Art Features Interviews Misc

Grace Vane Percy: The Art of Nudity

FREE! Magazine met recently in the lobby of a hotel in Helsinki centre with British photographer Grace Vane Percy, one of the most well known names in UK when talking about nude photography, while she was visiting the Finnish capital.

Grace is planning to move to Finland in the near future this year due to the studies and work of her husband, who collaborates with the Finnish opera designing stages, so our talk is a double opportunity, firstly for us to get to know more about nude photography and secondly for her to get to know more about Finland and Helsinki.

“I cannot believe that it is already 10 years that I have been doing this job!” exclaims Grace, who comes from a very strong classical art foundation, having studied at Central Saint Martin’s in London and in Florence; a classic influence which really can be spotted at first sight in the amazing and beautifully balanced compositions of her photographs. “My father asked me at some point what I wanted to be, if I’d pursue being an artist or wanted to focus on photography, so if I wanted to be a photographer I had to come back to the UK “and get on with it!” and so I did!”.

Grace Vane Percy photography

Grace has been primarily based in London in the infamous neighbourhood of Notting Hill but also travelling around the world to meet her clients. Grace has built a strong reputation as one of the most refined photographers specialized mainly in female nudity. Working exclusively on black and white medium format film, she finds that it makes the colour less distracting and adds a layer between the reality of the flesh and the image.

Not just as a journalist but also as a man, I find curious where is the limit drawn between a photo being considered just artistic or erotic. Grace explains her views: “For me an erotic photo is more about the meaning behind the picture, is not about the woman being objectified but more about showing provocation. You can see in many of my photos as the model looks disconnected from the viewer, but if I want to achieve something more erotic, then I play with the attitude. So the model engages more looking at the camera and in a way being more ‘inviting’ to the viewer”.

Recently she has taken a departure from her standard female subject matter and tried her hand at photographing male models and in some cases with couples. Grace mostly prefers working with women. “I think women definitely feel more at ease with me being also a woman. They do not feel the pressure to be judged and they are often surprised by how easy and natural it becomes to be naked around me. Being physically naked also makes them feel more emotionally naked and they face this kind of photo session as a release and a way to confront an anxiety, because in the end everybody wants to feel appreciated. Usually when couples come to have their photos taken, men are more much shy and hide behind their women.”

I feel curious to know what kind of clients get in contact with Grace. Being the cost of a session with her 575 (GBP), I wonder if usually the people portrayed belong to high class. But Grace thinks is not like that: “There are photographers who do similar job, but charge much more. Also many work digitally so their costs are far lower, you have to discount from my rate the cost of the materials, the film & processing etc… Clients usually always love the results because they end up with something more like you can see in a gallery, they understand the quality and recognise it is art, something which they could even display in their living room. So the person becomes a subject, an inspiration enclosed in a work of art. I like having a variety of clients, and I find with this price range it is attainable for a wider variety of people, which is also more interesting for me. But then when coming to Finland, I have to see if I need to rethink the prices”.

Grace Vane Percy photography
And Grace has already being doing some research about how the market could be in Finland: “I have heard that now here is an interest in Boudoir Photography, which has a different feeling to what I do, so that shows a certain curiosity about nude/semi nude imagery. I have seen a lot of pretty girls walking around Helsinki. Sometimes I feel like a teenage boy, cause I would love to walk to them and ask them if I could photograph them naked, but then I do nothing!” says Grace laughing.

Although soon moving to the coldness of north Europe, this seem to be a hot year for Grace, preparing the release of her book “Venus” after 4 years of work behind it and looking forward to future challenges.

Finland prides itself on producing some of the most strong, independent and beautiful women in the world. Now is an excellent chance to enjoy having one of the best nude photographers in the world here in this country and maybe be part of a photo session that will leave you a memorable set of photos to remember forever the exaltation of the female body as the sublime elevation of beauty to be displayed and worshipped.

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Art Cover story Features Misc

Street art in Helsinki… and in Las Matas!

Written by Eva Blanco Medina

Street Art is finally determined to conquer the public spaces all around the world. Going from small populations that sometimes see their essence reduced to the highway exit number they represent on the map, to those cosmopolitan cities where the reinvented hipster urban culture (people riding retro-bicycles in their cool hats, checked shirts and carefully worn out jeans) seem to be melting the snow.

