Author: Soila Lehtonen
Scientific editor: Laura Gutman
Editor: Susanna Luojus
Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura (the Finnish Literature Society), 2013. 179 p., ill.
Texts in Finnish and Swedish, summaries in English
This work was published simultaneously with the opening of the exhibition ‘Art Déco and the Arts. France–Finlande 1905–1935’, running at the Amos Anderson Art Museum in Helsinki from March to 21 July. Antiquity was the primary source of inspiration for this broad artistic movement in France, after the breakthrough of Fauvism in 1905. In Finland this antimodern – and yet at the same very modern – movement manifested itself most clearly in industrial art, in the 1920s in classicism and 1930s in functionalism. But from early on, Finnish painters and sculptors also kept an eye on the French art and artists – among them Maurice Denis, the spokesman of the antimodernists. The dialogue between the visual and the performative arts (theatre and dance) in Finland is also examined. Samples of Art Deco architecture are mostly absent, as the emphasis is on painting and sculpture. Some less well-known artists of the period (painter Nikolai Kaario, sculptor and engraver Eva Gyldén) are introduced. The exhibition and the richly illustrated book introduce both Finnish and French works – from many museums and collections in France – of both industrial and fine arts, in pictures and in words by nine specialists, offering the reader fresh and interesting comparisons.
Valokuva taiteeksi. Photography into Art. Hannula & Hinkka -kokoelma / Collection
Toimituskunta [Edited by] Erja Hannula, Jorma Hinkka, Sofia Lahti, Tuomo-Juhani Vuorenmaa
English translation: Jüri Kokkonen
Helsinki: Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Aalto ARTS Books (Musta Taide 4/2012; publication series of The Finnish Museum of Photography 44.) 209 p., ill.
It has been typical of Finland that it lacks collections of international photography, private or public. In the politically turbulent 1970s interest in photography began to grow. The Hippolyte Gallery, run by artist Ismo Kajander, exhibited international photography by Diane Arbus, Eugène Atget and Édouard Boubat, among others. The graphic designer Jorma Hinkka (also Art Director of Books from Finland, 1998–2006) began making posters for Hippolyte ‘out of pure enthusiasm’, and designing books by Finnish photographers, among them Pentti Sammallahti, Ismo Hölttö, Jorma Puranen and Merja Salo. As a result of spending so much time with ‘the black art’ (as it was called by a Finnish pioneer of photography, I.K. Inha, in 1908), Hinkka and his art director spouse Erja Hannula began to collect samples of it. After 30 years, in 2012, they donated more than two hundred photographs by almost a hundred artists to The Finnish Museum of Photography. The social status of the black art has risen considerably since the 1970s, as has professionalism in the field. This book presents excellent reproductions of the collection of photos, taken within a century and a half; the variety of styles and subjects chosen surprise with its richness.
16 May 2013 | This 'n' that
A culture freak (and you don’t have to be a vulture) will live longer than a couch potato.
This sounds pretty obvious, doesn’t it? Watching TV is a passive pursuit, attending choir rehearsals or line dancing class isn’t – and human beings are designed to be active.
But it is also a scientific fact. Neurologist and writer MD Markku T. Hyyppä has been researching the effects of cultural pursuits on health for decades. In his new book Kulttuuri pidentää ikää (‘Culture prolongs your life’) he sets out to prove the power of culture using scientific evidence from many countries.
Cultural capital is a concept that defines the ‘usefulness of culture’. Hyyppä disagrees with the famous sociologist Pierre Bourdieu who defines cultural capital as a means for the upper classes to increase their personal status and power. According to Hyyppä, cultural capital is immaterial, originates from cultural pursuits and the consumption of culture, and brings benefits to all who take part.
Learning the basics of culture in one’s education is vital: Finland has done well in the international PISA exams, but it’s not just because the children are bright. Learning how to educate is important: unlike in many other countries, the arts play a significant role in teacher training in Finland. And arts subjects are important in education: art has a positive effect on emotions and cognition, on emotional life as well as reason. Study arts subjects, and it will be easier to learn maths!
