Wäino Aaltonen - The Joy of Creating

This extensive retrospective exhibition presenting Wäinö Aaltonen’s art from the 1910s to the 1960s is based on his monumental works created in Tampere and Turku: the statues on Hämeensilta Bridge on subjects taken from the ancient local peasant culture and The Poet and the Muse, a monument to the Finnish writer Aleksis Kivi, in the former city, and the statue of the runner Paavo Nurmi and The Lily of Turku in the latter are among Wäinö Aaltonen’s most notable public works. Over time they have become symbols and emblems of the spirit of Tampere, of Turku and indeed of Finland more generally. At the same time, they tell of matters existing at the time of their creation, like the strengthening of the Finnish identity, bolstered as it was by athletic victories and rising national self-awareness.

I wish my heart was like a stone, a rock engraved with a face, smiling and broad, with time flying past it. But it’s not like that, it isn’t. It’s crushed by pain, its roots are gnawed by longing, and it feels a kind of hellish joy.

Wäinö Aaltonen

The exhibition examines the creative process behind Aaltonen’s monumental works through extensive photographic material, sketches, plaster models, tools and smaller works related to the large public monuments. Also on show will be sketches that have not previously been exhibited to the general public. All in all, the exhibition will comprise over 100 works: sculptures, medals, paintings, drawings and book illustrations. In addition, the exhibition will be accompanied by Nuutti Koskinen’s media work Pirkkalaisveistoksista (Studies of Aaltonen’s Hämeensilta Sculptures)

Wäinö Aaltonen – The Joy of Creating sheds light not only on the sculptor’s monumental projects but also on his creative process and views of the function of art manifested in smaller works that were unfettered by the restraints of public expectations. In these sculptures and paintings, Aaltonen got to experience the joy of creation, to boldly explore his limits, to experiment with contemporary forms of artistic expression like cubism and work with different materials. The unity of different forms of art – fine art, literature and music – and Aaltonen’s manifold representations of the female and male image and reinterpretations of these are also among the central themes of this exhibition.

The exhibition Wäinö Aaltonen – The Joy of Creating has been produced in cooperation with the Turku Museum Center. It will be the most extensive exhibition presenting his works outside the museum that bears his name since the 1990s. It is composed mainly of works in the collections of Turku City Museum and Tampere Art Museum. The City of Tampere acquired over 100 of Aaltonen’s works for its collection in 1961, when it was planned to establish a Wäinö Aaltonen museum in Tampere.