Tag: contemporary art

Elitist versus pop?

8 August 2013 | Letter from the Editors

An elitist of his time? A caricature of Richard Wagner by Leslie Ward, published in Vanity Fair in 1877 (caption read ‘The Music of the Future’). Picture: Wikimedia

The old phrase ‘art for art’s sake’ has begun to sound like an appeal instead of an bohemian creed, without any negative ambiguity. Please let art be created for art’s sake!

In our times of neo-liberal ideologies, the criteria for assessing art include its capacity to generate profits to creative industries, to have export value, to be of assistance to business in general. But art, in essence, serves no ideology.

Technology now allows us to be more entertained than ever before, if we so choose. Art and entertainment alike come to us by the use of various devices. What has often been called ‘elitist’ art – opera, modern music, ballet – can be enjoyed lying on the sofa in the home. Money is not an obstacle.

Art, too needs money, of course: orchestras, theatres, training of artists and artists themselves need subsidies from society. Entertainment is by nature profitable business, as it attracts and involves large paying audiences. Smaller audiences want to listen to classical music, read books and see films that are not made solely in order to bring in as much money as possible. But why should these forms of art be called ‘elitist’? More…

Here, now

1 October 2012 | Extracts, Non-fiction

Beijing, China, 1989. Photo: Pentti Sammallahti

Photographer Pentti Sammallahti (born 1950) has travelled widely over six decades; his mostly black-and-white photographs portray humans, animals, cities as well as open landscapes, in Nepal, France, Kalmykia, the US, Morocco, Russia – in more than 40 countries. His beautifully executed retrospective work, entitled ‘here far away’, containing more than 250 photographs, is introduced by Finn Thrane


Here far away is a retrospective work that comprises nearly fifty years of photographic activity and unfolds in almost as many countries. Despite this, Pentti Sammallahti’s discreet title points to the paradox that the photograph always represents a here-and-now: an encounter in the exhibition or on the page of the book between artist and viewer, which is of course subject to the law of mutability, but constantly reflects the capacity of the two to enter into a dialogue, to extend the picture’s mirror of the past into the viewer’s present and future. More…

Pins and needles

11 May 2011 | Essays, Non-fiction

In these pictures by Ulla Jokisalo and texts by Anna Kortelainen, truths and mysteries concerning play are entwined with pictures painted with threads and needles. Jokisalo’s exhibition, ‘Leikin varjo / Guises of play’, runs at the Museum of Photography, Helsinki, from 17 August to 25 September.

Words and images from the book Leikin varjo / Guises of play (Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova and Musta Taide, 2011)

‘Ring dance’ by Ulla Jokisalo (pigment print and pins, 2009)


Homo ludens, vita brevis

18 March 2011 | Letter from the Editors

Goddess of victory: charioteer and runner Nike (constructed from the damaged statue of Nike of Paionios, from ca. 420 BCE). Photo: Wikimedia

No one should ever start a piece with already the ancient Greeks…’ , but here goes:

Already the ancient Greeks practised the noble arts of sport. The Romans extended the cultivation (their word!) of culture to leisure, amusing themselves by throwing Christians to the lions. Formula F1 came a couple of thousand years later, as did post-modern art, sitcoms and reality TV, whose presenters take the place of lions and whose celebrities are today’s Christians.

The Olympics, founded by the Greeks, were in full swing as early as the seventh century BCE, until the Christian Roman Caesar Theodocius I banned them as irretrievably pagan in the year 393. However, they were revived 1,500 years later. More…

Green thoughts

1 April 2010 | Fiction, Prose

Extracts from the novel Kuperat ja koverat (‘Convex and concave’, Otava, 2010)

Hannu Väisänen: ‘Green and yellow in March’ (work in progress, oil on canvas, 130x193cm, 2010)

I decided to go to the Museum of Fine Arts.