It’s a fact is that those who are socially active in clubs, associations and cultural pursuits in general, live longer than those who are not. Economic status is not a decisive factor here. The efficacy of cultural pursuits and cultural capital on prolonging an individual’s life appears to be based on networking. i.e. social capital. Social capital increases the chances of staying alive – almost as much as non-smoking and much more than the estimated extra time of exercise or losing weight. An individual’s cultural pursuits allow him at least a couple of years more in old age.
Hyyppä also examines and comments on the cultural policies of Finnish political parties. After the Perussuomalaiset – True Finns – party presented its manifesto in 2011, stating that contemporary art should not receive any public funding, as only art that ‘strengthens the national identity’ should be funded, other political parties began hastily to revise and update their dusty arts programmes. As it has been proved in international and Finnish medical research that culture definitely has a positive impact on developing society as a whole, political parties cannot afford to ignore dealing with the subject.
In conclusion, Hyyppä states that Finland would certainly benefit from the cultural added value that manifests itself in well-being, health and a longer life spans. When people live longer healthy, the national economy gains massively.
It’s not just opera, ballet and favouring the paintings of the Düsseldorf school that bring you cultural capital and prolong your existence; rock concerts or pottery classes are fine, too. But, notes Hyyppä, being active in politics in your free time, going to church and participating in spectator sports don’t seem to have a similar positive effect, so might it be better not to concentrate on those alone?
Markku T. Hyyppä
Kulttuuri pidentää ikää
(‘Culture prolongs your life’)
Helsinki: Duodecim, 2013. 132 p.
Det vidunderliga ägget
[A most extraordinary egg]
Kuvitus [Ill. by]: Christel Rönns
Helsingfors: Söderströms / Stockholm: Bonnier Carlsen Bokförlag, 2012. 32 p., ill.
Perin erikoinen muna
Suom. [Translated by] Mirjam Ilvas
Helsinki: Tammi, 2012. 30 p., ill.
This is the third work that the graphic designer and illustrator Christel Rönns (born 1960) has written in her own right. With her relaxed and humorous illustration style, Rönns has provided the visual component of some 60 children’s books. This story portrays a family – parents, two little girls and a dog (the author has dedicated her book to the memory of her hovawart dog Freja who died at 14). One summer’s day they find a large egg on the beach and bring it home. But the egg, dropped by accident, reveals a little four-legged creature: named Koi-Koi, it turns out to be delightfully friendly and playful. Nobody actually knows what it is – not even a professor of zoology – but it eats and grows to an enormous size, so the house becomes very cramped (and Koi-Koi’s massive farts send the family running…). But then Koi-Koi begins to disappear at night, and one day he doesn’t come back. Missing a lost pet is a new feeling for the girls (their parents must be secretly relieved, as must the dog!). The story is both funny and gently melancholy, the illustrations detailed and humorous. The book was awarded the Finlandia Junior Prize in 2012.
Jan-Erik Andersson: Elämää lehdellä [Life on a leaf]
Helsinki: Maahenki, 2012. 248 p., ill.
‘I am Leaf House –
root house, sky house.
Enter me, be safe
And wander, dream.
The artist’s I is all our eyes….’
We all live – exceptions are really rare – in cubes. Not in cylinders or spheres, let alone in buildings of organic shapes like flowers or leaves; and houses in the shape of a shoe, for example, belong to the fairy-tale world, or perhaps to surrealism.
Artist Jan-Erik Andersson wanted to build a fairy-tale house in the shape of a leaf, and that is what he did (2005–2009), together with his architect partner Erkki Pitkäranta. Instead of the geometry of modernist architecture, he is inspired by the organic forms of nature.
