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Portraying moments from our everyday lives, Heidi Ukkonen injects colour to the dark sides of the soul, proving she is a storyteller who will not compromise on cheeriness.




Ukkonen paints the sadness, pain, loneliness and monotony of daily life with rich colours, dynamic drawings and details that put a smile on your face. In this respect, she comes across as a storyteller who deals with human nature, without compromising on joy and optimism. Indecisive, defensive, in need of love, scared, daydreaming, idle... Her characters express a myriad of moods, in the middle of what seems to be an ongoing story; leading the viewer towards other emotions, dialogues and scenes. Boredom, our unique quirks, the desire to hold on to something (perhaps someone, perhaps life itself ) are all expressed in a light-hearted tone, but make no mistake, the pain within is evident.

Originally from Sweden, Ukkonen got her master’s degree in painting from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp in 2015. Her works have been exhibited in Antwerp, London, Amsterdam and Paris among others since 2018. The artist has been living in Antwerp for many years and often seeks inspiration in the vibrant city that offers plenty of material. In an interview, Ukkonen said she prefers to do her research at night. She takes an experimental and haphazard approach to paint the remains of the

day. Her subtle explorations in colour, form and emotion bring out vitality, mischief and dark details from the routine that we often associate with stasis and insipidness. She finds inspiration in the works of classical and contemporary artists such as Hieronymus Bosch, Henri Matisse, Phillip Guston and David Hockney. Ukkonen’s work bears some distinctive elements: the great abundance of colour, wild expressions, traits of caricature, surreal touches to the ordinary (and mundane). On one side there is a state of alertness, as if something might go wrong at any moment, on the other there is optimism, a ‘no worries, life is sweet’ state-of-mind and numerous mischievous smiles...

The artist’s paintings resonate with the viewer. There is zest in the emotional transitions, and the inherent contradictions are natural, making it easy to empathise with the characters. This is to do with technique, as much as the artist’s muse, which is ‘everyday life’. Working with oil paints, acrylics and airbrush on linen, canvas, cardboard or wood, Ukkonen can tell a story with a combination of different materials, employing a Renaissance-era painting technique and the intensifying effect of the airbrush. This blend creates the texture of the painting, it also becomes an important instrument that grants her space regarding the emotion, expression and theme she wants to emphasise. This is where that contemporary ‘feel, with a graphic twist’, comes from in Ukkonen’s paintings.


The artist says she focuses on human nature and likes to use bright colours to ease the depressive and dark moods that surface in her characters. Ukkonen’s work is a mish-mash of disconnected scenes, facial expressions and images reminiscent of ‘still life’ shots. With colour and texture, these paintings project us into our own emotional world, in a spiral of compassion and chaos.