After paying for my entrance ticket, I climbed the wide staircase to the first floor. There all I saw were dull paintings, the same heroic seed-sowers and floor-sanders as everywhere else. Why were so many art museums nothing more than collections of frames? Always national heroes making their horses dance, mud-coloured grumblers and overblown historical scenes. There was not a single museum in which a grandfather would not be sitting on a wobbly stool peering over his broken spectacles, interrogating a young man about to set off on his travels, cheeks burning with enthusiasm, behind them the entire village, complete with ear trumpets and balls of wool. The painting’s eternal title would be ‘Interrogation’ and it would be covered with shiny varnish, so that in the end all you would be able to see would be your own face.

I climbed up to the next floor. All I really felt was a pressing need to run away. No Flemish conversation piece acquired in the Habsburg era was able to erase a growing anxiety related to love. More…

Jaakko Heinimäki & Juha Metso: Miina – Äkkijyrkkä

6 November 2009 | Mini reviews, Reviews

miinaMiina – Äkkijyrkkä
Text: Jaakko Heinimäki
Photos: Juha Metso
Helsinki: Johnny Kniga Kustannus, 2009. 190 p., ill.
ISBN 978.951-0-35552-7
€41, hardback

Miina Äkkijyrkkä (born 1949; real name Riitta Loiva) is a Finnish artist known for her cattle-themed paintings and sculptures. Äkkijyrkkä is also widely known as a passionate supporter and breeder of Eastern Finncattle, an endangered breed native to Finland. Most of the accompanying texts in this book which describe her ideas and her art come from a series of discussions with author and Lutheran minister, writer Jaakko Heinimäki, recorded in the spring of 2009. Miina Äkkijyrkkä speaks openly about her art and the diverse phases of her life, her values and faith, and her clashes with the authorities and the rest of society. This book is magnificently illustrated with Juha Metso’s photographs, which were taken over a period of 15 years in Finland and abroad. More information about the artist and her works is available here.

Marita Liulia: Choosing My Religion – Uskontoja jäljittämässä

30 July 2009 | Mini reviews, Reviews

Choosing my religionChoosing my Religion – Uskontoja jäljittämässä
Käännökset englanniksi [English translations]: Michael Garner
Helsinki: Maahenki, 2009. 223 p., ill.
ISBN 978-952-5652-61-1
€ 38, hardback

Marita Liulia is a visual artist who specialises in interactive media art. Her works have been shown in more than 40 countries. Choosing my Religion discusses the nine major religions of the world. It contains 150 pictures and photographs, as well as texts by the artist and an article by associate professor of comparative religion Terhi Utriainen. The book, like the exhibition at Helsinki’s Kiasma museum which it accompanies, focuses on the religions and on animism. Liulia has travelled in 50 countries, studying religions and discussing them with both scholars and laymen. Her project concentrates on the possibilities of equal choice between religions and emphasises their positive aspects. The subject of the photographs in the book is the artist herself, who abandoned her Christian faith as a teenager. As a child she suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, and was unable to walk until she was 15. Liulia has portrayed herself in the traditional dress and emblems of the different faiths. In her view one of the features uniting all religions is the fact that in them women play the role of servants who pass on the faith to succeeding generations. Choosing my Religion comprises the book, the (touring) exhibition and a website.

Self-made man

1 April 2009 | Extracts, Non-fiction

On camelback: in the exotic part of Veijo Rönkkönen’s concrete cosmos there are animals and palm trees, side by side with the living plants of the northerly latitudes. - Photo, left: Veijo Rönkkönen; photo, right: Veli Granö.

On camelback: in the exotic part of Veijo Rönkkönen’s concrete cosmos there are animals and palm trees, side by side with the living plants of the northerly latitudes. - Photo, left: Veijo Rönkkönen; right: Veli Granö.

Extracts and photographs from Veijo Rönkkösen todellinen elämä / The real life of Veijo Rönkkönen (Maahenki, 2007. Translation: Kirsti Nurmela-Knox)

Veijo Rönkkönen (born 1944) has lived all his life on an isolated, small farm in eastern Finland, Parikkala, less than a kilometre from the Russian border, where he has quietly built a garden inhabited by nearly five hundred human figures made of concrete. Entrance is free.