Ilkka Halso

A friend recommended the work of Ilkka Halso to me, who’s getting a lot more buzz than most of the artists linked to from this page - I suppose it’s because his work is very ‘on trend’ in terms of it’s themes - global warming, the preservation of nature and so on. It’s also because the work falls somewhere between photography, CG and architecture and, as such, pushes a bunch of different buttons.

I think the artist’s use of CG is very considered. Why would an artist previously engaged with the process of physically building something turn to CGI? There’s a suggestion here:

“Although nature is exceptionally rugged in Halso’s new pictures, it is nonetheless the object of seeing, a painterly reflection, and not a direct space of experience.”

This quote reminds me of a thought I had when walking past an inner city allotment the other day. It wasn’t pretty, and all around it were new developments and building sites. Despite this, the allotment stood for a different idea of nature. One less like the picturesque Capability Brown landscape or the bluebell wood, and more utilitarian. The allotment provides a 'hands-on’ connection that reinforces the idea of nature being something we can have an active relationship with. It’s this engagement with popular natural spaces as more than an attraction that rings bells with Halso’s work.

The dangers of our passive relationship to nature are addressed in Halso’s work - the image of the auditorium built around a waterfall is a particularly good illustration of this idea. Nature is a passive attraction in this picture, and whatever dystopian future this image predicts will have been brought about exactly as a result of such passivity, by a lack of active engagement with nature.

And so to the CGI aspect of the work - here too, there’s the idea of refusing to get your hands dirty. Instead of building a real-life expression of the same idea, Halso has chosen to build the structures virtually.

As well as riffing on the idea of passive relationship to nature, the work could be seen to be satirising the relationship of the artist to the art object - nature is 'the object of seeing, a painterly reflection’. The passivity of our relationship to nature has been established by traditional, romantic painting, and it’s in the opposition to this tradition that Halso’s work finds more in common with the community-based work of someone like Jeremy Deller, whose work overcomes the distance between artist and subject, and who has addressed similar issues himself.

Halso uses CGI as a means of detatching the act of artistic production from a direct engagement with subject matter. The work addresses the dangerous yet alluring potential for CGI to depict a sentimental, romanticised, idealised (yet hyperreal) version of the world. Yet there’s more to it than that…