Las Matas

And that is how, leaving the A-6 highway at exit 24, we arrive at Las Matas – a tiny town located in the Northwest area of Madrid, Spain. The inhabitants of this quiet-to-the-boring place spend their lives surrounded by holm oaks and a never ending succession of residential neighbourhoods, a routine just altered when a new restaurant opens its doors, or when once a year, on the first of May, everybody gets extremely drunk celebrating the municipal festivity.

Las Matas

So, last Christmas, on the morning the villagers woke up to a bright rhombus-shaped sign, placed in the middle of the roundabout that gives access to the district, a mix of confusion and pleasant surprise sparkled the air. ” WELCOME TO Fabulous LAS MATAS. Little Town”. That was the readable message on the board. A creative work done by a fine arts student as a copy of the one that stands in the American Capital for gambling, Las Vegas. The funny thing is that we could play a new version of “find the seven differences” using images of both places each side of the page, but this time we would have to call it, “find the seven million differences”. And that is why the sign was so warmly adopted by the villagers. A pinch of irony accompanied the thought that Las Vegas was so, so far away, maybe not even in the same Galaxy, and, at the same time, that was such a relief.

Then, the Town Hall realized that the sign had been placed without the pertinent Administration´s permission, and thus, it was removed. But just temporarily, because people have the bad habit of fighting for the things that make them smile, and so the locals decided to use the social media tools to start a supportive campaign, so that they could keep their new (and fresh) identity symbol, and eventually, it worked!

Stop töhryille-projekti

Töhry is the Finnish word that describes a “mess” in a wall. From 1998 to 2008 the City of Helsinki developed an annually renewed initiative called the “Stop töhryille-projekti”, whose aim was to remove graffiti, stencils, stickers or any other kind of street art expression from public space. In order to assure the walls would remain clean, the City relied on private security operators such as FPS, a company founded in 1997, whose power and influence were specially reinforced over the (also known as) zero tolerance period. However, in 2003, scandals based on the aggressive strategy followed by FPS to fight what they labelled as vandalism damages, started to appear in the media. There were some testimonies from youngsters reporting how they had been beaten up or mistreated by the security agents when they got arrested for supposedly being graffiti painters.

Fifteen year old guys were hit and fined during this period“, says Kukka Ranta, a very fluent in Spanish journalist and photographer, who, together with Mikael Brunila and Eetu Viren, wrote the book “Muutaman töhryn tähden” ( an investigative work to provide an in-depth perspective on this recent decade). Then, while nibbling at a non-curved croissant, she explains that the system established for the payment of the fine added on 16% annual interest if the fee remained unpaid. “This regulation led those teenagers who had been fined to a very complex financial situation in which asking for study grants or any other kind of private loan would be no option, given that they had already contracted a large debt with the Administration”, and Kukka continues, “Isn´t that the best way of ruining somebody´s life for having done a harmless minor act?“.

Unique graffiti designs for the cover of the book

One of the inflexion points was in 2006, when somebody posted a video on Youtube that showed a man being hammered at night by a couple of FPS security agents. The scene occurred in Kontula – one of the most conflictive suburbs in Eastern Helsinki with a serious problem of alcoholism. The publication of these images, together with other initiatives such as the demonstrations organized by leftist political groups, the pressure put on the issue by independent media and online fora, and the creation ( by Kukka Ranta herself and her colleagues) of a website where critical voices surrounding the “Stop töhyille-projekti” were gathered, precipitated the end of the programme two years later, in 2008. By that time, a new discussion based on the possibility of opening public spaces for new artistic purposes, rather than strictly commercial ones, was starting to take shape within the Helsinkian society.

Multicoloured Dreams

The story of the “Multicoloured Dreams” (MCD) project starts, like many others, with a visionary idea. And the first driving force behind it was Pauliina Seppälä (journalist and sociologist) who at the beginning of Summer 2010 launched a question to a Facebook group called RHC – a refugee hospitality club Pauliina herself was coordinating- wondering if anybody would be interested in painting street art messages on construction site walls. The previous year, construction sites in Helsinki began to have plywood walls put around them, which, scrutinized by an incisor look, provided the perfect temporary canvas for a new treatment of street art, which would start being legally protected… without giving up its provocative component.

