Monday, April 19, 2010

Paper Art and Quilting

During this project I have been very inspired by the art of quilting and paper cutting, I find that there is a traditional quality to them which would also work well with my project. I love that each method demands a significant amount of time on details which often go unnoticed, but are crucial to the end result.

the history of quilting is especially interesting, from the quilts exhibition at th Victoria and Albert i learnt that quilts often tell stories, or give clues about the quilters life- for example, some women used love letters for the backing paper in quilting squares. Quilting of course, like all art forms has really developed, as you can see from the image below:

‘At the End of the Day’, hanging, Natasha Kerr, 2007. Museum no. T.43-2008

Out of all the paper artists whose work i have looked into, Rob ryans has been most influential to me. It has a very strong story telling element to it, and as this is what I aim to do in my project, I am very intrigued by it.

Finnish-Soviet Kalevala Movie

The above clip is the trailer for the Finnish-Soviet 1959 movie 'Sampo'

Interestingly enough, the storyline in this movie dosn't follow that of the Kalevala that has been published, though elements of it are directly derived from it. However, the Kalevala text compiled by Elias Lönrott is a limited selection of the whole body of Kalevala, that were manipulated in order for the storyline to work. It is my guess that the story which the movie follows is still based on a story form the Kalevala, but not from one which is available today. Also, as the Kalevala was an oral history, much has been lost.

The storyline of the movie must be very difficult for a foreigner to follow- the concept of what a sampo is is hardly dealt with, being a familiar concept to Finnish viewers. The Sampo is in Finnish mythology the 'lid' of the sky, and a sort of pole, which when turns produces riches such as grain and gold. In my mind, this looks something like an spinning umbrella. The holy grail (christian) and Cornucopia (greek) play similar roles in the mythologies of other cultures.

The dialogue in the movie is structured in the same way that it is in the Kalevala- this is not apparent in the English subtitles as they are not written to rhyme in the same way. For me, the movie also gives insight into the way that the world of the Kalevala looked, (though clearly it is not accurate, as it is only a movie), it is hard to find sources showing costume and general lifestyle elements of archaic Finland, where the movie is set. To someone not Finnish it would also be insightful to see the landscape in which the story took place.

Some of the scenes echo the same aesthetic in that of Axel Gallen-Kallelas work. (see previous post) Once I finish documenting most of my visual sources I would love to work with some stills from this film.

Movie (with English subtitles)
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Also, check out the US movie poster!

The names of the Finnish-Russian actors have been renanamed as Americans! ie, Andris Oshin is now Jon Powers... which I suppose is understandable considering the time period, but I think its a shame that the only way that the movie was released internationally was as a horror, not a cultural experience.

Because the Kalevala was originally told as an oral history, I have been researching into Finnish Folk music to further understand how it would have sounded. The Above youtube channel is dedicated to finnish folk music.

Today is the Day...

... that I start documenting my gallery visits!

Today at group crit I realized that although I have researched into visual sources I have not documented them. During my week long trip to Helsinki I went three galleries, Kiasma, Kansallis, and Ateneum, which I will now briefly discuss in order of relevance to my FMP.


The Atenuem Gallery mostly consists of Finnish Art by artists who began their careers before 1960 (their successors are housed in Kiasma Museum of Contemporary art). Though it was great to see some of my old favorites, the Gallery has now organized a wing exhibiting art specifically inspired by the Kalevala. At the same time when the Kalevala as a work of literature started gaining popularity in Finland, so did it's influence in Finnish Art. Probably the most notable Finnish artist to first approach the subject is Axel Gallen-Kallela. His 'Aino Triptych' (below, currently exhibited at the Ateneum) is probably the first work of art based on the Kalevala that I remember seeing in my childhood. The piece tells the story of Aino, who doesn't want to marry the Hero of the Kalevala (first panel), so she drowns herself (last panel). (The idea of young women escaped the fate of marrying an unwanted suitor by drowning constantly reoccurs in the Kalevala, references to 'free water maidens' is also another constant- it is in a way a symbol of freedom). The center panel illustrates a scene where Väinämöinen is rowing and sees Aino as a fish, and attempts to capture her again. I love the presentation of the work- it is not set in chronological importance, which seems to bring attention to the second time the hero loses Aino. The extract from the Kalevala dealing with this piece is written on the wood, but the relationship between the text is subtle.

I am really interested the general aesthetic of Axel Gallen-Kallelas work, (below)and would be very interestd in trying to work a similar style with a different medium (ie paper).

