HC Berg — An article by Leevi Haapala

Hans-Christian Berg
Optical Pulsations on the World’s Retina — by Leevi Haapala

A Conversation with HC Berg

Leevi Haapala
Hans-Christian Berg
Optical Pulsations on the World’s Retina

Kashya Hildebrand is pleased to present HC Berg’s first solo show with the gallery and the first presentation of his work in the United Kingdom. HC Berg is a young Finnish artist who has been steadily growing in international renown over the last ten years. He was the recipient of Finland’s Young Artist of the Year award in 2007, and his works have been exhibited in galleries, museums, and art fairs worldwide.

The Metamorphoses of a Line is an exhibition that showcases the central motifs in Berg’s work: how the transformations of a line in sculptural form provoke subjective experiences of optics, light and transparency. His works pose questions about physical form and the play of light and colour in real and reflected spaces, highlighting observation and perception with an aim not to deceive but to reveal.

In this interaction of light and line, components such as acrylics, plastic, and even drinking straws are employed to challenge customary ways of seeing, affording unexpected tensions and surprising insights. Berg creates works with unlimited optical dexterity to unmask the myriad possibilities of different materials and surfaces to transmit light. The result is an intense and experiential visual experience as the optical illusions confound and elicit pleasure in deceiving and seducing the eye.

In this exhibition, Berg will highlight two series of work. “Visual Vortex” is a body of work he has been engaged with since 2004, featuring large sculptural boxes with multidimensional colours and patterns inside. Seen from afar, the works conceal an impressive depth in their seemingly simple geometrical form. Yet, in a first-hand encounter, they dare the viewer to test their senses and make meaning of the interplay of delicate translucence and oily reflectiveness. The light gathered and returned by the works, as well as the image produced, do not focus on one vanishing point but follow the movements of the viewer to create a perceptual vortex between perceiver and perceived.

Within the works, the background mirrors collect the rays of light and seem to shoot them towards the viewer. The surface is composed of a transparent sheet with engraved patterns that dance in the light as they are magnified in the space between the mirrors and the viewer, enhancing the illusion these patterns generate. Berg has compared the effect of the “Visual Vortex” sculptures to childhood experience in the amusement park, where some of the rules we learn in daily life no longer seem to apply. In a sense, the effect of Berg’s work facilitates this step beyond our everyday reality and offers us this pleasure that tricks the eye, the body, and the mind. He says of his work, “It actually stuns the viewer. You have a hard time focusing. You have a hard time connecting.”

Meanwhile, the “Light Cell” series provides another form of visual pleasure in the presentation of landscape-like light sculptures with pulsating colour bands. Using horizontal strips and vertical beams made up of drinking straws, Berg creates cells reminiscent of plasma displays or the pixelated structure of digital images to reimagine the current visual horizon. Within these structures, we find an ordered chaos that both captivates and calms the imagination, inviting us to inhabit these virtual spaces.

In the series presented in this exhibition, Berg makes the subjective gaze itself the focus of scrutiny by highlighting and questioning the boundaries that ground perception, thus daring us to cross the line.