Helga Steppan

The works of Helga Steppan meld the genres of photography, installation and sculpture. Steppan’s works almost always begin with the act of gathering and ordering – be it all of her possessions, as in the photographic series ‘See Through – All my things’ (2004), in which she categorised all of her belongings by colour, or the gathering of the multitude of reflective objects that became the site specific work ‘Mirroculous’ (2008). Steppan’s works playfully flit between the psychological realm of memories and associations and the ordered world of systems and classification. Rather than referring to classifications normally associated with the realm of the museum or sciences, Steppan uses her own unconventional and often playful set of criteria to organise forms and objects.

The interplay between the two and three dimensional has been a consistent concern for Steppan. Her photographic works are, invariably, sculptural in their origins, the final photograph a two dimensional trace of a three dimensional form. In her latest works, the use of photography moves beyond that of documentation, becoming both a starting point and vital element in the construction of her site specific installations. The gathering instinct seen in earlier works is reflected in these installations by her use of photography as a way of both garnering and organising information about the exhibition space. Steppan subsequently re-constructs the resulting images and information into new, sculptural forms which are placed back within the gallery. The inception of this process was perhaps first seen in her 2007 site specific work ‘The Spare Room’, in which Steppan created a dreamlike environment through an installation of photographs which appeared to mirror the very rooms that they occupied.

Similary in ‘Parallelistic l’imitation’ (2010) Steppan used the architectural features of Château de Sacy in northern France, as her starting point. The resulting sculptures – geometric forms, constructed from mirrored surfaces and photographs of the spaces that they inhabit – immediately disorientate, interrupting and disrupting the spaces that they inhabit. In these fictitious environments, part mirror image, part photographic representation, we are both reflected and at another turn made absent. Steppan’s works allude to parallel universes, but her other worlds are illusionary – an imagining and imitation of multi-dimensional space – and are therefore ultimately limited in their possibilities. We cannot pass through the invisible boundary of the mirrored surface or that of the photograph to enter into them.

Drawing influence from the utopian architectural designs of the 1950’s and 1960’s, from ‘Architectures Fantastiques’ and Le Corbusier’s belief in the mathematical order of the universe, Steppan’s at first perplexing structures, create worlds within worlds. The mirror, historically representational of a gateway into other dimensions or entry point into the subconscious, leads us into a never ending labyrinthine gaze. It is a ‘tricked gaze’ but as Michel Foucault has also written, the mirrored world is a both a utopia – a space which is ‘fundamentally and essentially unreal’ in which we simultaneously are present but also not – and a ‘heterotopia’, a space between the real and utopian. In Steppan’s works, the relationship between what is real, what is reflection and what is reproduction draws our attention to the fact that what we are witnessing is an illusion, bringing our awareness back to our own place in space and time.

Jacqui McIntosh, Helga Steppan: Parallelistic Imitations, catalogue published on occasion of exhibition, 2010

Born in 1976 in Sweden
Lives / works in the UK and Sweden

Education
2002-2004: MA Communication Art & Design, Royal College of Art, London, UK
1999-2002: BA Graphic Design, Kingston University, London, UK
1998-1999: Foundation Studies in Art & Design, Richmond-Upon-Thames College, London, UK
1997-1998: Kunsthøjskolen, Holbæk, Denmark

Solo Exhibitions
2013: ‘Kaleidoscopia’, Ahlbergshallen, Östersund, Sweden
2012: ‘Raderna Emellan Oss’, Garaget, Malmö, Sweden
2011: ‘Rivit Välillämme | Raderna Emellan Oss’, LittFest, Vasa Stadsbibliotek, Vasa, Finland — ‘Raderna Emellan Oss’, Motala Bibliotek, Motala, Sweden – Barnens Underjordiska Scen, Stockholm, Sweden
2010: ‘Parallelistic Imitations’, Chateau de Sacy, Sacy-le-Petit, France
2008: ‘All My Things’, Vital Arts Gallery Space, The Royal London Hospital, London, UK
2007: ‘Be long a part’, Man&Eve, London, UK
2003: ‘Anna Otto Bob’, Hockney Gallery, Royal College of Art, London, UK

