Sophie von Hellermann creates a light, aqueous manner of painting. The flow of colours and gradients allude to seas and boats. The wallpaper panels, the swirls of flowers, birds and figures also appear to be playfully floating. At first glance, Hellermann's world seems to swing gently, a little feminine, a little amorous. As if painted through rose-tinted glasses. Yet, this is only the first level, the first lure. Behind it are more serious stories that find their reflection in our time. What appears romantic—the small boats with newcomers, behind the sun, under the seagulls, in front of bays and new land—is actually an allusion to colonialism. While in the European imagination it was a historically victorious endeavour, today we know how limited and devastating such a view is. Sophie von Hellermann deals with post-colonialism by exaggerating the former, romantic notions. In Singapore, it was the English who set a red dot on this place. The novel "How We Disappeared" by Jing-Jing Lee about Singapore in 1942, when Japanese troops invaded and looted a village, also inspired her. In it, the stories of women who had to endure sexual slavery in military brothels emerge. Hellermann's works, however, are not illustrations of these biographies, nor are they historical paintings. With a lot of water, pigments, and a little binding agent, she finds a pictorial language that remains deliberately vague. Misty scenarios emerge, loosely painted figures, animals, objects, and places leave room for cultural and historical interpretations. One figure does not stand for an individual person, but rather for the many. The painterly reduction of details and realism simultaneously opens up a greater imaginative abundance.
On the vertical wallpaper panels, space falls entirely away. In the balanced, encircling flows, lions and orchids entangle themselves, whilst flowers transform into dancers, surrounded by Singapore’s gardens. One is familiar with this from staring at wallpapers, patterns change in the process—the longer one looks, the more psychedelic the transformation can become through the immobile eye. Sophie von Hellermann's works are predestined to stimulate the viewer's imagination. They exude lightness, yet never lose their serious core.
Text: Larissa Kikol
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