There were two people who immediately accepted Pauliina´s offer: Satu Kettunen, still one of the leaders of the MCD crew, and an Indian architect named Kavita Gonsalves who was then living in the Finnish Capital. “I must admit that it was a really happy coincidence that the three of us got together, because we were a good combination of vision, devotion, thinking outside the box, and all with hands-on attitudes. So very soon we had planned a nice project“, explains Satu when asked about the beginnings of the initiative. The first thing they did was to suggest having the project included on the official calendar for the upcoming Helsinki Design Week, and, when the organizers of the event accepted, they continued the process by asking for the City Architect´s permission. With the eagerly awaited green light, there was just one more thing to do: spread the word around the social media, so that every artist wanting to participate in the project could have the sketches prepared to be approved. Satu also considers that their modus operandi, based on the ultimate respect for the political and social authorities, helped them succeed in their approach, “The fact that we were politely asking for the permissions, and showing them the sketches before painting…the whole procedure seemed to fit here. They trusted us”.

The Kaunianen Project

After the open-call projects developed for the Helsinki area in 2010 and 2011 (both based on voluntary work, meaning no institution was financially backing up), there is one assignment that occupies a significant stage in the trajectory of MCD: a big, half-year-long, project made for the City of Kauniainen, located inside the Espoo area. Its skeleton as a whole included street art workshops for students and seniors, a painting day for kids, a couple of artworks produced by the 8 people who belonged to the coordinating team and an invitation to Otto Maija to act as a guest artist. The City commissioned all the activities, the teaching, the organization and the painting itself, and this gave regular citizens the opportunity of playing artist role for some days. Not only could they explore their hidden talents and creativity but they could also contribute to the beautification of their home town.

Applying for grants is one of the main tasks the MCD team has to face in order to assure the growth and social impact of their association. “More street art projects need to happen in Finland, that way, the financial support will also increase. That´s how the grant policy works in this country“, says Satu, always pointing out that their goal is far from creating a profitable business. In the same sense, Veera Jalava, a younger -but equally attractive- version of the actress Anna Torv (Fringe), and another member of the MCD organisational team, remembers that “the original philosophy of the initiative relied on voluntary work. It wasn´t thought of to earn a living out of it, but to make the city more alive. To give wider possibilities to everyone to do street art“.

Mural by Antti Mannyvali

Antti Mannynvali agrees to this non-profitable perspective. The artist, who has contributed with his talent to one of the MCD projects in the centre of Helsinki, considers that voluntarism is a core issue, “for me, this is something that is aimed at those who just want to produce visible art. The motivation for doing this is not money. But even then, since the visibility provided here is hard to reach otherwise, that could culminate in other gigs which might involve getting paid“. Then, when asked about the relationship between the city and the possibilities for street art, he claims, “A large part of public space could be open to artistic expressions. It is something that interests and motivates young people to be creative, and I think society should try to encourage them in a positive way. For a long time they spent humongous efforts trying to marginalize those youngsters and force them into becoming hard criminals. I can’t understand that approach.”

Finally, the Multicoloured Dreams project has also been the target for some criticism from the so-called purist sector, those grafters who claim the nature of street art to be illegal, and asking for permissions and handing in sketches to be approved is far from its essence. However, Satu makes herself very clear regarding this point, “I don´t think we are taking anything away from the illegal painters. We haven’t had many old school graffiti artists taking part in our projects, but they are also very welcome. I believe that people need the possibility to make a difference to their surroundings, to leave a mark…to take the city streets for themselves away from the commercial companies“.

Art Features

A Finnish souvenir – Aalvar Aalto decorative bowls

Iittala, one of the most prestigious Finnish design companies, has taken the famous design of Aalvar Aalto for trays and vases and applied it to mini bowls, very suitable to place all kind of objects like candles, chocolates or snacks into it.

Aalto bowl

Alvar Aalto (1898-1996) is probably the best well-known Finnish architecture and designer. His particular designs of vases were first presented in 1937, and they have become one of the world´s most famous glassware, due to the simplicity of its forms and sensual plasticity as well as the multiple uses that the customers can find for it.

If you visit Finland and want to bring with you a sample of tasty national design, or if you need to buy a refined present for a relative or a friend, a decorative bowl is an excellent choice to pursue as souvenir. Easy to transport and suitable in all kind of environments, it is just the perfect choice to carry a little piece of Finland with you!

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Art Features

When sculpture and architecture dialogue

It is said that the Finnish architect Viljo Revell considered his buildings to be complete only when a Henry Moore sculpture was part of them. And all year round visitors can admire the Reclining figure on a pedestal by H. Moore at Villa Didrichsen, designed by V. Revell. But from the 9th of February visitors of the Villa Didrichsen are also able to admire an interesting selection of works by the renowned 20th century British sculptor, collected in the exhibition The challenge of architecture.

