post-title Jamie Luoto and Tonia Nneji | When Dusk Falls | Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery | 18.07.-31.08.2024

Jamie Luoto and Tonia Nneji | When Dusk Falls | Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery | 18.07.-31.08.2024

Jamie Luoto and Tonia Nneji | When Dusk Falls | Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery | 18.07.-31.08.2024

Jamie Luoto and Tonia Nneji | When Dusk Falls | Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery | 18.07.-31.08.2024

until 31.08. | #4348ARTatBerlin | Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery Berlin shows from 18. July 2024 the duo-exhibition When Dusk Falls by the artists Jamie Luoto and Tonia Nneji.

“When Dusk Falls”, the duo exhibition of paintings by Jamie Luoto and Tonia Nneji at Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery Berlin, explores the complex psychological effects of trauma in relation to the female body and the potential of art as a powerful form of revelation and resistance.

Jamie Luoto’s paintings form part of an ongoing investigation into her own experience of complex post-traumatic stress disorder. Drawing on the occult and horror genre, she uses a symbolic visual language to make visible unseen symptoms of sexual abuse such as flashbacks, nightmares, dissociation, and intrusive thoughts. While Luoto typically works with self-portraiture, for this exhibition she has also created a series of smaller, still lifes that explore the ways in which our internal experience can bleed into and alter our perception of the world around us. For instance, in Are You Good Men and True? a white porcelain cat becomes both a surrogate for the female figure, pushed into a corner, and a figure of authority, passing judgment on the ‘men’, who are alluded to through condoms, a recurring motif in Luoto’s work. The same imagery is repeated in The Douter where the cat – now real – appears possessed, its eyes reflecting the outline of condoms, or ‘ghosts’, as Luoto calls them, and again in At the Event Horizon where a female figure adopts cat-like behaviour to lick at a pool of liquid in which condoms appear rising up from the surface.

The transference of imagery between different paintings adds to the feeling of claustrophobia, which is at its most heightened in The Black Fell Open – the largest and perhaps most complex work in the show. Once again there is a naked figure on all fours, this time facing away from us with a black cat winding between her thighs. The cat is simultaneously exposing itself while shielding the figure. It appears to go in through her legs to seemingly emerge as another figure, crouched and wearing a paper bag over its head. This, Luoto, explains is ‘the dissociated self.’ Above them, dead birds hang upside down from strings and scattered across the sheet are red apples being nibbled by mice. Are we encountering the aftermath of a ritual? Some kind of nest? A fairy-tale or a nightmare? As with all of Luoto’s compositions, the imagery is loaded with multiple potential meanings, allowing the viewer to find their own points of connection.

Nigerian artist Tonia Nneji similarly uses symbolism to confront a culture of suppression and violence against women, particularly in relation to the influence of religion. In 2014 she was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome but rather than being offered medical assistance, she was encouraged by family members to attend church programs. ‘It was their understanding of life and I never faulted them for it,’ she says, ‘but sadly in Nigeria and most of west Africa religion comes before medicine.’ As a result, Nneji, as well as many other women, ended up feeling powerless over her own body, a feeling which is reflected in the dark, cavernous backgrounds in which her figures appear.

At the same time, her figures command and reclaim these spaces. They are clothed in bright, patterned fabrics and gaze directly at the viewer. In one work, a woman sits at the top of a corridor of intricate arches that evokes the imposing grandeur of church architecture. Her pose is one of defiance and indifference – she is barefoot, her dress falling off her shoulders and down between her open legs. Elsewhere, resistance is more subtly conveyed. For instance, in another painting set in a similar type of space, a figure stands wearing a dress that is emblazoned with logos depicting the (male) reverend and various saints. ‘We live in a society where people who pledge allegiance to a thing always want to show off that they belong to that group,’ says Nneji. ‘It’s common to go to a particular church and see people wearing customised prints made by that church.’ In Nneji’s work, this kind of fabric becomes a symbol of ownership and entrapment rather than belonging, but it is one that her figures rebel against through their own embellishments such as a flash of red fabric tied around the waist or clasped in a hand.

Importantly, in the work of both artists, the female body itself is also a site not just of violence but of resistance. They empower the female body by making visible the unseen and the repressed, by sharing their trauma and vulnerability but by also confronting the viewer and eliciting discomfort.

Opening: Wednsday, 17. July 2024, 6:30 pm

Exhibition dates: Thursday, 18. July  – Saturday, 31. August 2024

To the gallery



Title image caption: Jamie Luoto, The Douter, 2024 | Oil on canvas, 55.9 x 40.6 cm (left); Tonia Nneji, Time Passing 2, 2024 | Oil on canvas, 121.9 x 152.4 cm (right)

Duo-exhibition Jamie Luoto and Tonia Nneji – Kristin Hjellegjerde Berlin | Zeitgenössische Kunst in Berlin | Contemporary Art | Ausstellungen Berlin Galerien | ART at Berlin

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