【Listening to Finland】 From the Screen to the Canvas


Minsheng Lecture

Guests: Kaimei Olsson Wang, Wang Yao
Consulate General of Finland in Shanghai, Business Finland, Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum
Date: October 24, 2020
Time: 14:00-17:00
Multimedia Hall (1F), Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum

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2020 marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Finland. Coincidently, the current exhibition in Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum is the great Finnish contemporary artist duo Tommi Grönlund and Petteri Nisunen’s first solo exhibition ever held in Asia. During this exhibition, Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum collaborates with the Consulate General of Finland in Shanghai and Business Finland to launch the series of public education activities “Listening to Finland” in honor of the 70th anniversary of China-Finland diplomatic relations. This series of public education activities will cover diverse aspects of Finland, including art, architecture, design, education, lifestyle, people’s relation with nature, etc., in order to panoramically reveal the contemporary cultural climate of Finland and bring in new energy to the current conversation between China and Finland.

In July, 2019, Royal Academy of Arts held the Helene Schjerfbeck solo exhibition and regarded Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946) as “one of Finland’s best kept secret”. It was the first time of RA presenting this Finnish female painter to UK audiences, exhibiting a great range of her works, including landscapes and portraits that went through realism, naturalism, and expressionism. Among the highlights will be a sequence of self-portraits, which demonstrate Schjerfbeck’s lifelong fascination with the physical and psychological process of ageing. In the age of the selfie, her strokes went gradually simpler and simpler, conveying a sense of loneliness, illness, and melancholy that stings the audience with a sharp perspective of life. As the Guardian review goes, “her self-portraits are an inquiry into mortality.” The Nordic ambition and passion that drives her to work towards the end of life is astonishing.

The Finnish film Helene that based on Helene Schjerfbeck’s biography was nominated as one of the audience’s favorite at this year’s Shanghai Film Festival and Beijing Film Festival. The director, Antti J. Jokinen filled the frames with oil-painting style composition and lighting, presenting Helene’s lonely journey of art pursuing.

“Helene appeared as a vulnerable artist in my mind. But I found that she was a passionate, curious, ambitious, paranoid, dramatic person, with a sense of dark humor.”

--Director Antti Jokinen

  • Helene Schjerfbeck: The Sailor (Einar Reuter) 1918.
    Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen.

  • Protrait of a Girl

  • Helene Schjerfbeck, Still Life with Blackening Apples, 1944.
    Photograph: Didrichsen Art Museum 

  • Helene Schjerfbeck, My Mother, 1909.
    Photograph: Private collection;
    Photo: Finnish National Gallery

  • Helene Schjerfbeck: Self-Portrait, Black Background, 1919.
    Finnish National Gallery
    Ateneum Art Museum, The Hallonblad Collection.

Year 1915. Helene Schjerfbeck lives as a forgotten artist with her elderly mother in the countryside. Years have passed since the last exhibition, and Helene has continued to paint only out of her own passion. Everything changes when an art dealer finds Helene and 159 magnificent paintings - and wants to organize a big solo exhibition. However, the turning point for Helene only comes when she is introduced to Einar Reuter. Young Einar is a forester, and as an art enthusiast, he is a passionate admirer of Helene's works. Coincidently, Schjerfbeck’s life story is very similar to the famous Norwegian painter Edward Munch. The two Nordic counterparts each lived at the east and west coast of Scandinavia, under the era of the “end of the century” and witnessing their nation’s historic bumpy tragedy. Both troubled by diseases, with lonely souls, they both painted abnormal figures: out of shape and thin, dull and desperate. Along with the Nordic artists of the same era, together they shaped the modernism in the Nordic art history.

Starting from this film, the founder of “Beyond Frozen Point” and art writer Wang Kaimei is going to talk about the history of Nordic modernism that is barely known. The lecture is going to introduce numerous Nordic artists aside from the famous Edward Munch, as well as how the cultural heritage is passed on to the contemporary Nordic society. What’s more, the special guest Wang Yao is going to share about why and how Nordic films take a unique place in the international film industry.


121 minutes
Simplified Chinese subtitle
Director: Antti Jokinen
Writers: Antti Jokinen, Marko Leino, Rakel Liehu
Cast: Laura Birn, Krista, Kosonen, Johannes Holopainen, Eero Aho

The copyright of this film in Mainland China is provided by Beijing Hugoeast Media Co., Ltd.

About the guests

Wang Yao

Wang is a scholar who studies films. He is a faculty member of Beijing Film Academy, and a member of International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI), as well as Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC). He has been curating for multiple film festivals from home and abroad, including Beijing International Film Festival, Hainan International Film Festival, etc.

Kaimei Olsson Wang

Wang Kaimei is an independent film and art curator. Wang graduated from Beijing Normal University and holds an MA on contemporary art at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art. Having been living in Nordic area for a long time, she is now engaged in cultural communication with Nordic art and films. In 2015, she founded the Beyond Frozen Point film festival with Li Shanshan, which has led to film screening events such as “Walking in China”, “Changes as in Climate Change”, “The Far Sight Horizon”, as well as “Bergman 100 Commemoration Photography Exhibition”. Through her connection with Sweden and deep understanding of the Nordic culture, her curatorial practices extend to many collaborations with Nordic artists and filmmakers. She is also an art writer and contributor for many art magazines in China. She has lived in Shanghai since 2010 and has been actively involved in the Chinese contemporary art scene through close connections with artists, museums, and other art institutes. Wang focuses on the relationship between the artists with unique visual styles and the history of art. In 2020 her book Ding Yi (Contemporary Painters Series) was published.