Brutal Tenderness

Helsinki Contemporary 2021

Roland Persson’s solo exhibitionbrutal tendernessfills Helsinki Contemporary in June with an uncanny version of reality. In his new works, Persson delves deep into the structures of the human-built world, and our ways of experiencing it, existing in it.

Roland Persson is known for his silicone sculptures contemplating the relationship between human and nature, the way we perceive nature and implement a variety of loaded meanings to it. In his new exhibition,

the Swedish artist tackles a different set of starting points – different, but in a natural continuation to the themes he has studied in his past exhibitions at the gallery. Where Persson has previously used plants and animals as the source of his sculptures and drawings, the new set of works is modeled after elements from a very human environment, evoking memories or nostalgia of the modern world: industrial machinery, vases, electrical cabinets…

The exhibition consists of three installations, each of which creates its own microcosm inside the gallery space. The installations are made up of smaller pieces, creating bigger wholes loaded with possible histories, shared and personal. “I have always been interested in how we connect unrelated things, it opens up to the subconscious, poetry, imagination, surrealism, math, etc. These industrial objects make me connect memories, thoughts – pictures in my head often in new ways and I don’t know why”, Persson describes.

The unique use of material is central to Persson’s works. He uses silicone in a tactical way, working it with his hands. It represents gravity, the pull of it that we all are subject to. But, in Persson’s hands, the reality we experience becomes something else, something you can’t quite trust. Electrical wires sprout out from the cabinets like spider webs or nerve fibres, the delicate, transparent vases hold entire worlds inside them, a promise of life in water.

An important element in the artist’s working process, drawing is again present in the exhibition. The new series of drawings is based on old photographs, damaged silver nitrate negatives, most of them all but vanished. Persson was inspired by the process of decaying, the unsettling beauty in the distortion and disturbance in the old images, the arbitrary traces and layers of history – the brutal tenderness.