"defence of the sampo"

"Mother of Lemminkäinen"

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lovely Quote

'The time will pass away
the fair day will flee
and the night will come panting
and the twilight steal in
if you don't sing while you live
nor hum in this world.'

(Cantos 42:235-240)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I was inspired to make that short animation after seeing the following Animation by Andersen M Studio (Amazing!) :

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

In the Beginning... Finnish creation myth

The world was (partially) created when a bored air-goddess falls to earth, during her fall she is impregnated (?!), and when on earth she begins to give birth for 700 years, and with each movement creates a land formation. During this time, a bird also lands on her knee to nest. When the goddess moves the eggs fall and crack, the yolk's becoming the sun, the moon, the heaven, the earth, stars and clouds.

extract showing how different elements of land are formed:
"Where she turned her hand around
there she arranged the headlands;
where her foot touched the bottom,
there she dug up the fish troughs;"
... the text goes on to describe how each of her movements formed a separate element of the Finnish landscape.

This creation myth holds very powerful visual imagery to me, and would be fascinating to work with more in depth. However, I think it is very hard to relate to with a personal viewpoint. (Though the idea of fertility could be interpreted in a modern perspective)

The Kalevala

Its about time I put what I want to do for my FMP into words- before I trap myself into listing a mess of approaches and ideas.

Basically, I want to work with the text Kalevala. The Kalevala is a Romantic Epic set in Ancient Finland. It was only collated (by Elias Lönnrot) in 1849, before which it was passed on by oral tradition. Not only has the Kalevala impacted all elements of Finnish culture, it provoked the nationalism leading to Finnish independence in 1917. Published at a time of severe Russification, when any ambitious Finn had no chance of success with a Finnish name, The Kalevala was a source of pride when such sentiments were unheard of.

"A nation that had created the Kalevala, they repeatedly told themselves, was not destined to die."
William A Wilson

The Kalevala been the inspiration for nearly all of Finlands artistic achievements, such as the music of Jean Sibelius, and the paintings of Axel Gallen Kallela. Interest in the Kalevala continues to accelerate, making its way to pop culture in the form of music and even Kung fu movies, and outside the borders of Finland. For example, J.R.R.Tolkein based many of his characters directly from the Kalevala, his interest highlighted by the fact that he even learnt Finnish so that he could read the text in its original form.

The following extract from Atenuem Gallery directer shows an interesting viewpoint on the relationship between the Kalevala and Finnish culture :

"There is no 'right-way' to interpret the Kalevala. The epic has meant many different things at different times, and has given rise to a wide range of powerful interpretations. Reading the work creates personal images, and its stories have personal meanings for each of us. In any case, as part of the history of Finnish art, works based on the Kalevala have created have created clear ideas about what the epic 'looks like'. The Kalevala lives on in advertising, popular culture, music, and film. It continues to shape our ideas about Finland and what it means to be Finnish. One art form gives rise to another: Literature influences the visual arts."
(Maija Tanninen Mattila, 2009)

I find that the Kalevala can hold important significance to those who aren't culturally obligated to relate to it. It is my opinion that the reason the work has survived, let alone been able to grow in popularity, is because the chracters and situations are strong steotypes and hold important lessons which are timeless. Similar stories to those which are in the Kalevala exist in all cultures. Though my opinion may be far fetched, I would like to think that the Kalevala is a manifestation of characters and their stories that will always survive the test of time because they will always be relevant to human nature, though sometimes under a different name.

I would like my FMP to have an interactive element, and if successful, have people relate to the characters on a personal level. I am surprised there is not a lot of work attempting to bridge the time gap- to encourage the interpretation of the Kalevala on a personal level. Right now, it seems creating a interactive 'final piece' would best achieve this. One significant obstacle to work around is the length of the text- i cannot possibly create a work of quality illustrating/communicating all 667 pages of the Kalevala in 6 weeks.

The idea of working with paper also interests me, as it seems it would be reflective of my thematic aim. Paper is an old and traditional medium, and by working it with modern techniques i may subtly hint at the purpose for the work. Also, I feel that working with a traditional medium would help put me into the right mindset for interpreting the Kalevala while I work.

an example from the Kalevala:
"Words shall not be hid
nor spells be buried;
might shall not sink underground
thought the mighty go."

Monday, April 5, 2010


This is a quick animation i did to experiment a differnt approach in working with images.