Joanne Grüne-Yanoff: an artist’s walk in our hearts

Joanne Grüne-Yanoff’s most recent installations, presented within her exhibition called ”You Walk In My Heart And The beat Goes On” at Gallery Kalhama&Piippo (Helsinki) is a meditation that riffs on previous works of hers. The work continues her conceptual and materials-based explorations, and using those her art has made us familiar with – moss, honey, beeswax, bark, salt, stone and more, she is now stepping into a world where they echo a more profound poetic resonance and gain some remarkable interactive features through a suspension system which equally suspends time.

To put her recent work into the conceptual perspective it belongs to, I asked the artist to visit the ”CREAM -Hirst and contemporaries” exhibition at Kiasma (Helsinki) and start discussing her recent pieces in parallel with the Young British Artists (YBA) movement which Damien Hirst once headed.

Although I photographed you in front of  Damien Hirst’s a painted version of ”the Skull” called “For the love of God”, your work has also been put in line with Helen Chadwick’s, also represented here. If any, where is your affiliation?

– I think I am among many artists who have been influenced by Chadwick. Her work continues to engage and resonate.

– You and Hirst use much of the same grammar, and, it is indeed anecdotal, but it seems you also both use a plethora of exotic butterflies…

– They seem to hold in some way mortality, transience, breath, flight — moments that appear in a brilliant flash just as they fold away into the air.

– Among Hirst’s most known art pieces, we find ”a Thousand years” which is featuring a closed glass structure containing a calf head and flies eating it up gradually… although this piece is not part of the exhibition at Kiasma, doesn’t it bring us closer to the organic art trend to which you belong?

– ”A Thousand Years” is wonderful piece.  Brings to mind life, death, hunger, destruction, decay – a Dutch still life unbound in an astoundingly fresh way.

– The endless cycle of life and death are very present in your new work. Among the most illustrative pieces of this organic approach to mortality in your coming exhibition, there is your series of human heart-shaped transparent PVC structures containing full egg shells or crushed egg shells. There are works of different sizes based on this idea and the series will culminate in a monumental piece you are finishing on site, isn’t it?

– That’s right.  The gallery Kalhama & Piippo Contemporary has been wonderfully supportive and generous in encouraging me to create the installation. The works will hang suspended from the ceiling, on the walls, upon the ground, to be walked through like a forest of ideas. Some of the floor sculptures, which are filled with eggshells, will be walked on as well.  Eggshells are a perfect material regarding many of the themes in my work – fragility and tenacity, protection and vulnerability, temporality and endurance. In the hearts, whether whole shells or crushed to dust, these eggshells hold all of this – they that once held the potential for life.

– Last May, you invited me to  walk on one of your smaller sculptures filled with eggshells you had just finished. I was so impressed by its inner poetry, I couldn’t. You did and described the nice feeling when you walk bare foot on it, I could only imagine the voluptuousness of this action but there was also the sound of the crushing. Your materials speak: are sounds very important to your work?

– I like that they might add something eidetic to the experience of the work.  I often think about sensory experiences and how they relate to the nature of identity; how that nature is triggered by memory, and, further, how memory itself is activated by the smell/sight/taste/touch/sound of a specific material

– When the egg shells are fully crushed is it time for you, patterning on Damien Hirst’s  ”after sales” service, to provide the owner with replacement egg shells?

– Maybe. For me, the dust carries as much weight as the larger shells, maybe more.  I like the idea of things continuing to grow and change in the work – this state of things in flux and process, so that even in their ostensible stasis in the exhibition, the sculptures remain dynamic as they are transformed through chance operations.

– You have singled out lots of beautiful natural materials in your heart-shaped structures: moss, honey, exotic butterflies which were also present in your previous exhibitions at Lilljevachs museum in Stockholm and Lemmons contemporary in NY. You have started to use bark, shell enamel, tiny stones, sea salt all coming from the Finnish nature…

There’s such a rich natural environment here in Finland, and I take a lot of walks in the forests, where I find particular materials that make sense within the conceptual narratives of the sculptures I am working on.  These walks, the thoughts they bring up, the ideas they inspire, the materials I come upon – go directly into the work.

– What is your next step?

– I will be exhibiting some work in Berlin in November and I have a new large-scale installation I have begun working toward and…  We’ll have to see…

Joanne Grüne-Yanoff’s installation You Walk On My Heart And The Beat Goes On is an  invitation to actually enter an artistic universe. The works that comprise the exhibition are in the shape of the human heart, and many are transparent, with selections of organic materials secreted inside. These works carry the possibility to establish an interactive relation with them: physically by walking around each and exploring angles to look at the forms and what they hold, even intricating our own movements into their timeless suspension for avoiding or confronting them, and mentally by participating in the ineluctably subtle, candid life cycle of her art work. Living in Finland has enriched her work with questions about the nature of identity and the identity process deriving from looking closely at nature, issues which are essential under our Northern latitudes.

When discovering Joanne’s art last May, I truly remained speechless and I am not quite sure I found the words yet but it touched my heart and surely the beat will go on (and on and on…)…



1) Joanne Grüne-Yanoff “You Walk in my Heart and the beat Goes on” exhibition at gallery Kalhama&Piippo from 22nd October to 21st November . To know more about her work, previous exhibitions and acquisitions:

2) “CREAM – Damien Hirst & contemporaries” at Kiasma museum from 10th September to 7th November

3) the Frieze art festival from 14th to 17th October over 100 London galleries involved in a contemporary art climax – festival founded by Damien Hirst and the YBA



Robert Hughes “the Shock of the New” (book) a superb historical introduction to modern and contemporary art issues by a critic who was a close friend to many abstract expressionists.

Robert Hughes “the Mona Lisa curse” (DVD). In the Mona Lisa curse Hughes investigates, among others, why some art collectors go crazy for Wharol, Hirst or Koons – and essentially those. Purely speculative interest or pure love for arts?

Michel Houellebecq “la carte et le territoire”, Flammarion 2010 a realistic fiction full of wit about the contemporary art milieu

3 Responses to “Joanne Grüne-Yanoff: an artist’s walk in our hearts”
  1. Ruxandra says:

    Joanne Grüne-Yanoff’s latest exhibition “Okay!” at Gallery Helga Maria Bischoff in Berlin 29th October – 26th November

    Hereunder a praise of her work in J’N’C Magazine

    Joanne Grüne-Yanoff, an exciting multimedia artist from Stockholm. Originally from the US, she works with diverse found materials to create the most profound works of art.

    An eggshell hat, bird-covered headphones, feathered feet, a flying necklace, spines of wings and moss all hover in an undefined area located somewhere between fine art, sculpture, fashion, photography and installation.

    In her first solo show in Berlin, “Okay!” in the Gallery Helga Maria Bischoff in Kollwitzstrasse 74, the work delivers a punch that slices through butterflies and feathers before it connects. And connect it does. She calls to mind a female Bruce Nauman, and compares to Matthew Barney and Rebecca Horn for her muscular and poetic distillations of the unprotected self.
    (The exhibition is on till 26th November, 2011)

  2. Ruxandra says:

    Have a look at Joanne’s portofolio for this exhibition My heart beats for the concept of a Memory survival box called butterfly box now part of the Mütter museum collection

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