Sinne Tue–Sun 12–17 | Elverket closed 15.4–23.5. Next exhibition opens 24.5

Jonas Karén: Everything smells of cigarettes

Everything smells of cigarettes is Jonas Karén’s first solo exhibition in Finland. It is an autofictional exhibition that takes its starting point in the death of the artist’s mother. Karén uses a suite of oil paintings on jute canvas to address some key themes from his childhood and upbringing. He looks back at the family’s life in poverty and his mother’s collection of exclusive art and design objects. Karén constructs the exhibition as a conclusive visual commentary on her aesthetic eye, which greatly influenced Karén and his work as an artist. While the exhibition is something of a nostalgic journey into darkness and a warped configuration, it is still a leave-taking and a release.

It is the 1980s and the scene is a terraced-house apartment in northern Stockholm. Alongside their jobs his parents have found a lucrative business as buyers in the antiques trade. Their home is a place where antiques, design and art are in constant circulation. Times are hectic, but good. When the economic depression hits at the start of the 1990s, the market vanishes and so does the gilt edge to existence. At the same time, the problems that had always been there become increasingly evident. As their parents’ own instability gets worse, the home environment becomes a challenge for the children. Their financial security becomes rocky for multiple reasons and the adults show no tenderness or concern. Left behind like trophies, metres of shelves of precious objects stand there collecting dust.

In the long titles of the paintings Karén commits events and memories to writing. The titles constitute a whole, a story that puts us in the artist’s shoes. It is a disconsolate read, about emotional drought, loneliness and dreams of affirmation, of being able to feel you are loved by your mother. The paintings’ motifs centre on that childhood home. We get a glimpse of interiors and characters, but also abstract shapes taken, for instance, from design objects. Karén has also worked on reproducing materials and material sensations. These thoughts about materials and objects also carry on as concepts in his own paintings as objects. Karén has chosen to work on thin jute canvas, which means that the painting itself has little material value. At the same time, a number of the paintings are exhibited on display stands placed around the exhibition space. A method of exhibiting paintings familiar from auction rooms, which encourages viewers to look at the whole painting as an object. Karén thus completes the circle when he creates something of a dramaturgical construction in which exhibition visitors view his art in a manner that was familiar to his mother.

Markus Åström


Sunday 13.3. at 14:00 and Sunday 20.3. at 14:00 Jonas Karén will be at Sinne to give a text-based performance that builds further on the exhibition’s theme. The performance will be in Swedish.

Jonas Karén

Jonas Karén was born and grew up in Stockholm, Sweden. Since 2018, he has lived and worked in Helsinki. In 2018, he graduated with a Master’s degree in Fine Art from Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm. He has contributed to group exhibitions in Sweden and Finland, the most recent being: Tolv målare, Rörsjögatan 10, Stockholm (2021); Blind Faith, Årstaberg konsthall, Stockholm (2020); Doubledipper, Exhibition Laboratory, Helsinki (2020); Purpuritanssi, SIC, Helsinki (2019); and Umami, Roihutila, Helsinki (2019). Karén’s art is represented in the Finnish National Gallery’s collection. He is a member of the Finnish Painters’ Union. He is also an active musician and releases music under the name Yoko Bono.

Current exhibitions

Free entrance


Closed 15.4–23.5
Next exhibition opens 24.5


Tue–Sun 12–17