Archive for April, 2011

Self-made life

2 April 2011 | This 'n' that

Art & nature: one of Veijo Rönkkönen's sculptures. Photo: Soila Lehtonen

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.

Yoga bare: Veijo Rönkkönen himself practised yoga. Photo: Soila Lehtonen

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.

Elina Vuola: Jumalainen nainen. Neitsyt Mariaa etsimässä [The divine woman. In search of the Virgin Mary]

1 April 2011 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Jumalainen nainen. Neitsyt Mariaa etsimässä
[The divine woman. In search of the Virgin Mary]
Helsinki: Otava, 2010. 220 p., ill.
ISBN 978-951-1-22364-1
€ 34,  hardback

This book is about the Virgin Mary and in particular her role in women’s religious experience. Theologian Elina Vuola considers that the doctrines concerning the Virgin Mary have quite a lot in common, as the principal dogmas were formulated in the early centuries of Christianity. As a partial explanation of the difference between the Mary of the Church and the Mary of popular faith, the author adduces the fact that with few exceptions women in Finland did not begin to receive theological training until the second half of the twentieth century. The central question in the book is whether or not Mary is the crowned queen of a patriarchal religious faith that is hostile to women, a harmful role model. Vuola avows herself to be a representative of the trend in women’s religious studies that takes a more positive and multifaceted view of Mary. In the section devoted to the Mary of Karelian folk religion it becomes evident that in Finland and its surrounding regions there are interpretations that are surprisingly similar to those found in Latin America.
Translated by David McDuff

Henrik Meinander: Kekkografia. Historiaesseitä [Kekkography. History essays]

1 April 2011 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Kekkografia. Historiaesseitä
[Kekkography. History essays]
Suomentanut [Translated into Finnish from the original Swedish texts by] Matti Kinnunen
Helsinki:  Siltala, 2010. 229 p.
ISBN 978-952-234-040-5
€ 34,  hardback

Professor Henrik Meinander examines the forces that have shaped Finnish history and the controversial issues that have marked its development; Finnish history and culture were formed by chain reactions in European power politics. Finland did not emerge as a nation until the 19th century, as a by-product of the Napoleonic wars, and the independence of 1917 was not the result of an autonomous process of national development but rather a consequence of events elsewhere, especially in Russia. The history of independent Finland is roughly equal in length to that of the Soviet Union; in the early 1990s the Soviet Union collapsed, and Finland joined the European Union. The author does not take a position on the desirability of this development, and points out that the increasing integration and globalisation Finland’s era of independence may appear to be only a transitory phase. President Urho Kekkonen (1900–1986), who influenced Finnish politics for half a century and whose name gives the work its title, figures in approximately half of the texts.
Translated by David McDuff


Heavy stuff

1 April 2011 | In the news

Finnish Comics Annual, by HuudaHuuda, is the first in a series of books introducing Finnish comics and graphic novels in English: edited by Ville Hänninen, the book features 20 Finnish comics artists. This massive work (two kilos) is published in cooperation with the Finnish Comics Association.

Finnish serial picture art celebrates its 100th birthday this year. One of a number of exhibitions related to this anniversary takes place at the National Library of Finland, entitled ‘Reverly, rambuctiousness, rough stuff’ (until 15 October). It presents pioneers of Finnish comics, rare comics albums and originals from early comics publications. Professori Itikaisen tutkimusretki (‘Professor Itikainen’s expedition’) by Ilmari Vainio was published in 1911 and is regarded as the first Finnish comic.