When I interviewed Ilja Karilampi in the spring of 2014, he drew an analogy between being an artist and working as a detective inspector. Both being professions on the fringe of society, they work meticulously to solve things, more often than not using unorthodox methods. They have irregular working hours, always being on duty. They see patterns that no one else can see. They never give up. Seeing his new work, these similarities begin to dawn upon me.
In Faze Miyake, symbols and references taken from society and popular culture are interweaved with transient expressions of identity and selfhood. Brand logos and stylized icons are combined with personal quotes and images on large boards of plexiglas or aluminium, not unlike the collages of suspects and clues seen in detective TV-series. And not unlike the series’ designated star, Ilja Karilampi takes the spectator through a maelstrom of traces and signs, where every element suggests a deeper underlying story and a new dimension of truth.
In the case of Faze Miyake, Karilampi gives way to a myriad of voices and characters, all filtered through his strikingly simple visual language. One of them is the exhibition’s eponym, Faze Miyake, a British-Pakistani DJ and producer, who in his weekly Rinse.fm radio shows bring out the latest and most progressive tracks from the underground music scene. With music being one of Karilampi’s main sources of inspiration, Faze Miyake becomes a symbol for the new and unconventional, what the artist himself would describe as next level. Disguised behind a fictitious moniker, Faze Miyake also serves to illustrate the mystifying of pop culture and their public personas, a recurrent theme in Karilampi’s practice.
Another character included in the exhibition is Swedish artist and director Axel Petersén, whose upcoming thriller Under the Pyramid inspired several of the exhibition’s most recent works, made as possible set design for the movie. A third voice is Nhu Duong’s, fashion designer and friend of Karilampi’s, whose name figures in one of the plexiglas pieces, superimposed on a stylized fence patterns next to a trefoil knot symbol and an excerpt in Arabic.
Together, the various characters create an erratic narrative, unfolding in three parts. The first one, presented in the front room of the gallery, contains large-scale boards of laser cut plexiglas mounted in sculptural aluminium frames, while the second one comprises similar works in engraved aluminium. To get to the final part of the exhibition, one has to go through a balcony door and step into a UV-lit backroom, where a couple of brightly coloured wall-pieces are accompanied by soundtrack.
The most extensive exhibition of Karilampi’s work to be shown in Sweden, Faze Miyake is a meandering exposé of the artist’s multilayered universe, a fragmentary story told through a number or characters and scenes, symbols and signs. Moving between the representational and the self-reflective, the exhibition is a meditation on the times we live in as much as a self-portrait, a cold case with no solution in sight.