Helene Lundbye Petersen is an internationally-acclaimed artist and thinker. Her work operates at the level of myth and symbol. It connects the universal with the intimate and the timeless with the present, to cross the boundaries of culture and nation, in order to increase self-awareness and enable genuine communication. It stems from her profound wish to facilitate solution-finding for the challenges of our time.
Helene Lundbye Petersen was born in Copenhagen in July 1980. She grew up in Denmark, and was drawn to other cultures and languages from an early age. This led her to live in major international cities for most of her adult life, constantly opening and challenging her perception of the world – and its languages. Her art practice is rooted in academia and her work in the traditional art world where she spent many years as an independent critic and curator. Her early fascination with ancient worlds and communication inspired her to pursue studies at two different universities: Art History in the Humanities Faculty at the University of Copenhagen and Communication Studies at Roskilde University, where she received her Master’s Degree in 2008. She punctuated her studies with extended periods residing abroad, where she launched her career in the arts. In 2004, she moved to Berlin for the first time, where she would live for five years during different engagements. There, she worked at Sparwasser HQ, an independent artist-run space, before accepting a position as Associate Editor at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt for the exhibition Black Atlantic, and a year later for Über Schönheit. She was then employed at commercial Gallery Christian Dam in Copenhagen until 2006, when she moved to Paris to study the Parisian art scene, and honed her ability to speak about the language of exhibitions. She worked as a Curatorial Assistant for Sanne Kofod Olsen in Copenhagen, before moving to Buenos Aires in 2007 to finish her Masters Degree. There, she studied the museums MALBA and Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes to reveal the language of space as opposed to text. In doing so, she alighted on the need for a shared vocabulary – one that goes beyond the spoken word, a recurring theme which would become the root of her later work.
In 2008, upon her return to Denmark, she served as Studio Manager for Studio Olafur Eliasson in Copenhagen. She directed his Danish studio and served as project manager for his Berlin studio, moving between the two cities on a monthly basis, until 2011 when she relocated to New York City to work as an independent curator and critic. Lundbye Petersen collaborated with Heike Munder, Director of the Migros Museum, to publish Yvette Brackman: Systems & Scenarios published by JRP Ringier in 2012, which was presented at MoMA, DAP and Kunsthallen Charlottenborg among other places. She also contributed to Anthropology and Art Practice published by Bloomsbury in 2013. Prior to that, she was involved as an editor of exhibition catalogues such as Olafur Eliasson – Din Blinde Passager, V-effekten, Gaze Space Desire and Realism Reversed. Her articles have been included in publications such as Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, The Internationaler, and Leap. However, the discovery of a blank white journal from Japan catalysed a transition in which she left a promising career in curating and the academic art world to enter a vast and unknown opportunity: a blank white space.
New York became her free space, and in November 2011, from that state of possibility, Lundbye Petersen wrote her first calligraphic manuscript: White, published as The White Book in 2012. The manuscript addresses the critical issues of the modern human condition. Its poetic words and rhythmic pages create hope and perspective through genuine feeling. That book sparked the impressive oeuvre she then went on to create and led to her founding of the WhitePageProject: a philosophy, studio and publishing house of which she remains Director. Its namesake is the blank white page: a symbol of our potential to enter a free and uncertain space to rethink what we genuinely want our world to be. White, the Colour of Beginnings, became the foundation of just one of 11 Colours corresponding to fundamental aspects of the human experience. From wisdom and battle to love, balance, nourishment, and death, we are deeply familiar with each of these Spaces, though all too often unable to articulate that connection. These Colour Spaces are each illuminated in a calligraphic manuscript, which has resulted in a library of 11 printed books: an encyclopaedia of life to be built upon by those who experience it.
