Kalle Hamm is a visual artist with a diverse resume in the field of fine arts, including experimental music and community art. His previous solo exhibition in Helsinki was seen at the ARTag Gallery in 2018. In 2014, he had a retrospective at the Art and Museum Centre Sinkka in Kerava and in 2015, at the Mikkeli Art Museum.
In comparison to the rest of Hamm’s oeuvre, this exhibition at Gallery Halmetoja titled Minor Civilization is very classical. Hamm has explicitly used visual arts techniques when creating a collection of new drawings and ink paintings on paper and wood. The style of the pieces refers to old illustrations, architectural drawings and religious imagery.
The exhibition is a coherent whole, even though the size and canvas material of the artworks vary according to the demands of the content. Hamm has utilized his knowledge in material technology and traditional art of drawing relaxedly, while also displaying affection and appreciation towards the materials used and their inherent beauty.
In these new artworks, Hamm depicts the arrogance and xenophobia of Western culture and the inability to understand one’s own cultural roots. Seeing difference also helps us see ourselves more clearly. This may sometimes be a painful process, when our familiar world turns out not to be how we always imagined it. Getting to know our own cultural heritage helps us understand the value conflicts prevalent at both the global and local level.
Hamm’s new artworks raise human-plant relationships as a significant philosophical issue alongside those between humans and animals. He wants to draw attention to the fact that all organism species have common genetic roots. Another juxtaposition featured in the exhibition is related to the problematics of religion and sexuality. Identifying as homosexual, Kalle Hamm studies this theme in a constructive manner, by highlighting untold stories, rereading history and finally giving a voice to the suppressed.
While Hamm raises themes known from history, he highlights surprising and forgotten details. This can make one’s own cultural history suddenly seem strange, even alien. For many, this can be a healthy experience.