EXHIBITION REVIEW | Erno Enkenberg – We Were Promised to Be Taken Care Of at Galleria Heino

Artist | Erno Enkenberg (b. 1975) gained an MA from the Academy of Fine Arts in 2010. He has also studied at Wimbledon School of Art (1997-2001) and Free Art School (1997-1998). Enkenberg’s works have been exhibited in group and solo exhibitions in Finland, Sweden, Denmark and the UK.

Exhibition | Erno Enkenberg, We Were Promised to Be Taken Care Of, Galleria Heino | 29 April – 21 May 2017

Featured Image | Detail of Erno Enkenberg, Intermission, 2017, oil on canvas | Courtesy of Galleria Heino and the artist

Imagine a world in which adults have disappeared without a trace, and children have been left to their own devices. We Were Promised to Be Taken Care Of – Erno Enkenberg’s current show at Galleria Heino – opens up a feeling of melancholia for those of us who are adults and, even more so, to those of us who have children of our own.

Despite this first sentiment, the theme brings forth a peaceful and serene setting where children slowly discover the world, without order or negative consequence. Enkenberg’s micro-universe does not resemble the dystopian world often revealed in art or literature. There is no darkness, no Lord Of The Flies type of survival mode.

In Enkenberg’s paintings, children are often depicted in solitary surroundings: performing in an empty theater, taking out books from the shelves of a library, observing the stars in the sky, playing an instrument or glancing through the open door of an abandoned art atelier. They are surrounded by culture, art and science – perhaps the best remains of our adult days.

The imagery resembles realistic photography, but something does not quite fit in. There is another layer that makes the settings look artificial and constructed – tree leaves have odd, un-organic, geometrical shapes, interiors are stripped to a bare minimum, construction structures look fragile, as if made out of cardboard.

Because Enkenberg, like a master puppeteer, constructs his settings well before the painting begins. In fact, a quite elaborate, time-consuming process takes place prior to the work on canvas. The artist first builds paper models according to the topic he sets out to explore. Miniature models, like those used by architects or stage designers in their work. He then films the entire setting and makes a selection of stills in the form of photographs. After this, he proceeds to painting the images as accurately as possible in relation to the chosen photographs.

The exhibition at Galleria Heino also reveals a part of this complex process. Enkenberg sets up a short film featuring his models in the the first gallery room, as well as a real cardboard and paper installation in the second room. The latter, a mini-house setting belonging to the orphaned children in Enkenberg’s story has a surprise effect on the viewers: kids gasp in the face of their hide-away dream come true, adults recollect their own childhood secret quarters. In any case, there is no short supply of smiles and imagination.

Perhaps this is also the greatest highlight of Enkenberg’s narrative – it urges us to imagine a return to the age of innocence, to picture a new start for the world. And in this one, it is not our darkest instincts that prevail, but our pure curiosity and sense of discovery. It brings to mind the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who believed human beings are good by nature, but corrupted by society. If we take this to heart, remove the pressures and expectations of our set social system, but leave all humanity’s accumulated knowledge so far – how would that world look like to our children?