Andersson’s house project, entitled ‘Life on a leaf’, also became an academic project, resulting in a dissertation at Finnish Academy of Fine Arts and now a book, including a detailed journal of the building process itself. The artist was at first advised, by a professor of architecture, not to proceed with his building project – he wouldn’t ‘like living in the house’, he was told. More…
Helsinki, Otava, 2012. 238 p.
Karatolla is a Finnish dialect word for a bonfire that is lit at New Year or Easter. One of the main characters in Olli Jalonen’s new novel (his twenty-first publication to date) is an artist called Valo, ‘Light’. By the fires of his youth he has come to learn that the world is composed of nine basic elements: fire, smoke, light, earth, water, snow, ice, air, and time. At the beginning of the twenty-first century Valo and his colleague the architect Silla set out to construct a major European art work in which pyramids built of the above-mentioned elements are assembled in Prague, Brussels, Santiago de Compostela, Krakow, Reykjavik, Bergen, Helsinki, Avignon and Bologna respectively. In this novel Jalonen (born 1954) develops themes from his previous novel Yhdeksän pyramidia (‘Nine pyramids’), published in 2000: the events have moved forward ten years. When the project is completed, a nascent love affair between Light and Silla ends when Light falls victim to a fatal illness. Jalonen’s narrative is fascinating; the construction of pyramids, the cities in which they are constructed and the characters are portrayed with great skill, developing themes of artistry, honesty and the fragility of love. Much open space is left for the reader’s thoughts and imagination.
Translated by David McDuff
Christer Lindgren: Stadin klassikot. Maukkainta retroruokaa [City classics. The tastiest retro fare]
Stadin klassikot. Maukkainta retroruokaa
[City classics. The tastiest retro fare]
Helsinki: Teos, 2012. 135 p., ill.
Even a small metropolis like Helsinki has a few restaurants that have survived the changes of time by sticking to traditional dishes. This book features Sea Horse, Elite, Kosmos and Kolme Kruunua (‘The Three Crowns’), established in 1934, 1932, 1924 and 1928 respectively. Their interiors – stylish art deco and functionalism – date from the 1920s and 1930s. A Sea Horse specialty, fried Baltic herrings, 16 per portion, delighted trumpetist Dizzy Gillespie so much that he ate his, his Finnish host’s and half of a fellow guest’s. The most popular recipes have been influenced by food cooked to the east, north and west (Russia, Lapland, Sweden) and mainly feature meat, fish, poultry and potatoes – cooked with plenty of butter and cream. These restaurants were – and are – frequented by politicians and artists of various fields, so the recipes include ‘Tauno Palo’s cream onion steaks’ or ‘Cod Mannerheim’. It is unfortunate that only the recipes have been translated, not the little stories about the restaurants, so an English reader has no idea who Tauno Palo was (1908–1982; the Finnish equivalent of Cary Grant). The translations sometimes go amiss: a recipe entitled ‘Sautéed reindeer’ first lists a kilo of ‘sautéed reindeer’, when it should of course list ‘a kilo of sliced reindeer meat’. The photos have been shot in situ, so the dishes look nicely authentic.
Mielensäpahoittaja ja ruskeakastike
[Taking offence: brown sauce]
Helsinki: WSOY, 2012. 130 p., ill.
The most popular book by Tuomas Kyrö (born 1979), so far, has been his sixth novel, Mielensäpahoittaja (‘Taking offence’: literally ‘He who takes offence’, 2010). It has sold nearly 65,000 copies as a book and audiobook. The protagonist is a 80-something man, a sturdy old bear who lives in the countryside, now alone, because his demented wife has been taken into care and the children have long since left home. Kyrö inserts genuine humour into the monologues of his stubborn – but by no means simple – character, defiantly critical, opposing new gadgets, fads and all sorts of silly stuff of the contemporary society. In this sequel Kyrö still manages to entertain the reader with his detailed portrait: now Mr Grumpy has to learn to cook, because the food a paid helper brings in just isn’t good enough. With the potato as the cornerstone of his diet, he finally learns how to make good, fatty and salty meals of meat and veg. ‘One must remember what’s important in life, marriage and prostate problems. Time and patience.’ Illustrations remind the reader of the old times: photographs of television programmes and printed recipes from the 1960s and 1970s.
