The Helsinki-born Edith Hammar (1992) studied in Stockholm, initially at the Gerlesborg School of Fine Art and Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 2014–2017. Hammar works in a variety of ways as an artist and published their first comic book, Homo Line, in 2020. This attracted a lot of interest, as it deals insightfully with both the feelings of someone with a Finnish-Swedish background in Sweden and with the life and experiences of a young adult in both their new and old home countries. Hammar’s drawing style is easily recognizable and distinctive, for example, in Homo Line, the artist carries on a perceptive dialogue with Tom of Finland and his legacy. Hammar’s queer figures live out their adventures in both comic strips and wall drawings, reshaping our conceptions of identities, bodies, sexualities and genders. Hammar’s production demonstrates how differently we experience a drawing in a comic strip and on a gallery wall, even though it is obvious that the same artist has created both visual realities.
Ester Helenius (1875–1955) was a Finnish-Swedish painter, who studied at the Finnish Art Society Drawing School in 1892–1898. Helenius spent a lot of time in Paris and also held exhibitions there. Her works represent French colour painting and she gained plentiful recognition during her career. She was appointed an honorary member of the Artists’ Association of Finland in 1944. Helenius was interested in mysticism and theosophy, which is reflected in her works, for example, in the androgynous human figures. In her paintings she depicted female masculinity and feminine young men. In recent years, Professor of Art History Tutta Palin has published numerous pieces of research on Helenius, which also shed light on her relationships with women and on the way that she redefined identities and their representations in her art. Helenius’ flower paintings exist as if on the borders of two worlds, since they present both material sensuality and mystical immateriality in an intriguing way.
Emma Helle (1979) is a Finnish visual artist who studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki, in 1999–2007, graduating with an MA in Fine Arts. Helle is a sculptor, her primary materials being ceramic and wood. Her works reveal material insights, a profound knowledge of art history and a carnivalistic corporeality. She may, for example, take ideas for a work from porcelain figures, creating her own sensual, materially sumptuous versions. In her art Helle works on the human figure in various ways, the sculptures displaying the full spectrum of physicality. The female body, in particular, appears in diverse forms, depicted playfully and sensually. Helle frequently creates installations that turn our traditional ideas about sculpture on their head, for example, mixing art-history references with garden allusions to form elegant entities that combine humour, a broad knowledge of tradition, and contemporary art’s play with identity.
Marie Høeg (1866–1949) was a Norwegian photographer, who lived and worked in Hanko and Tammisaari in 1888–1895. She was the first person to work as a professional photographer in both localities. After moving back to Norway, Høeg met her life partner Bolette Berg (1872–1944) and they set up a joint photography studio in 1895, initially in Horten and from 1903 onwards in Oslo. Besides photography they also published books of photographs. Both Berg and Høeg were photographers and women’s movement activists. Høeg’s glass negatives were found in the 1980s, since when they have been shown in numerous exhibitions. In her pictures we see play with identities and, for example, crossdressing. She can also replace the main character of a typical picture of a man with a woman, and in so doing create a new interpretation in place of a gender stereotype. These pictures play with representations and demonstrate how reflections on identities and sexualities were already a part of people’s lives at the end of the 19th century.
Tove Jansson (1914–2001), a multi-artist born into an artist family, studied at the Konstfack (University of Arts, Crafts and Design) in Stockholm in 1930–1933, after which she returned to Helsinki and studied at the Finnish Art Society Drawing School in 1933–1935. Jansson is one of the internationally best-known Finnish artists, whose Moomin books and comic strips have been translated into dozens of different languages. She saw herself more as a painter than as a writer, and made a lot of monumental paintings. She also worked as a cartoonist and illustrator, and carried out a lot of different Moomin-related projects. Jansson’s literary production contains a highly multifaceted play with identity, added to which her “adult books” contain a lot of character that dismantle norms. She wove autobiographical ingredients into her own works and, for example, the models for Jonna and Mari – the main characters in Fair Play (1989) – are easily recognized as Jansson and her long-term life partner, graphic artist Tuulikki Pietilä (1917–2009). Pietilä was also the model for Too-Ticky in Moominland Midwinter.