Henry Moore sculpture

As the title clearly states, the focus is entirely on those sculptures that are either placed in architectural settings or somehow connected with architecture. On display are, among the others, masterpieces like the Archer, that Moore sculpted in white marble, and subsequently used as a model for the sculpture with the same name placed in Nathan Phillips square in Toronto, facing Revell’s City Hall; the working model for the Hill Arches, placed in 1973 in front of Fischer von Erlach’s Karlskirche in Wien; the working model for Three piece n. 3: vertebrae, now gracing the plaza of Dallas city hall (project by I.M. Pei).

The relationship between architecture and sculpture is explored in different facets: part of the exhibition is devoted to Moore sculptures and the architectural settings they are placed in. Another section is more intimate, the sculptures being placed in the part of the villa the Didrichsen used to live in. Here the visitor can see how harmonious and surprising is the interplay between, for instance, Square form with cut, whose enlarged version was on display in Florence at the Forte Belvedere in 1971, and the villa itself. Anita Feldman, the curator of the exhibition and of the Henry Moore Foundation, explain that after considering for a while whether to place this particular piece in the Villa’s garden, she opted for putting it inside, under a huge skylight, the opening on the villa’s ceiling echoing the one in the sculpture. Ms Feldman also points out the architectural quality of most of Moore’s works: of course you can walk around them, but most of the time you can actually walk through them, as if they were proper architectural spaces, with their lights and inner and outer spaces.

Henry Moore sculpture

It’s therefore quite interesting to get to know how the collaboration between the architects – Revell, Pei but also Marcel Breur – and Moore developed. Moore didn’t work on commission: it was rather the architect who visited the sculptor studio and was somehow left to choose among already existing sculptures what would suit the architecture he had in mind, somewhat reversing the connection/relation between architecture and sculpture.

The exhibition is a great occasion to get acquainted with the work of one of the greatest 20th century artists. Or, for those who are already familiar with his work, to discover a new dimension to his art: the ability “to dialogue with intimate domestic spaces” that Mary Moore, the sculptor’s daughter, is pleased to highlight.

Henry Moore: the Challenge of architecture
The Didrichsen Art Museum 9.2. – 28.9.2008
TUE-SUN 11-18 WED 11-20 (1.6.-31.7. • 11-18)

Written by Silvia Costantini

Art Features

The Lusto Museum in Punkaharju

In 1843, the Punkaharju State Forest was established and in 1990 the ridge was declared a protected area, with the approval of the Act founding the Punkaharju nature conservation area.

It’s not surprising, then, that the Finnish Forest Museum, Lusto, is located right here. The museum, opened to the public in June 1994, is entirely devoted to illustrate the Finnish forests, their importance and the interaction and relationships between Finns and their forests.

The museum is shaped in such a way as to remind a tree section, and a few huge windows allow the visitor to have a glimpse of the beautiful landscape. Inside, the basic permanent exhibition ‘Discovering the forest’ shows how the Finns have lived off the forests over the centuries. A whole section is devoted to log floating, which in the 1920s and '30s gave work to almost 100,000 men –even though only for a few weeks. Old photographs and a display of the tools used by log floaters help to understand the harshness of the work.

Lusto museum

Another interesting section deals with popular beliefs. For centuries, forests, in addition to supporting people with food, heating and even clothes, were believed to host many kinds of magical creatures, sometimes evil, sometimes helpful. In this section a karsikko is on display. In Finnish folklore a karsikko is a conifer tree with some branches cut off in memory of a special occasion or event. Often the date of the event and the initials of the people involved were carved on the tree. The karsikko on display comes from Lapland where it was grew from the 15th century to 1940.

Beside 'Discovering the forest' other temporary exhibitions are organized every year. This year, starting from April 27th, ‘Finn horse – work horse’ will celebrate the 100th birthday of the Finnish horse. On June 15th and 16th the Forest Culture Days will take place, with competitions in logging and log floating, work demonstrations, hands-on workshops, concerts, theatre performances, presentations and information sessions.

Lusto, The Finnish Forest Museum, Lustontie 1, 58450 Punkaharju

Art Features

The Year of South Korea

Since 1997 the festival has been exploring different Asian cultures: from Indonesia to China, to India and –last year– the countries hit by the 2005 tsunami.
Asia in Helsinki is the only Finnish festival devoted to Asia, and the organizers put a great deal of effort into selecting the themes and the performers. “We tend to choose according to first-hand knowledge, groups and performers we have already seen in action,” says the festival's Managing Director Veli Rosenberg.

