Alma Heikkilä is a Helsinki-based artist who depicts things that cannot be experienced through the human sensorium. These include microbial life forms too small to be perceived in everyday life, forest ecosystems where important processes are located underground and inside plants, and large-scale phenomena that happen at a speed and scale beyond human comprehension.
Working mainly with paint and plaster and using techniques that allow pigments and liquids to spontaneously form images on surfaces, Heikkilä understands her artistic practice as a collaboration with materials and other phenomena.
Her new work coadapted with (2023) for Vallisaari Island consisted of a sculpture enclosed within canvases that created a space-within-a-space in the forest. Rainwater mixed with plant dyes dripped onto the plaster, changing the colour of the sculpture over the course of the summer. The dyes were infusions of plant species growing on the island and elsewhere in Helsinki.
A polyester screen and roundworms made from industrial silicone. Inhaling microbes. A hand touches a wooden chip, shedding dead skin. My warm, moist body, my urge to move, to look, to gather material and information – to decide, to move along.
This body sits down and looks at how the brown liquid is absorbed into the porous plaster. I feel like my body is far less permeable – but that isn’t completely true, is it?
Are there insects hollowing out the core of the tree trunk? I cannot hear it nor see it. Are they gnawing at the mycelium of Fomitopsis Pinicola? Living and decaying materials become intermixed. Unknown parts of insects, living and dead bacteria, pollen…
From this spot, I will take something very tangible with me. It will change me again; it will become a part of me.
Enormous, white, computer-generated hands that are severed from a body, bloodlessly, floating in outer space. It looks like they are holding the Earth. Detached human limbs thriving in outer space? The Hands could be caring parents to the planet, using their power and knowledge to nurture and improve the biosphere.
Maybe a bird will try to eat the silicone worm.
The forest is a place of risk; things that I cannot predict can happen here. I might and most likely will harm the environment that I am so curious about. Everything is already here, more than I can ever know of. I miss the museum, its clarity and simplicity. Space that is intended for humans and their art.
Just beneath the soil, in semi-darkness, a gentle tip of a nematode might touch my foot.
the microplastic from car tyres, from my shoes,
the coffee, the picture of an art event on my phone, a WhatsApp message from mum
the inconceivable beauty of the decaying tree trunk
lives within the tissues of the other
Alma Heikkilä’s recent solo exhibitions of hers include Tempesta gallery (Italy 2021) Graz Kunstverein (Austria 2020), Kiasma (Finland, 2019), Casco Art Institute (the Netherlands, 2018), Gallery Ama (Finland, 2017, and 2013), and EMMA (Finland, 2015). She has participated in group exhibitions at Malmö Art Museum (Sweden, 2020), Moss (Norway 2020), Art Encounters Biennial (Romania 2019), Fiskars Village Art & Design Biennale (Finland 2019), Tensta Konsthall (Stockholm, Sweden, 2018), Norrköpings Konstmuseum (Sweden, 2018), and at the Gwangju Biennale (South Korea, 2016). Her work is held in numerous public as well as private collections in Finland, Italy, and Sweden. In 2014 she was awarded the Ducat Prize of the Finnish Art Society.
plaster, plant ink, industrial ink, rainwater, pine wood, metal, polyester, silicone, linseed oil, earth pigments, epoxy resin, sun
Production Assistant: Kryštof Kučera
Thank you: Arts Promotion Centre Finland
Comissioned by HAM/Helsinki Biennial 2023