2 April 2011 | This 'n' that
You may perhaps remember an article entitled Self-made man, published on these pages in 2009: the sculptor Veijo Rönkkönen lived on a small, isolated farm in Parikkala, eastern Finland, where he spent his spare time building a garden of five hundred figures of concrete.
He lived in a cottage in the middle of his garden. Rönkkönen died a year ago, at the age of 66, and the future of his park, open and free to all, was unsolved for a while, as the Parikkala authorities were not willing to foot the bill for the upkeep the place – despite the fact that more than 25,000 people visit the park each year.
Now, the problem of the upkeep of the statue park, a ‘total work of art’, has been solved, as a businessman has bought the garden from Rönkkönen’s estate. and a number of institutions and individuals, among them friends of art and voluntary workers, have pledged keep the park open to visitors.
Photographer and writer Veli Granö introduced the life and works of this self-made artist in his book Veijo Rönkkösen todellinen elämä / The real life of Veijo Rönkkönen (Maahenki, 2007). Contemporary folk art goes by the acronym ITE, from the words itse tehty elämä, ‘self-made life’. The English-language term is ‘outsider art’.
The future of Rönkkönen’s cottage is undecided: it may become a park-keeper’s residence, or be used as an artist’s residence. Around it, the extraordinary legacy of this self-made artist – hundreds of statues, human and animal figures – will keep growing lichen and moss, ageing naturally.
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