The festival usually focuses on performing arts, such as ballet, drama and music, but thanks to collaboration with the Museum of Cultures exhibitions relevant to the festival's theme are being organized every year. This year is the turn of ‘Korean home – the way of living’ open till the end of December 2007.
Two are the 2007 festival highlights, according to Rosenberg: Hee Dong, a group of ten Buddhist monks and nuns performing ritual dances, which has been highly praised in Europe and the States. And the NOW dance company, led by young choreographer Sohn In-young, and their merging of traditional dances with contemporaries choreographies.


South Korea has been chosen for having been a cultural bridge between China and Japan for centuries, a place where it is still possible to find dance forms already vanished in the other two countries. The roots of South Korean culture are in shamanism and that will be reflected in the performances of the artists present at the festival.

“The festival’s aim is not so much to attract huge audiences,” Rosenberg states, “it is rather to offer interesting performances and an opportunity to get to know also the background. Before the show, the public can hear an introduction about the art and the artists, so they are given a context, a background in which to set the performance.”

The venue has always been the Aleksanterin Teatteri – the former Helsinki Opera Theatre. “That is the perfect venue for the festival," says Rosenberg, "it has 450 seats, with wonderful acoustics. Performers don’t need to use microphones most of the time. And it’s an intimate and beautiful theatre.”

Asia in Helsinki – Aasia Helsingissä, Helsinki Aleksanterin teatteri, 3rd-5th May 2007
For further details and the program: 

Art Features

The survival of the littlest

Pekka Jylhä, who made
his debut in Vaasa 1984, is one of the most important Finnish sculptors. In
addition to several exhibitions, he has become known through his many public
art works. One of them is Spring (Lähde), a monument built in memory of
the late president Urho Kekkonen, was unveiled in Hakasalmi park,
Helsinki in 2000.

The current exhibition
presents mainly works from the new millennium, but also some older pieces, and a
book on Jylhä's art has been recently published by Parvs Publishing.
For Jylhä himself, the exhibition is about looking back on what has been done.

"I am not sure
whether this is the end of something, or the start of something new",
Jylhä states. "My works are always taking me in unknown directions. It is
like I am in the middle of a stream and I just have to let it take me where it
wants to go."

One of the central
themes of the exhibition is the collision between human beings and nature. A
sadly literal example is the piece Revelation (Ilmestys, 2000),
which presents a golden deer situated on a cliff beside a motorway.  Clear conscience (Puhdas omatunto,
2007) shows another way people today are used to confronting animals: as
objectified goods. This piece brings together an expensive looking crystal
chain and economically worthless bunny. The financially oriented world
suffocates the bunny, conquers its living environment.

The white bunny is a
recurrent element in Jylhä's art works and it seems to speak strongly to many
viewers. Perhaps it reminds us of the vulnerability of  people as well.

“The only means for the
bunny to survive in this hard world, is being scared and staying on guard all
the time”, Jylhä says.

{mosimage}In many works the bunny
confronts big questions, but it always stays faithful to who it is: a timid
little creature, willing to understand and do its best. Perhaps the most
impressive piece with the white bunny, Lantern bearer (Lyhdyn kantaja,
1999-2000), occupies a whole room. The little bunny stands lit in the middle of
a dark room holding a mirror ball that reflects a rotating night sky. The
innocent little animal is holding an entire world on top of its nose, but it is
proud and confident.

Jylhä explains that
through his works he tries to tell stories that have touched him. The
autobiographical content has an important role in his work. The small rocking
chair, This side that side (Täällä puolen tuolla puolen,
1994), is based on a childhood experience: the nine-year-old Pekka Jylhä found
his mother dead in a similar chair.

“I was the first to
arrive and the chair was still gently rocking”, he states. “I wanted to make a
rocking chair that would never come to a halt.”

This side that side, with its everlasting movement, reminds us of
the preserving qualities of art, which become important in many artists' work.
For example, the most famous Shakespeare sonnet, Shall I compare thee to a
Summers day, is about the fading beauty of the beloved, which only the
eternal lines of a poem can preserve. Jylhä however, has a more humble view on
the matter:

"In this world,
nothing that was made by man is permanent, and that is probably for the
best", he concludes.

Jylhä continues by saying
that the autobiographical elements are a way of returning to experiences that
may have been forgotten, but are still present in him, and may even have been passed
on to his children.

Many of the works deal
with the big questions of life and in some instances, even give an impression
of a religious atmosphere. According to Jylhä, a lot of this experience is due
to the materials he uses:

“I try to use materials
that are pure and therefore naturally reveal a sacral impression. The symbolism
that comes with the materials is very central in my works.”