Markku Kuisma & al.: Hulluja päiviä, huikeita vuosia. Stockmann 1862–2012 [Crazy days, amazing years. Stockmann 1862–2012]
Markku Kuisma & Anna Finnilä & Teemu Keskisarja & Minna Sarantola–Weiss
Hulluja päiviä, huikeita vuosia. Stockmann 1862–2012
[Crazy days, amazing years. Stockmann 1862–2012]
Helsinki: Siltala, 2012. 532 p., ill.
Also available in English- and Swedish-language editions:
Crazy days, amazing years. Stockmann 1862–2012
Galna dagar, svindlande tider. Stockmann 1862–2012
The largest department store in the Nordic countries, whose current building was completed in 1930 to a design by the architect Sigurd Frosterus, is celebrating its 150th birthday. The Akateeminen Kirjakauppa (Academic Bookstore), owned by Stockmann, is the biggest bookshop in the Nordic countries. The shop founded by the German-born H.F.G. Stockmann has grown into an international business, trading in 14 countries (including Russia, where it has stores in St Petersburg and Moscow). Now quoted on the Finnish stock exchange, Stockmann, owned by a conglomerate of families and foundations, has survived recessions, financial crises and wars. In the 19th century Stockmann was considered an expensive shop for gentlefolk, but as a result of growing competition it has been forced to focus strongly on a diverse concept of service. For decades one of the capital’s best-known meeting places has been ‘under the clock’, outside the main entrance of the department store. The book’s writers are historians from various fields. The generously illustrated work offers new information about the history of trade and the city.
C.L. Engel. Koti Helsingissä, sydän Berliinissä. C.L. Engel. Hemmet i Helsingfors, hjärtat i Berlin [C.L. Engel. Home in Helsinki, heart in Berlin]
C.L. Engel. Koti Helsingissä, sydän Berliinissä. C.L. Engel. Hemmet i Helsingfors, hjärtat i Berlin
[C.L. Engel. Home in Helsinki, heart in Berlin]
Tekstit [Texts by]: Matti Klinge, Salla Elo, Eeva Ruoff
Valokuvat [Photography]: Taavetti Alin & Risto Törrö
Översättning [Translations from Finnish into Swedish]: Ulla Pedersen Estberg
Helsingfors: Schildts, 2012. 140 p., ill.
€ 31.50, hardback
The life and works of the German architect Carl Ludvig Engel (1778–1840) are portrayed in four articles by specialists in Finnish history, the history of Helsinki and the history of gardens. Engel spent almost 24 years in Helsinki, transforming it with his architectural designs. For eleven of those years, he and his family lived in a house surrounded by a large garden, both of them his own creations. Looking for work, the young Engel finally found it in the tiny northern town that was pronounced the new capital of the Grand Duchy of Finland in 1812 – both Tsar Alexander I and his successor, Nikolai I, favoured him. From 1816 onwards he designed more than twenty neo-classical buildings, among them nationally important landmarks: the Cathedral, the City Hall, the National Library and the University. Despite his mostly rewarding job as a highly regarded city planner, Engel found Helsinki cold, small and quiet, and he constantly longed for his native Berlin, which he never saw again. However, his flourishing garden gave him great pleasure. Richly illustrated with photographs, the book gives the reader an thorough and interesting picture of this city-changing man and his era.
Tero Tähtinen: Katmandun unet. Kirjoituksia idästä ja lännestä [Kathmandu dreams. Writings about East and West]
Katmandun unet. Kirjoituksia idästä ja lännestä
[Kathmandu dreams. Writings about East and West]
Turku: Savukeidas, 2011. 332 p.