Selected Group Exhibitions
2013: ‘Shop Show’, Form / Design Centre, Malmö, Sweden — ‘I dialog med samlingarna / In dialogue with the collections’, Gothenburg Museum of Art, Sweden
2012: ‘Made in Sacy’, 12 Star Gallery, London, UK
2011: ‘To have – To Own’, Kuntsi Museum of Modern Art, Vasa, Finland — ‘Höstsalong’, Skånes Konstförening, Malmö, Sweden
2009: ‘A Touch of Colour’, Sotheby’s, London, UK — ‘Now: Art of the 21st Century’, Phillips de Pury, London, UK — ‘Group Exhibition of Gallery Artists’, Man&Eve Gallery, London, UK — IPG Terry O’Neill Award, Independent Photographers Gallery, Battle, UK
2008: ‘Message in a Bottle’, James Harris Gallery, Seattle, USAIPG / Terry Neill Award Exhibition, Fulham Palace Gallery, London, UK — ‘Art in the Carpark’, Liverpool Biennial, Liverpool, UK — ‘Consume Peckham’, I Love Peckham Festival, London, UK
2007: ‘Flash Forward’, Kathleen Cullen Fine Art, New York, USA – Contemporary Lennox, Toronto, Canada
2006: ‘Me, Myself and I’, Passagen Linköpings Konsthall, Linköping, Sweden — ‘Plug’, White Space, County Hall Gallery, London, UK — ‘Wish List’, M+R Gallery, London, UK — ‘Remaking’, Glasburen, Stockholm, Sweden — ‘Domesticity’, Art Works Gallery, Enefco House, Poole, UK
2005: ‘Kagami II’, Contemporary Art Club, Paris, France — ‘Showroom: ArtPlatform’, Natalia Goldin Gallery, Stockolm, Sweden — ‘On The Road: United Net-Works, Artistic Strategies’, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden
2004: ‘Beautifully Functional’, Mayfair Air Gallery, London, UK — ‘Unlock Your Imagination’, Upper Gulbenkian Gallery, Royal College of Art, London, UK
2001: ‘The Museum of… River Thames’, London, UK

Screenings
2004: ‘Emergeandsee’, Trafo, Budapest, Hungary | International Kino, Berlin, Germany | The Other Cinema, London, UK
2003: ‘25hrs International Video Art Show’, Barcelona, Spain — Simrishamn International Art Film Festival, Gallery Valfisken, Sweden
2002: ‘One Dot Zero Film Festival’, ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art), London, UK

Prizes/Awards
2012: ‘Härke konstnärsstipendium’, Artist Grant, Östersund, Sweden
2011: ‘Konstnärsnämnden Två-årigt Arbetsstipendium’, Artist-working Grant, Stockholm, Sweden — Svenska Kulturfonden, Helsinki, Finland — ‘[Platform]’, Scholarship, Vasa, Finland
2010: ‘HIAP’, Helsinki International Artist-in-residence Programme, Scholarship, Helsinki, Finland — Byggnads Kulturstipendium, Scholarship, Stockholm, Sweden — University for the Creative Art, Research Grant, Maidstone, UK — British Council, Artist Grant, London, UK
2009: ‘Norsk-Svenska Stiftelsen Stipendium’, Scholarship, Stockholm, Sweden
2008: ‘Konstnärsnämndens Arbetsstipendium’, Artist-working Grant, Stockholm, Sweden
IPG / Terry O’Neill Award 08, Shortlisted, London, UK — Magenta Foundation, Flash Forward – Emerging Photographers, Canada
2007: Magenta Foundation, Flash Forward – Emerging Photographers, Winner, Canada
1998: Marta, Wivi & Åke Liljesons Stiftelse, Sweden

Residencies
2012: ‘Härke konstcentrum’, Östersund, Sweden
2011: ‘[Platform]’, Vasa, Finland
2010: ‘HIAP’, The Cable Factory, Helsinki, Finland
2009: ‘Kunstnerhuset Lofoten’, Svolvær, Norway
2008: ‘Nkd – Nordic Artists’ Centre Dale’, Dale, Norway