The choice of materials
such as water, crystal and stuffed animals; the use of light, living fire and the
colour white, create a very northern atmosphere. Walking in the museum feels
like walking in a wintry Finnish forest: ice and snow sparkling like diamonds
in the pale light of a frosty winter day. For a Finn the forest is like a
church: a peaceful and holy environment. Through Pekka Jylhä's work, the
peaceful harmony of the forest is passed on to the museum space.

Art Features

An easterly breeze hits Kiasma

Along with China's economic miracle and recent
development in the region as a whole, Asian contemporary art is on the rise as
well. Biennials and art festivals are numerous and ever growing and there's
increasing international interest – enough to constitute something of a boom in
Asian contemporary art. Kiasma's exhibition brings an interesting selection of
works to Helsinki.
”The purpose of this exhibition is not to cover the whole field of contemporary
art in Asia, but rather to present visitors with perspectives on it”, says
senior curator Marja Sakari from




three countries represented in the exhibition are quite different, but they
also share several characteristics, such as mounting pressure for change, vast
population, political conflicts and natural disasters, which cause these
societies to be in a constant state of transformation. There are questions of
how an individual fits into the larger scheme of things. All this in turn is
reflected in the artists' interpretation of their surrounding reality”, Sakari
tells us. Also in common are powerful traditions. Beneath contemporary
political and social preoccupations with global consumer culture and
modernisation, traditional culture and spirituality are present in many of the
works displayed.

a swiftly growing urban expanse afflicted by an enormous population and a
building frenzy which leaves little trace of the city's vernacular history, is
home to two of the artists. Photographer Hu Yang lets us peek inside Shanghai households in
his photo series Shanghai Living,
which features ordinary Shanghainese from all walks of life photographed in
their living spaces with a short interview attached. The series offers a
compelling inside view of the human consequences of recent development in the
city's infrastructure and social fabric. Also hailing from Shanghai is Yang Zhenzhong, who represents a
new generation of Chinese artists who've grown up during China's open
door policy and economic prosperity and are well acquainted with new media and

colonial past and history of 
authoritarian regimes is reflected in works by Yogyakartan artists Heri
Dono and Eko Nugroho, who deal with issues of political pressure and social
control with equally playful yet ambiguous ways. Since the fall of Suharto in
1998 there have been significant changes in Indonesia's political system but
images of oppression and blind faith in authorities are nevertheless vivid in
their art. Many of Dono's installations include puppet-like sculptures with
some robotic features producing sound and movement. The complex installation Political clowns represents his brand of
satire: a series of clown-faces with tubes drip-feeding urine to their heads.

of the most puzzling and fascinating works are by Chinese artist Chen Zhen, who
died in 2000. Zhen moved to Paris
in 1986 and made most of his career in the west. Many of his works contemplate
on broad humanistic themes, but also on Asian art as part of the whole
international sphere of contemporary art. In fact, all the participating
artists are to some degree integrated into the international art world, but
mostly maintain focus on their local Asian realities and often draw on
traditional art forms. The surging popularity of Asian artists calls to
question our entrenched notions of the centre and periphery of contemporary art
in a most welcome manner.


The exhibition Wind from the East – Perspectives on Asian Contemporary Art opens
Feb 17 at Kiasma museum of contemporary art.

Art Features

Museum of Gallen-Kallela

{mosimage}The floor
in the main atelier is made of tarred wooden blocks, a durable style imitated
from factories. In the glass vitrines by the wall there is a collection of old
oil paint tubes and brushes. Gallen-Kallela wanted the windows in the ceiling of
his atelier to point to the north, in order to lay a perfect indirect light for
painting all day long. When climbing up the staircase to the tower, and passing
by the bathroom with windows, you can imagine how the family members would
observe the atelier while having a bath.

adventurous and cosmopolitan artist, Akseli Gallen-Kallela felt at home
everywhere. He lived and worked in Paris, North America and east Africa. He
loved his home country deeply, and explored the roots of Finnish mythology during
long trips in Karelia. He constantly searched
for something genuine and exciting; native Indians in North America, and
kikujus in the present day Kenya. Thus he is often defined as a ´national
cosmopolite´. For Finns, he is most known as the illustrator of the characters
in Kalevala, the Finnish National Epic.

artist was an important influencer during the ‘Golden Era of Finnish Art’
between 1880-1910, along with Albert Edelfelt and Helene Schjerfbeck, amongs
others. During these Golden years, the ruling art tendencies were realism,
symbolism and above all national romance, as a result of the Finnish national
spirit raising its head before the independence.

