Sami Havia's surreal paintings capture alienation and the dying light of the summer months
Helsinki-based artist Sami Havia focuses on changing light in his latest solo exhibition, Estranged, which is currently on display at New York's Massey Klein Gallery.
Running until 8 October 2022, Estranged is a series of surrealist paintings which explores the relationship between the abstract and the figurative. Populated with peculiar characters, including bizarre forest-dwelling people and snails that appear gigantic, these subtle, deftly painted pictures are described by the gallery as a "mutation" of Sami's imagination.
It's easy to see why. Elements of Sami's subconscious, including the humorous and melancholic, come bubbling to the surface via bizarre pictorial representations.
Sometimes tranquil, as depicted in pieces where the wind and light appear to waft through the trees, the images in Estranged can also be comical and disturbing. Just look at the painting where a cropped head aggressively stares at the viewer, or a straw-hatted figure with giant, yellow eyes glares at you from around a corner.
A uniting element in this collection of seven new paintings and nine drawings, though, is light. Whether melancholy or melodious, Sami uses light and colour to allow his subjects to grow and develop unconstrained. As the gallery puts it, the paintings appear like "living things".
Speaking of what inspired the works in Estranged, Sami said: "The end of summer. That atmosphere when everything is warm and delightful equates with melancholy, yet it's melodious in its undertone.
"The early spring with its very own colour scale and ruthless light. That is what I have wanted to concentrate on: light. How it reflects on ambience and how humidity affects the refraction of tones."
To capture this ephemeral, even ethereal essence of light, Sami says that he has been observing. "The way one monitors when all trappings of one's social life have been removed. I have made surrealistic observations connected to reality." A reference to the world of lockdown, perhaps?
"I have noted characters that seem distant and hidden, objects of observation and, simultaneously, observers themselves," Sami adds. "I have been scrutinising alienation. A desire to talk with nature rather than with other people."
The resulting paintings invite viewers to step from the gallery floor and into their world. They beckon you to join as an observer and revel in each scene. Just as Sami's work is a combination of the accidental and the deliberate, so too are these paintings a struggle between complete control and the deep desire to be free.