemporary (One as Another, 2018), both in Riga.

Jurriaan Benschop is a Dutch writer, art crtic and curator based in Berlin. Currently, he is working on a book Why Painting Works which will be published in 2022 in Dutch and English. For Artforum magazine, he has reviewed more than 70 exhibitions, further reviews, interviews and essays have been published in HART, DAMN, Elephant and Tagesspiegel as well as in numerous exhibition catalogs and books. Among the exhibitions he curated are Taking Root (2019–20) at KIT Düsseldorf, Content is a Glimpse (2018–19) at Efremids Gallery Berlin, Re: Imagining Europe (2017) at Box Freiraum and A Matter of Touch (2020) at Torstrasse 111 in Berlin. As a visiting lecturer, he regularly travels to art schools in Europe and the USA, for lectures, studio visits and to conduct writing workshops.

The exhibition is open 1 July – 27 August 2022, the gallery is open for visits from Wednesday to Friday at 13–19 and on Saturday at 13–18. Kogo Gallery is located at Widget Factory (Aparaaditehas) in Tartu, Kastani 42.

The exhibition is supported by the Finnish Institute, the Germany Embassy in Estonia, the Cultural Endowment of Estonia and the City of Tartu.

Kogo Gallery is a contemporary art gallery in Tartu, founded in 2018, focusing primarily on introducing younger generation artists in Estonia and internationally. The artists of the gallery include Eike Eplik, Alexei Gordin, Mari-Leen Kiipli, Kristi Kongi, Eva Mustonen, Laura Põld, Līga Spunde and Elīna Vītola. Kogo Gallery was named Cultural Organisation of the Year of 2021 in Tartu.

Photography: Marje Eelma