Not only
a painter, Gallen-Kallela was also known for his graphics and furniture design
skills. For the World’s Fair in Paris in 1900 he had designed most of the
furniture and textiles for the Finnish pavilion, for which he was awarded and recognised
internationally. The fair is considered to be the first occasion when such a concept
as Finnish design was launched.

many of Gallen-Kallela’s privately-owned paintings and the treasure-like
material he brought back from his trips are exhibited in the museum. Currently,
the museum hosts an exhibition of expressionist art entitled ‘Wound’ which is
on display until the 20th of May. Many of the pieces of art are created by
contemporary Finnish artists, such as Elina Merenmies or Mari Sunna. This
exhibition focuses on the personal and subjective experiences of the self, an
exposition concept envisioned by the painter Henry Wuorila-Stenberg.

After the
tour in the museum you can sip a coffee in the original Finnish wooden villa,
where the artist and his family used to live before building the stone castle
next to it.


Art Features

Villa Didrichsen: architecture and art


The museum is a masterpiece in itself. Because of the architecture: like many other buildings by famous Finnish architect Viljo Revell, Villa Didrichsen is not just another L-shaped building but a perfect blend of art, architecture and nature. And because of the location: built in 1957 on the shore of the Laajalahti, the villa enjoys a beautiful vista of the sea.

The history of the Didrichsen museum dates back to 1942 when Gunnard Didrichsen, a Danish businessman living and working in Helsinki, and his wife Marie-Louise bought a painting called ‘Ateria’ painted in 1899 by Pekka Halonen. At first, the couple focused on Finnish art of the 19th century, but they grew more and more interested in more modern paintings. In time, and sometimes with the help of Aune Lindstrom, at the time director of Ateneum, the Didrichsens ventured to purchase masterpieces like Pablo Picasso’s Artist at work, Wassily Kandinsky’s Church in Murnau, Fernand Léger’s Nature morte à la coupe, whilst increasing their collection of Finnish artists with the works of the likes of Helene Schjerfbeck – whose exhibition last year collected an impressive number of visitors and will soon tour Europe.

At the beginning of the '60s the Didrichsens also started collecting pre-Columbian and Eastern art pieces, now on display in the museum. In 1963 a foundation was settled to take care of the works of art and in a few years a new wing was added to the villa built by Revell. In September 1965 the museum was opened to the public, who could thus contemplate the family’s masterpieces. Already in 1968 it hosted the first exhibition with loans from other museums and galleries.

“The family was at the time living in the villa and Marie-Louise took care of the museum, from exhibits organization to tickets sale” tells Maria Didrichsen, head of exhibitions: “the last exhibition she organized before dying in 1988 was a Henry Moore memorial exhibition in January 1987. It was one of the first organized in the whole world, and the Didrichsen museum was able to do it because of the personal friendship that linked Moore and the Didrichsen family”.

Henry Moore’s masterpieces will return to Didrichsen in spring next year. Meanwhile, from January 27 to July 17 the museum will host Nella luce italiana – Italian valossa, a collection of paintings by Elin Danielson-Gambogi, a Finnish painter born in 1861, who lived part of her life in Italy. The exhibition will offer an opportunity to see paintings never shown before in Finland and to learn more about another interesting woman painter.

Art Features

Raimo Utriainen: mind vs passion

{mosimage}Now, for the
second round of Spring exhibitions, that will open from 8.2 until 29.4, that
path has been followed introducing one of the most remarkable figures in contemporary
Finnish art, and follower of the mathematical and geometrical lessons that
Malevich helped to spread around the world: Raimo Utriainen (1927-1994).

Utriainen´s fame
has crossed the national borders. His work can be contemplated in countries
such as Israel,
or Sweden,
and he was venerated in Japan,
where his abstract sculptures had an immediate success and exhibitions were
organized in Kamakura,
Kobe and Sapporo during 1978.

EMMA has had the
Raimo Utriainen Foundation Collection since October 2006, and with the upcoming
exhibition, the visitor will have the opportunity to contemplate a huge
different amount of material from the artist: 150 sculptures, drawings,
paintings, bronze portraits medallions and some other personal stuff that comes
mostly from the old artist’s studio that was located in Pitäjänmäki. In
addition, the WeeGee building itself, where EMMA museum is, appears as a
perfect surrounding for Utriainen´s work, having been designed by the artist´s
old friend, Aarno Ruusuvuori.

