Helena Blomqvist’s art bears the double hallmark of philosophical reflection and a cunning sense of humour. For many, the mission of photography is to describe the world. Instead, Blomqvist builds the world, over and over again. By using models and props, she creates a world just as real as the one outside her studio. Previously, she turned gender stereotypes upside down, and pop cultural archetypes inside out, well aware that they are the cornerstones in our culture that reflect the imbalances within our society. At times it is as if she gently pulls away the curtains to let us peek at a series of events on the very verge of the apocalypse, other times we witness the consequence of a silent and personal resistance.
Throughout her career, she has come to focus more on the dramas that take place in her peculiar milieus, a strategy that she takes a step further in her new works. Now, the main characters are played by animals – preferably apes – that seem to be present in some distant time of war. The uniforms and props breathe an air of early 20th century. When the animals are lined up in front of the mushroom cloud of an atomic bomb, they appear unable to understand what they see. The colours are sparsely distributed like in old photographs. Most vivid are the fields with their small red flowers that stand out like red drops of blood against the uniform grey background. It alludes to the Canadian military doctor John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields” from 1915. It is, perhaps, the most well known and quoted literary work from the First World War: ”In Flanders fields the poppies blow / Between the crosses, row on row / That mark our place; and in the sky / The larks, still bravely singing, fly/ Scarce heard amid the guns below”.
Poppies were the only plants that survived in the ravaged and colourless landscape of the trench war. Since then, the blood red flowers have become a symbol of the nameless victims of the war. In Helena Blomqvist’s works we can see blurry pictures of soldiers in troop divisions that long ago ceased to exist. They belong to a world, to which we have no access today. In time, one starts to wonder whether they ever existed, or if they too are a product of the photo montage’s vast machinery. Oblivion obscures the view.