Tampere Art Museum opens 2 June with two exhibitions
Tampere Art Museum opens 2 June 2020 presenting two exhibitions. Covering two floors of the museum, the exhibition of Joseph Alanen (1885–1920) presents a wide selection of his works on Kalevala themes, but there are also depictions of folk life, religious subjects, prints and drawings. Tampere-based artist Ilkka Väätti (b. 1955) is known as a painter, graphic artist and builder of architectons. Ilkka Väätti’s exhibition Hommage presents his latest works from 2017-2020.
Joseph Alanen was one of the leading illustrators of the Kalevala, the national epic of Finland. Alanen has remained a mysterious figure to the general public in Finland, and neither is his art very well known. He has remained in the margins of Finnish art history largely because no comprehensive exhibition of his oeuvre has ever been held. Tampere Art Museum is now presenting him prominently and extensively on the occasion of the centennial of his death.
Compared with other illustrators of the Kalevala, Alanen’s way of depicting its heroes was completely his own. By studying research on folk poetry, ethnographic materials and historical publications, he sought personal insight into the world of the Kalevala. According to his interpretation, archaeological excavations and burial finds showed that the art of prehistoric times was abstract and that human emotions and reason had adapted completely to that form of depiction. In searching for his own Kalevala-based style, Alanen arrived at a stylised and decorative approach, with major influences from the Jugend (art nouveau) style.
Joseph Alanen died of the Spanish flu at the age of 34. Despite this, he managed to paint almost a hundred works on Kalevala themes and subjects. His great dream was to prepare an illustrated version of the Kalevala with an image for each of its fifty poems. The work was however interrupted by his early death.
The Hommage series of works that consists of over 30 paintings and two architectons is based on Väätti’s re-interpretations of the works of classics in the history of modern art as well as lesser known artists. Stylistically, the paintings they are based on represent geometrical abstractism and were created between the years 1906 and 1940.
In his artistic expression, Väätti operates between strict abstraction and freely reduced representational motifs. He has often picked a holistic character or a small detail from a historical work of art, then developed and interpreted it in his own way using his personal technique, in a new scale and context. Wassily Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian, Theo van Doesburg and other pioneers of geometrical abstraction have been paid homage in Väätti’s series of works. He equally highlights the female masters who were overshadowed by their male colleagues, such as Hilma af Klint, Olga Rozanova, Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Sonia Delaunay.
Väätti’s works have usually been produced using strong basic colours with a focus on geometrical surfaces, lines and the rhythm of composition. The paintings have been worked carefully and skilfully. They are more three-dimensional than the works they are based on, and their edges are often rounded. The base material is wood, which adds to the bas relief-like feel.
In addition to paintings, the exhibition includes two works Väätti calls architectons. These works combine the artistic expression of painting and sculpture.
Väätti studied at the Art School of Lahti in 1976-1979, at the Hungarian
University of Fine Arts in 1981, at the Institute of Fine Arts of the
Lahti University of Applied Sciences in 1994-1996 and at the Academy of
Fine Arts in 2001-2003. He began his career as an artist in the late
1970s. Väätti’s works have been displayed at dozens of private and group
exhibitions in Finland and internationally, and they are part of the
collections of some of the most prominent Finnish art museums. In
addition to his work as an artist, Väätti is known as a scholar of art
and history and as a visual arts pedagogist. He completed his Doctor of
Arts degree at the University of Lapland Faculty of Arts in 2012.