Publications and Reviews
2011: ‘Östgötatidningen’, Utställningen alla kan medverka i, 21/10/11, Sweden — ‘Motala Tidning’, Dedikera en bok – medverka I en utställnig på biblioteket, Motala, 05/10/11, Sweden
2010: ‘The Times Literary Supplement, Commentary: Freelance by Hugo Williams’, 10th Sep 2010, London, UK — ‘Le Parisien, Bohéme au Châteeau’ by Natalie Huet, 16th August 2010, Creil, France
2009: HotShoe International, Contemporary Photography, Dec/Jan 2009, Issue #157, London, UK
2008: Aluma, ‘See Through – All my things’, Malmo, Sweden — Planning Journal, Art in the Car Park’, 17 October, Issue 1791, London, UK — Artartart, ‘The Global Art Market, Review: Consume Peckham Arts Festival’, Oct, Issue 3, London, UK — Alaska, ‘Elsa & Ingeborg, Ingeborg & Elsa’ by Helga Steppan, London, UK — Aluma, ‘See Through – All my things’ by Helga Steppan, April, Malmö, Sweden — The Stranger, ‘Hold Still’, 19/02/08 Seattle, USA — ArtScene, ‘In the International Land of Contemporary Art’, January, Los Angeles, USA
2007: Qvest Magazine, Feature: ‘Die Ordnung Der Dinge’, Berlin, Germany — Grafik, Class of 2007 – ‘Be Long A Part’ by Helga Steppan, London, UK — Creative Review, Pick of the Month, London, UK — News in Pictures, Design Week, London, UK
2006: Radio Territories, ‘To see with each other’s ears’, Photograph Errant, UK — Östgöta Correspondenten, ‘Review: Egocentrism som imponerar’, Linköping, Sweden — NY Arts Magazine, ‘What is After After Modern?’ New York, USA — Östgöta Correspondenten, ‘Porträtt på åtta sätt’, Linköping, Sweden — M / The New York Art World, ‘Review: Diva’, New York, USA
2005: AC Institute, ‘AC: Hospitality Suite, Review: Diva’, Paris, France — Svenska Dagbladet, ‘Konstnären blir konsult’, Stockholm, Sweden

Catalogues and Monographs
2010: ‘Parallelistic Imitaions’, Exhibition Catalogue, UK / France
2009: ‘Touch of Colour’, Exhibition Catalogue, London, UK — Now: Art of the 21st Century, Phillips de Pury & Company, Exhibition Catalogue, London, UK
2008: Independent Photographers / Terry O’Neill Award, London, UK — Flash Forward – Emerging Photographer, Book, Magenta Publishing, Toronto, Canada
2007: ‘Belongings Apart’, Book, Man&Eve Gallery, London — Flash Forward – Emerging Photographer, Magenta Publishing, Toronto, Canada — The Cardinal Collection, Collection Catalogue, Experian, London
2006: ‘Me, Myself and I’, Book, ArtPlatform, Sweden — ‘Diva’, Digital & Video Artfair Exhibition Catalogue, New York, USA
2005: ‘Diva’, Digital & Video Artfair Exhibition Catalogue, Paris, France
2004: ‘Going Straight’, Exhibition Catalogue, Unlock Your Imagination, London, UK
2003: ‘25hrs International Video Art Show’, Exhibition Catalogue, Barcelona, Spain
2002: ‘Pick Up’, Exhibition Catalogue, OutPut, London, UK

Artist Commissions
2013: ‘Skogbruksvägens care home’, Photography, Östersunds kommun, Sweden — ‘Ideadevelopment’, Östersund Hospital, Shortlisted, Östersund, Sweden
2012: ‘Storsjöodjurscenter’ (The Monster Research Centre of Lake Storsjön), Sweden — ‘Cabinet of Monster Curiosity’, Installation, Svenstavik, Unsworn Industries, Malmö, Sweden — ‘BOIC Artist Commision Ideadevelopment’, Sahlgrenska Hospital, Göteborg, Sweden — ‘P.S. Förlåt ifall jag väckte er’, Visualisation, Å+K (Misplay), Unsworn Industries, Malmö, Sweden
2011: ‘Pulse Project’, Installation, Pulse Contemporary Art Fair, Miami, USA
2010: ‘SEGRO Young Artist 2010’, Creative Junction, Whitton School, London, UK
2008: ‘Mirroculous’, Installation, ACE Hair & Beauty, Consume Peckham Arts Festival, London, UK
2005: ‘Rememorise’, Installation, ArtPlatform, John Mattson Fastighets AB, Stockholm, Sweden