Helene Koch

Helene Koch – exploring the ‘purpose’

Themes of overlooked potential run throughout Helene Koch’s work. Whether it is neglected city locations or inexpensive materials she questions the obvious and explores our views on the ‘ordinary’.

Born in Denmark, her work has been exhibited in Copenhagen, Vilnius, London and Miami.

Last year her work Canvas in Thames was selected for the Saatchi Screen Project at Saatchi Gallery, London.

Helene Koch
B.M.Purl © Helene Koch

Exploring former purposes

Koch has recently started working on a new, as yet untitled, project.

“Normally I work site-specific when doing installations,” she says.

“But at the moment I am working on a project, that talks more about the actual objects and their former purposes than being site specific.

“One piece is called B.M.Purl and takes its departure in the inside panels of an old closet by furniture designer, Børge Mogensen.”

The closet featured in B.M.Purl was about to be thrown out when Koch spotted the inner panels.

By exposing the inside, flipping them upside down, removing their function and applying layers of paint they are given a ‘new existence’.

Helene Koch
CITY(E)SCAPE © Helene Koch

Hidden places

Giving new existence, whether in spaces or to objects, appears to be a theme throughout Koch’s work.

“My inspirations come in a constant flow in everyday situations and sceneries mostly within an urban setting,” she says.

“What drags my attention and instantly inspires me, is when something surprises me, in a new form than its general and obvious purpose in terms of an object’s function or, for instance, when an unknown path in the city suddenly reveals hidden stories of an area I think I already know.”

Exploration of hidden places can be seen in Koch’s CITY(E)SCAPE series.

“This is a series that goes back in time, when I once lived in India,” she says.

“I was amazed about the amount of people every where, I felt I had to find the places with no people at all – even if that meant going to the roofs in the streets.”

Helene Koch
Wall-Paper © Helene Koch

Overlooked Potentials

“When I get curious on neglected and overlooked locations in the city, it can be for many reasons, but often it relates to the purpose of a certain area,” she says.

“The same way I get attracted to the purpose of a material – its overlooked potential, how its dysfunction, or how the item’s specific ‘labelling’ in terms of use, hides something more important.

“Whether the ‘labelling’ of an item or object is formally categorised to us, or whether we just assume that this is how it should be used, makes me want to question it once more.”

This exploration of purpose can be seen in Wall-Paper. 

The images capture paper on the roll with masking tape for the carpenter to cover panels with before painting walls.

“I am intrigued by the colour and texture of this paper and the temporarily use of it,” she says.

Canvas in Thames © Helene Koch

Canvas in Thames

Last year Koch’s Canvas in Thames, part of Investigating Space, Occupying Place, was selected for the Saatchi Screen Project.

“I was quite surprised, and pleased of course,” she says. “Finding out that, at the time I was selected, over 30,000 persons had applied and about 800 selected for the project but still the numbers are a little abstract to me.

“However I am pleased that they liked my Canvas in Thames as it clearly relates to the city of London, and in this way, it makes good sense to have it been shown as part of the Saatchi Screen Project.”

Canvas in Thames has also recently been on show as part of the Material exhibition at Alfa Gallery Miami.

“Unfortunately I did not get the chance to see the group exhibition in Miami, but what I have seen of the other artists’ work looks interesting,” says Koch.

“The title of the exhibition represents a very broad theme, and this opens up for a lot of different approaches which are always inspiring.”

Wall-Paper © Helene Koch

Taking the time to observe

Away from her own projects, Koch works with students just preparing to enter the world of photography.

“What excites me the most, is when students show their ability to have taken their time, to observe,” she says.

“Whether it is an urban spectacle they document or a well known object they go close to – if they have been observant in the right moment, this is where new stories appear for the viewer and at the same time, this is the moment when students show their personal take on a project. “That is to me, truly inspiring.”

Koch has an external lecture position at DIS Copenhagen and is an external examiner at the schools of architecture in Copenhagen and Aarhus.

Since 2011 she has been associated as guest critic and lecturer at the school of architecture at Lund University in Sweden.


CITY(E)SCAPE © Helene Koch

Helene Koch

Helene Koch works in installation and photography.

She often works with the surrounding space as a premise for her interventions – exploring the boundaries between architecture, art and landscape.

She holds a masters in architecture from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.


To see more of her work visit helenekoch.com

Main image: CITY(E)SCAPE © Helene Koch

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