“I am an observer. It’s my way of existing.” –Henni Alftan

Henni Alftan’s Night-time is part of this year’s Gallery Weekend *Discoveries. The exhibition in the Sprüth Magers Window features ten new works by the Paris-based artist. This exhibition format is visible from the street and is particularly effective after dark, when the wood-paneled walls of the intimate-looking space are bathed in a warm light that fuses reality with the world of Alftan’s pictures. 

 

Henni Alftan – Night-time – Berlin

Henni Alftan
Beach House, 2021
Oil on canvas
114 × 146.1 cm
44 7/8 × 57 1/2 inches

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Henni Alftan – Night-time – Berlin

Henni Alftan
Beach House, 2021
Oil on canvas
114 × 146.1 cm
44 7/8 × 57 1/2 inches

Henni Alftan
Beach House, 2021
Oil on canvas
114 × 146.1 cm
44 7/8 × 57 1/2 inches

Henni Alftan – Night-time – Berlin
Henni Alftan – Night-time – Berlin

Henni Alftan
Beach House, 2021

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Henni Alftan – Night-time – Berlin

Henni Alftan
After Midnight, 2021
Oil on canvas
50 × 61 cm
19 3/4 × 24 inches

Alftan’s figurative paintings negotiate the relationship between medium and image, employing a subtle palette and flat rendering style to transform their everyday subject matter from object to motif. Her pared-down compositions connote a stillness that oscillates between monotony and anticipation.

Details
Henni Alftan – Night-time – Berlin

Henni Alftan
After Midnight, 2021
Oil on canvas
50 × 61 cm
19 3/4 × 24 inches

Henni Alftan
After Midnight, 2021
Oil on canvas
50 × 61 cm
19 3/4 × 24 inches

Details
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Alftan’s figurative paintings negotiate the relationship between medium and image, employing a subtle palette and flat rendering style to transform their everyday subject matter from object to motif. Her pared-down compositions connote a stillness that oscillates between monotony and anticipation.

As a painter Alftan is keenly aware of the long tradition of the medium, and her work deals freely in art-historical and pop-cultural references. The visual language and atmosphere of suspense cinema inspired her to leave the audience in a state of uncertainty. Quite often she shows that there is something you cannot see. 

Henni Alftan – Night-time – Berlin

Henni Alftan
Center, 2021
Oil on canvas
130 × 162 cm
51 1/8 × 63 7/8 inches

Details
Henni Alftan – Night-time – Berlin

Henni Alftan
Center, 2021
Oil on canvas
130 × 162 cm
51 1/8 × 63 7/8 inches

Henni Alftan
Center, 2021
Oil on canvas
130 × 162 cm
51 1/8 × 63 7/8 inches

Details
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As a painter Alftan is keenly aware of the long tradition of the medium, and her work deals freely in art-historical and pop-cultural references. The visual language and atmosphere of suspense cinema inspired her to leave the audience in a state of uncertainty. Quite often she shows that there is something you cannot see. 

Henni Alftan – Night-time – Berlin

 

Imagery in Alftan’s paintings—the wristwatch in 5:15 (2021), the broken glasses in Broken Pair (2021), the digital alarm clock that reads 00:01 in After Midnight (2021)—often comes across as familiar, as if one has seen it before. A focus on commonplace, supposedly mundane objects in a way that eliminates context gives the paintings a somewhat unsettling quality: though immediately recognizable, their significance remains a mystery.

 

Henni Alftan – Night-time – Berlin

Henni Alftan
Garden at Night, 2021
Oil on canvas
130 × 195 cm
51 1/8 × 76 3/4 inches

Henni Alftan – Night-time – Berlin

Henni Alftan
5:15, 2021
Oil on canvas
46 × 55 cm
18 × 21 5/8 inches

Henni Alftan – Night-time – Berlin

Henni Alftan
Broken Pair, 2021
Oil on canvas
60 × 73 cm
23 5/8 × 28 3/4 inches

Details
Henni Alftan – Night-time – Berlin

Henni Alftan
Garden at Night, 2021
Oil on canvas
130 × 195 cm
51 1/8 × 76 3/4 inches

Henni Alftan
Garden at Night, 2021
Oil on canvas
130 × 195 cm
51 1/8 × 76 3/4 inches