€ 19.90, paperback
Tero Tähtinen’s second collection of essays is focused physically in the wilds of a Finnish national park and Nepal – where the author (born 1978), a literary scholar and critic, has frequently travelled – and mentally in the divergences of Western and Eastern thought, which Tähtinen, who is familiar with Zen and Buddhist philosophy, studies, occasionally by means of literary examples. The ‘Socratic ego’ of the Western egocentric, individual ‘I’, which strives in vain to understand the whole of reality by rationalising it, is his favourite bête noire. Tähtinen quickens the pace of his verbal virtuosity as he discusses both dogmatic, materialistic faith in science – as well as some of its representatives – and Christian faith: he considers that both, in their pursuit of an absolute and total explanation, end up in a metaphysical vacuum. Unlike them, Eastern philosophy, in which the individual ‘I’ is not the centre and measure of all things, does not give rise to the anxiety of compulsive cognition. The virtual narcissism of Facebook, a platform tailor-made for the Socratic ego, receives Tähtinen’s outright condemnation: ‘Facebook trivialises humanity,’ he declares. At the end of these passionate essays on the author praises silence.
Translated by David McDuff
Kuvitus [Ill. by]: Väinö Heinonen
Helsinki: BTJ Finland Oy/ Avain, 2011. 64 p., ill.
€ 19.90, hardback
This non-fiction book, intended for 8- to 14-year-olds, takes as its main character Charles Darwin, who as a child begins to ponder where people came from. Various myths about the origins of the world, achievements of European natural historians and problems of early evolutionary theorists are explored briefly but elucidatingly; they are linked to the acquisition of new knowledge as the church fathers continue to trust in the Bible. The prehistory of the Earth, evolution and natural selection, animal populations, man and his ancestors are explained with the aid of plentiful and humorous illustrations. Scientific results are interestingly presented, but a separate fact box, for example, on the structure of the cell or the nature of DNA might have been useful. In the last picture, the 200,000-year-old Homo sapiens is seen scrawling his cave paintings: ‘so long as we are genetically unique individuals, our evolution will never cease’.
Translated by Hildi Hawkins
Helene Schjerfbeck. Och jag målar ändå. Brev till Maria Wiik 1907–1928
[Helene Schjerfbeck. And I still paint. Letters to Maria Wiik 1907–1928]
Utgivna av [Edited by]: Lena Holger
Helsingfors: Svenska Litteratursällskapet i Finland; Stockholm: Bokförlaget Atlantis, 2011. 301 p., ill.
ISBN (Finland) 978-951-583-233-7
ISBN (Sweden) 978-91-7353-524-3
€ 44, hardback
Helene Schjerfbeck. Silti minä maalaan. Taiteilijan kirjeitä
[Helene Schjerfbeck. And I still paint. Letters from the artist]
Toimittanut [Edited by]: Lena Holger
Suomennos [Translated by]: Laura Jänisniemi
Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 2011. 300 p., ill.
€ 44, hardback
This work contains a half of the collection of some 200 letters (owned by the Signe and Ane Gyllenberg’s foundation), until now unpublished, from artist Helene Schjerfbeck (1862–1946) to her artist friend Maria Wiik (1853–1928), dating from 1907 to 1928. They are selected and commented by the Swedish art historian Lena Holger. Schjerfbeck lived most of her life with her mother in two small towns, Hyvinge (in Finnish, Hyvinge) and Ekenäs (Tammisaari), from 1902 to 1938, mainly poor and often ill. In her youth Schjerfbeck was able to travel in Europe, but after moving to Hyvinge it took her 15 years to visit Helsinki again. In these letters she writes vividly about art and her painting, as well as about her isolated everyday life. Despite often very difficult circumstances, she never gave up her ambitions and high standards. Her brilliant, amazing, extensive series of self-portraits are today among the most sought-after north European paintings; she herself stayed mostly poor all her long life. The book is richly illustrated with Schjerfbeck’s paintings (mainly from the period), drawings and photographs.