Lundbye Petersen uses her artwork to unfold this vocabulary and make it accessible. Whether expressed in oil painting or installation, intervention or spatial portrait, all of her artwork aims to bring the content of the books beyond the page and into the world of lived experience. Each medium finds its own way of bringing an aspect of a Colour to life. Through her art, she uncovers the layers present in any given space--physical, intellectual, emotional, and sensory--to bring awareness to these elements and allow for a deeper connection with our selves, each other, and life itself. The manifestation of the language of Colours is most powerful in Lundbye Petersen’s performances. Through a variety of public formats, she brings audiences into the symbolic spaces of each Colour to find insight and meaning, often by embodying the essence of a Colour itself. As a performance artist, Lundbye Petersen has performed within the art world at BAAD Gallery and Rothschild 69 in Tel Aviv, ART15 in London, Yaffo 23 in Jerusalem and Entretempo Kitchen Gallery in Berlin. Her White Book Performance Dinner at the Consulate General of Denmark in New York City was hosted by PERFORMA 15, AFSMK of the National Gallery of Denmark and the Danish Consulate General. It opened with speeches from RoseLee Goldberg, director of PERFORMA 15, and Danish Ambassador Anne Dorte Riggelsen. Occasionally, she performs in collaborations, such as with the poets Tahel Frosh and Rajaa Natour, violinist Karen Humle, and a number of culinary talents including Mads Refslund, the Monochromes, and I’m a Kombo. She has also performed outside the traditional artistic context at the House of Beautiful Business during Web Summit in Lisbon, the Leyvik House in Tel Aviv, The Royal Danish Theatre, or alongside the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Equally important for her work is exhibitions, where physical spaces create a lens through which she can curate our world, by framing and underlining the Spaces of her books. Her exhibitions draw upon the curatorial expertise she nourished over many years, beginning with her first curated exhibition, Realism Reversed, exhibited in Copenhagen (2005) and Oslo (2006), and continuing in 2012 with curations at White Box Projects in New York City and the Liverpool Bienniale. She translated this curatorial capacity into her own artistic productions, during her residency at Art Port, in Israel. There, she created her first installation piece under WhitePageProject, that investigated Israel/Palestine conflict through the concept of soil, where, through the use of language, soil takes on new meaning in this contested territory. This was followed by the first solo show of her artwork, which took place at Entretempo Kitchen Gallery (Berlin) in 2014. She later exhibited at ART15 (London) as part of the independent exhibition Freedom Audit, curated by Kathleen Soriano in 2015.
Lundbye Petersen’s body of work, WhitePageProject, has gained international recognition and led to her appointment as Artist in Residence in the Danish Parliament in 2017. During her residency at Christiansborg, the Danish Parliament, she presented her Colour Spectrum of 11 Spaces through a series of performances and exhibitions. She transformed rooms of the palatial Parliament building into immersive expressions of each Colour by working with light, exhibiting her paintings, and displaying her library of books, as well as taking visitors on a transformational existential journey through performance. It was in Parliament that she began to work with the format of spatial portraiture: positioning herself in select environments to bring out the Colours that were present in that particular location and their symbolic meaning. She performed for all nine Danish political parties, including at their group meetings, where parties convened to discuss their political agendas. After each performance, they received a blank white page dedicated to the free space of new beginnings. An artwork of a blank white page, containing the signatures of all political leaders was created, symbolising the unification of the variety of different parties.In addition to these interventions at the Danish Parliament, she has completed residencies at the Danish Institute in Athens, the Mykonos Annex of the Athens School of Fine Arts, and Art Port in Tel Aviv.
Since 2015, Lundbye Petersen has been based in Copenhagen where she works from her studio in the historic city centre. Whether through performance, painting, or written word, she continues to use her work to deepen our understanding of the human experience. By illustrating the essences of each Colour, and the feelings, objects, locations, and actions associated with it, she curates the world. Through the use of art in select contexts, she makes us aware of the constant presence of these coloured elements in our daily lives, and she suggests connections both familiar and boldly aspirational. With WhitePageProject, her 11 Colours, and the work associated with them, she offers a framework for self-awareness, authentic communication, and conscious action: a common language for all who seek a new foundation for being human.