February 7th – March 2nd, 2019

Galleria Kuvitus, Helsinki

The intimate duo exhibition of illustrator Milena Huhta and photographer Diana Luganski brings the central figures of Slavic folklore into the modern day in a way that combines illustration and photography. The exhibit is also a journey back to the days when fairytales were passed on orally and intended for adults. It was their Slavic background and shared aesthetical tastes that brought these two artists from different fields together, and they call each other kindred spirits. Both have been inspired by old fables since they were children.

 ‘One of my favourites was Doré’s illustrations for Dante’s Divine Comedy. Haha, it’s pretty grim for a child but I still love those pictures very much. ’  



The exhibit consists of a series of six portraits. The portraits were taken by Luganski in the summer and autumn of 2018. Huhta has later added a new layer to them that transforms the modern models to timeless figures from mythology, such as Baba Yaga, the omnipotent witch, or a legendary warrior princess. The power of colour photographs is usually in their realism. However, this time the illustration takes over and turns models into living dolls and a part of Huhta’s fantasy world. The exhibition includes a video based on the portraits and an altar-like moodboard that expounds on the creative process behind the exhibit and presents its sources of inspiration that range from delicate herbaria to imagery from pop culture.

The fickle line between the magical world and everyday reality is one of the main recurring themes in Milena Huhta’s illustration work, and the new exhibit takes this theme to new heights. Here Huhta repeats and creates variations of her themes, ranging from the aesthetics of cruelty to sensitive femininity. Her characters are both vulnerable and strong at the same time.  ‘I try to portray inner conflicting emotions and what it feels like to be a female,’ Huhta describes.

Many of the characters featured in the exhibit are familiar especially from the illustrations of Ivan Bilibin, a pioneer of Russian graphics and stage design. To Bilibin, being Russian did not mean being limited only to the confines of one’s own culture. For instance, Bilibin highlighted the importance of Japanese art in his artistic development. Milena Huhta is also an admirer of Japanese artists such as Takato Yamamoto, Junko Mizuno, Yoshitaka Amano, Kuniyoshi Kaneko and Aquirax Uno. Huhta’s psychedelic illustration style has elements from various different sources: fantasy and science fiction, folk art, old school anime (especially shōjo) and her visual communications studies in South Korea. 

The exhibit is supported by Pro Av Saarikko, Kukkakollektiivi and Stadin Panimo.


Adapted and edited from the original exhibition text done for Galleria Kuvitus, published on February 6th, 2019. 


Milena Huhta (b. 1988) has been drawing since she was a child.  ‘Drawing has always been a way of escapism for me; like a portal to another world.’ She is inspired by fashion, dreams, literature and gothic style and the related music (deathrock, cold wave). She constantly scours the Internet for new sources of inspiration and says that she is addicted to the flood of images pouring in from Pinterest and Tumblr. 

Luganski (b. 1980) is known for her dark-toned portraits.

For art and illustrator enquiries please contact the illustrators directly.