Photo: Markku Laakso, The Defence of the Sampo, 1999,
Photo: Matti Ruotsalainen
On June 20, 2002, the Helsinki City Art Museum will open the exhibition Myth to the public at its gallery in Meilahti. Myth is a journey into the Finnish mindscape, with contemporary artists and the masters of the Golden Era of Finnish art acting as guides. The exhibition’s artists include Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Risto Suomi, Vertti Teräsvuori, Eero Järnefelt and Markku Laakso. It comprises a total of 150 paintings, photographs, videos and sculptures.
It is not the purpose of Myth – a journey into the Finnish mindscape to question anything. Instead, its purpose is to offer a point of view on Finnish mythology, a kind of myth of a myth. The exhibition starts with the Kalevala and returns to it by way of dreamscapes and evil spirits.
The Kalevala is the origin of the Finnish hero. This hero fights for his rights and curses his destiny. This gutsy fighter is represented in ideal, patriotic landscapes, imposing, wild and untouched. In the 1980s and ’90s, Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s visions of the Kalevala were treated ironically by adapting the heroes of the original works to contemporary ideals and international cultural phenomena. In Markku Laaksonen’s paintings Elvis, the uncrowned king of the entertainment industry, has taken over Väinämöinen’s role, while Sirpa Ala-Lääkkölä has turned Aino, the former innocent virgin, into a punk-rock feminist.
The Finnish mindscape is a split one. A beautiful distant landscape from a painting by Järnefelt can suddenly explode in a psychological mindstorm in Markkula’s works. The quiet, withdrawn, dreamy and sometimes even sullen soul suddenly bursts out, paints devils on the wall and rants in an ecstatic trance. In Hugo Simberg’s paintings, the devil dances a joyful dance with the angels, while the evil spirits of Henry Wuorila-Stenberg torment and pester.
Animals often act as guides on mythical journeys. Rabbits and other totem animals that lend their shape to shamans help the shaman to cross the border separating our reality from other realities. In Risto Suomi’s works, a red rabbit is a messenger from the realm of harmony and white swans glide down the River of Tuonela that separates the netherworld from ours.
The majority of the works shown in Myth – a journey into the Finnish mindscape are from the Helsinki City Art Museum’s own collections. The rest are on loan from other museums and from institutions and private persons. The exhibition will tour Japan in 2003 in a slightly altered form. Myth is part of the collaboration between the cities of Helsinki and Yamaguchi. This collaboration began with the exhibition of the works of the Zen master Sesshû in Meilahti in 2001.
Further information: Chief Curator Erja Pusa, tel. +358-(0)9-310 87006, +358-(0)50-345 8541 / Curator Taru Tappola, tel. +358-(0)9-310 87021, +358-(0)50-341 6524 / Educational Curator Arja Miller, tel. +358-(0)-310 87007, +358-(0)50-336 1980 / Press material: Press Secretary Karri Buchert, tel. +358-(0)9-310 87004, +358-(0)50-304 6707.
Guided tours: Guided tours are given free of charge in Finnish on Wednesdays at 17.00 o’clock and on Sundays at 14.00 o’clock, in Swedish on the second Sunday of each month at 13.00 o’clock, and in English in June-August on Saturdays at 14.00 o’clock. To book a tour at another time, please call tel. +358-(0)9-310 87003.