Outsider art protected

31 August 2012 | This 'n' that

Moss lady: one of the 500 statues

Papermill worker Veijo Rönkkönen (1944–2010) lived all his life on a small, isolated farm in Parikkala, eastern Finland, close to the Russian border. In the 1960s he started sculpting statues in his free time which he placed in the garden around his house. The expanding statue park – take a look at the pictures! – was always open to visitors for free.

When the artist died, the Parikkala authorities were not willing to invest money in acquiring the garden and the park, a unique ‘total work of art’. Fortunately, it was bought by a businessman, Reino Uusitalo, founder of the Pyroll paper and cardboard company. An association now manages the park – and entry is still free. Rönkkönen’s outsider art continuously attracts nearly 30,000 visitors a year.

Over a period of fifty years, Rönkkönen created five hundred human and animal figures made of concrete. Living in his house in the middle of his garden, the artist avoided any contact with the thousands of people who came to wander in his extraordinary open-air gallery.

Now, thanks to Uusitalo’s generosity and the work of the association, the garden will keep growing – and the statues grow lichen and moss, ageing naturally.


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): see Books from Finland‘s extract.


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