The opportunity
not only of observing his more famous side as sculptor, but also his paintings,
gives us an approach to a more personal drama in his lifestyle. Being proud of
his education with a solid background in mathematics and architecture,
Utriainen tried to hide his more romantic side as painter, where he could break
the limits that the formal structures in his sculpture represented. It was not
until 8 years before his death, in 1986, when he became older, that he allowed
this other side of his artwork to emerge in the public sphere, and show it in

Utriainen, born in
Kuopio, was
mostly interested in developing public sculptures that would suit in open
spaces. He did not make many portraits, although the few ones conserved give a
clear example of his mastery in all kinds of art fields.

{mosimage}Another of his
major influences was the Italian artist Brancusi,
and belonging to the generation of artists that studied and wrote about public
monuments after the Second World War, he remained as quite a strict defender of
the Constructivism and Modernism theories. Even when the formalities of size
and design are very much remarked upon in his work, the forms that the light
reflects in some of his sculptures are very sensual and expressive. Some of the
works you can contemplate inside the exhibition reach around three meters high!
Some others even had to be kept out of the exhibition for lack of space.

As well, the
exhibition would give a unique opportunity to take a look at his development in
his work with different materials. From the bronze used in some works during
the 1960s, like his famous “Ida Aalberg Statue”, dedicated to the actress, to
the steel and aluminium of the 1970s with his particular and personal style of
statues perfectly balanced in size, and formed by slats.

And for the
visitor, a last surprise. Not only Utriainen´s influence can be seen inside the
EMMA walls. If you just pay attention, close to the main entrance, there is
surrounded by trees a statue based on Utrianen´s miniature design.

Art Features

Malevich: The Beauty Of Simple Forms

Born near Kiev in 1878, Malevich is with no doubt one of the pioneers of abstract geometric art. He was inspired by Cubism and Futurism until he gave birth to a new stage not only in his work, but in the whole history of art: Suprematism, a concept that alludes to the supremacy of form.

Hannele Savelainen, researcher at Emma museum, explains us: “Malevich was a great thinker, and behind his work there is a complex philosophical and artistic theory. He was filled with a great sense of mysticism. For example, the concept of “zaum”, which refers to things beyond the reach of rational, is very present in his art’s theory. In this way, the surface of the painting is considered as a field of energy, where the colours are alive. The surface becomes sacred”.


In the current exhibition you can see some of the most famous of Malevich´s work: the black square, the cross and the circle on white background. Although arranged on different walls, the group looks like it could possibly be a triptych (a work of art done in three separate panels, which usually would be hinged together). There, the energy is clear and condensed in the black surface, while the white background represents emptiness. As a peak in Malevich´s Suprematism theory, he even painted a white surface on a white background. Unfortunately, EMMA could not get any of these works.

Malevich was so immersed in his Suprematism philosophy that in the early 1920s he left painting for several years to focus on teaching. The new Soviet system under the Totalitarian control of Stalin never allowed him to come back to such radical Suprematism ideas, but he always managed to walk on the edge between the official art, and his own vision and theories.

He focused on basic geometric forms and bright primary colours. Observing the different periods and stages of his life and work through the exhibition in Espoo, you realize that he never abandoned the use of the same colours in his palette. {quotes}It can be an abstract composition, or the portrait of a peasant, but the same primary colours remain there as a very personal touch in his work.{/quotes}


The exhibition has more than 50 paintings of the artists, most of them borrowed from the State Russian Museum, which has collaborated very closely with EMMA. The different periods of the artist’s work are widely represented, from their cubism compositions, to his more radical Suprematism period, and coming back to depicting figures, in concordance with the Social Realism art that was sure to follow. But many other aspects of Malevich´s creations are covered as well: drawings, costumes designed for the futurist opera Victory over the Sun that was played in Uusikirkko, on the Finnish side of the border (and with a strong resemblance to the Harlequins painted by Picasso during his earlier period), sketches and designs for buildings and other objects, such as a curious teapot.

In contrast with the geometrical compositions, the portrait of his mother, painted in 1932 – three years before her death – shows a very warm image of a person who always supported him all throughout his artistic career. There, a more humanized concept is in his latest creative period, with a style that approaches the great classics of the Impressionism.

An amazing feature in Malevich´s work that the visitor can contemplate all through the current exhibition is that he was able to master different styles without ever losing his own personal perspective of art, and that is why he is and will always be remembered as one of the fundamental figures in contemporary art.