Books Features

Cartoon tracks

{mosimage}Comic artist and illustrator Marko Turunen (b. 1973) recently
received the much appreciated Puupäähattu Prize handed by The Finnish Comic
Society. His latest album
Lihat puntarissa (Meats On the Scale)
combines ordinary with extraordinary, animal figures with domestic violence and
alcoholism, all served in fiercely bright colours and flavoured with black
humour. “My mother has told me that life is suffering and so it is meant to
be”, Turunen states appropriately, “but I refuse to see life merely as a
painful journey”.

Turunen continues by describing
life as an absurd theatre play, which is the way it appears in his comics as
well. The characters include a small but sadistic bunny who kills and practises
wild sexual relationships, a dog who is attracted to a squirrel and a jealous
giraffe who drinks too much and hits his wife. The topics are sometimes
difficult and even cruel, but mostly the cartoons only depict what is happening
inside our homes all the time.

However, the carefully added humour,
in addition to the sympathetic animal characters, together make the atmosphere
occasionally lighter and reader friendlier. For Turunen this is a conscious
effect, but he denies ever trying to please the masses.

“My continuing guideline is to
make pure comic, in which the graphics and the text complement each other”, he
states. “A completely functional result is more important than the question
whether anyone is able to enjoy it in the end.”

Indeed, for Turunen his art is also
very personal. He includes a great deal of real life events into his comics.

“In a way, the books function as
note tags on life. I also wish for the books to appear as historical documents
and to portray the period”, he concludes.

The documentary nature is visible
in Turunen's elaborate usage of actual place names, buildings and labels. These
he records through photography, since he feels bothered by the attention that
public drawing awakens.

Whether Turunen enjoys the
attention or not, his work has become widely appreciated, even outside Finland.
Some of his comics have been translated into English, French, German and
Italian. Turunen however seems to enjoy the independent underground status of
Finnish comic scene. Together with Annemari
Hietanen he runs a small publishing company Daada Books.

The name Daada comes from a radio
programme, in which a little boy called and complained that his mother was
making him wear a daada-shirt. When asked what this meant, he replied by
explaining that a daada-shirt was way too small and ugly. The story gives a
very modest impression of Turunen and his work, but even small characters and
ugly topics can have a massive impact.



Can you identify these three
tracks of very common Finnish animals? Here is what Marko Turunen came up with
(the correct answers can be found at the bottom of this page):

1. jättiläiskarvatasku (giant fur

Eats potatoes and wood. A
familiar sight around piles of firewood, sheds and potato cellars. Not
dangerous for people.

2. putkipiru (plumb devil)

Eats human beings. Enjoys large
population centres. Lives in sewers and plumbs.

3. lehtokääpiö (grove midget)

Rests during summers and eats
hibernating bears during winter time.

Correct answers: 1. field mouse
2. squirrel 3. hare

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 Exhibitions

Inside Surreal

current exhibition, Stomach Pains, Head
Aches and Dizziness
, concentrates on the collision of reality and the
digital world of media. The gallery is filled with art that combines the
electric and inanimate with the material human body. For those with the desire
to experiment, probably the most intriguing piece would be Laughing My Guts Out (2006), which is a huge bouncy-castle
consisting of body parts, such as eyes, teeth and intestines. The artists state
in their introduction leaflet that the exhibition is about experiencing how the
mind deals with the idea of reality in a world that operates through several
forms of non-material media. Bringing together grotesque body parts and the
spectator in a fun and humourous way like this imitates the surprisingly calm
reaction that, for example, the horrors represented in TV awaken in us. 

piece that combines the digital with human body is the screen-installation Body Double (2004) in the museum lobby.
The screens combine the body parts of man and woman. The two bodies seem to
loom over each other composing anandrogynous character.

union between man and woman continues on the roof of the museum. The family
portrait 1+1=5 (2006) consists of
inflatable figures of a couple surrounded by their three children. Because of
their substance these figures, though placed together, seem to hover in the air
individually, each in their own world. 

the work that most perfectly crystallises the theme of the exhibition is found
back in the gallery. The PhysicalImpossibility of Foretelling
the Future: Lesson 1
(2006) is a massive black castle hanging upside down from the ceiling.
Inside is a canvas, where a figure of a young girl skipping a rope is
projected. The world that we see around us is distorted, projected upside down.
Inside the thick walls of a castle we are incapable of knowing what lies beyond
them. The media describes our world to us, but it also creates a new reality of
its own. That reality is like the enchanted castle from a fairy-tale.

exhibition of Andy Best and Merja Puustinen is on display in Wäinö Aaltonen
Museum of Arts, Turku until 28th of January 2007.