Henni Alftan – Night-time – Berlin

Henni Alftan
5:15, 2021
Oil on canvas
46 × 55 cm
18 × 21 5/8 inches

Henni Alftan
5:15, 2021
Oil on canvas
46 × 55 cm
18 × 21 5/8 inches

Henni Alftan – Night-time – Berlin

Henni Alftan
Broken Pair, 2021
Oil on canvas
60 × 73 cm
23 5/8 × 28 3/4 inches

Henni Alftan
Broken Pair, 2021
Oil on canvas
60 × 73 cm
23 5/8 × 28 3/4 inches

Details
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Henni Alftan – Night-time – Berlin

Henni Alftan
Nightstand, 2021
Oil on canvas
60 × 73 cm
23 5/8 × 28 3/4 inches

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In Nightstand (2021), this enigmatic withholding of supposed missing information happens on a number of levels at once: In a dark room we see a picture frame on a nightstand, its top drawer slightly ajar. Yet all we see of the frame is its image from the back, the contour of its shadow on the wall.

Details
Henni Alftan – Night-time – Berlin

Henni Alftan
Nightstand, 2021
Oil on canvas
60 × 73 cm
23 5/8 × 28 3/4 inches

Henni Alftan
Nightstand, 2021
Oil on canvas
60 × 73 cm
23 5/8 × 28 3/4 inches

Henni Alftan – Night-time – Berlin
Henni Alftan – Night-time – Berlin

Henni Alftan
Nightstand, 2021 (detail)

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In Nightstand (2021), this enigmatic withholding of supposed missing information happens on a number of levels at once: In a dark room we see a picture frame on a nightstand, its top drawer slightly ajar. Yet all we see of the frame is its image from the back, the contour of its shadow on the wall.

Henni Alftan – Night-time – Berlin

 

An instinctual need to derive meaning from images, to draw connections between them, can make it tempting to infer narratives from the paintings. And yet the scenes and objects have no immanent context, as they do not recreate real scenes. Alftan’s paintings seem to absorb their immediate surroundings.

Henni Alftan – Night-time – Berlin

Henni Alftan
Station 60, 2021
Oil on canvas
60 × 51 cm
23 5/8 × 20 inches

Details
Henni Alftan – Night-time – Berlin

Henni Alftan
Station 60, 2021
Oil on canvas
60 × 51 cm
23 5/8 × 20 inches

Henni Alftan
Station 60, 2021
Oil on canvas
60 × 51 cm
23 5/8 × 20 inches

Details
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An instinctual need to derive meaning from images, to draw connections between them, can make it tempting to infer narratives from the paintings. And yet the scenes and objects have no immanent context, as they do not recreate real scenes. Alftan’s paintings seem to absorb their immediate surroundings.

Henni Alftan – Night-time – Berlin

Henni Alftan
Bow window, 2021
Oil on canvas
146 × 114 cm
57 1/2 × 44 7/8 inches

She herself is an observer. “It’s my way of existing." The objects these paintings render—the information Alftan chooses to include or omit—encourage contemplation of the everyday. The paintings themselves invite viewers to share the artist’s perspective, to immerse themselves in her way of looking at the world.

Details
Henni Alftan – Night-time – Berlin

Henni Alftan
Bow window, 2021
Oil on canvas
146 × 114 cm
57 1/2 × 44 7/8 inches

Henni Alftan
Bow window, 2021
Oil on canvas
146 × 114 cm
57 1/2 × 44 7/8 inches

Details
icon_fullscreen
1 of 1

She herself is an observer. “It’s my way of existing." The objects these paintings render—the information Alftan chooses to include or omit—encourage contemplation of the everyday. The paintings themselves invite viewers to share the artist’s perspective, to immerse themselves in her way of looking at the world.

Henni Alftan – Night-time – Berlin

Installation views by Ingo Kniest

 

Henni Alftan (*1979, Helsinki) lives and works in Paris. Institutional group exhibitions include those at ENSA Limoges, École Nationale Supérieur d’Art (2020); Kuntsi Museum of Modern Art, Vaasa (2018); Hämeenlinna Art Museum, Finland and Musée des Beaux-Arts de Brest (both 2017) and Amos Anderson Art Museum (2015). Alftan’s works are included in the collections of the Helsinki Art Museum; Amos Rex, Helsinki; Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Dallas Museum of Art, EMMA Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Finland and the Kuntsi Museum of Modern Art, Vaasa.