The exhibitions by Aulis Harmaala and Niina Villanueva will be opened on Wednesday 17th November from 5pm to 7pm.

Aulis Harmaala’s exhibition Heartland deals with nostalgia. Harmaala’s oil paintings and sculptures lead to personal things and memories. Heartland means a remote place in the wilderness.

Memories are fragments broken into small pieces. They can be anchored into a place, an event, an object, a sensation. What does childhood Christmas look like after forty years? What kind of an experience was it to move from Northern Finland to Helsinki? We use nostalgia to deal with the change, happiness and adversity of life, mortality.

Harmaala has carved fetish-like wooden objects. A fetish refers to a material or an object that involves symbolic experiences recognized by a person or a group of insiders. Wooden sculptures and paintings depict memories shaped by the turmoil of varying emotional states of the human mind. The awareness associated with them is both comforting and misleading.

The aim is to extend the nostalgia of one person to a common debate. By sharing your own experiences, there is an opportunity to reflect the nostalgic experience by others. By exploring the differences and similarities in the fragmented memories, one can realize admission and denial, understand oneself and others.

Aulis Harmaala graduated from Aalto University in 2011 with a master’s degree in art. He was born in 1966 in Ranua and lives in Helsinki. Harmaala’s current work focuses on painting and wood carving. In the past, his methods have been installations including participative elements built into the space. He thinks that the artistic work is a slow social interaction, in which one first settles into being with oneself. The work is completed when it turns viewers to interpret and share their experience.

Earlier exhibitions by Harmaala include displays in the galleries of Muu ry and Huuto in Helsinki, Turku Biennale in 2015 and Charlottenborg Spring exhibition in Copenhagen 2017. Among others, the Helsinki Art Museum has included his works to its collection.


The Arts Promotion Centre Finland has supported the exhibition.


Niina Villanueva works with oil painting and ceramic techniques. The Lotus Fruit exhibition emphasizes the central importance of the material level of painting in Villanueva’s creative process. The sculptures are like three-dimensional paintings, their shapes can be created intuitively and the handprint can be seen, the glaze can be layered and interleaved, the surface and color can be scraped out from the lower layers, just like when painting. Art historical references in the works are subject to interpretation, they intertwine with the personal. Villanueva explains her artistic process:

“I start working from the priming stage, by applying pigmented hide glue on canvas, gradually adding layers. In the next stage I move on to add tempera layers to the painting and work quickly, the shapes find their place organically as the work goes on. Dyed fabric is part of the work and I let it show, rather than covering it. Finally, I go for linseed oil and pigments. I apply thin layers if the work requires it. Sometimes I grab a piece of clay and enjoy the unpredictability of glazing and the world that is more foreign to me. How to find a balance between these elements are in dialogue within my work, it is an ongoing process.”


Villanueva is fascinated by the importance of objects as some kind of memory builders: how the value of goods and objects changes and varies in relation to what has happened around them or to whom they belong, their animistic nature in relation to people.

“Farewell gifts are given on both sides of the border, between presence and absence. When a being leaves, sometimes only memorabilia remains, the material value of which is emphasized when nothing else is left. My work as a whole consists of paintings and ceramic sculptures, which are allegorical references between our material and immaterial existence. How much do we leave behind and how much do we produce, sometimes in order to exist?”


Niina Villanueva (b. 1984) graduated from The Turku Arts Academy in spring 2021. Earlier exhibitions by Villanueva include displays at Kunsthalle Helsinki (Young Artists 2019 exhibition), Kunsthalle Turku, Galleria Rajatila in Tampere, P-galleria in Pori, Galleria Uusikipinä in Lahti. During the upcoming winter season Villanueva is working with sculptures for the summer show Heinola Art Museum.


NB! Both artists will be present in gallery on Sunday 12 December from 2pm to 4 pm.



Aulis Harmaala: Heartland

Niina Villanueva: Lotus Fruit

HAA Gallery, Suomenlinna C1, 00190 Helsinki

Open Tue–Thu 12–6 pm, Fri–Sun 12–4pm

Tel. 050 470 6087