The popular summer show in Mäntyharju relies on its own taste and attractiveness.
Art Center Salmela Summer Exhibition 15.8. until (Mäntyharjuntie 25, Mäntyharju). Open every day from 11 am to 6 pm.
Art Center Salmela is a special case. As Finland’s largest visual arts festival, the number of visitors is staggering from year to year.
The idyllic location between the two lakes and the surroundings with their villas and gazebos invite you to make a summer trip to Mäntyharju, but of course the art on display is also liked and bought with obvious enthusiasm.
Critics, on the other hand, are less likely to be equally enthusiastic: Salmela’s exhibitions have been criticized over the years for commercialism, conservatism, and the demand for beauty and goodwill in the visual arts.
These elements are present in an ensemble of twenty different artists this year as well and crystallize in Salmela’s summer 2021 young artist Suvi Malekin in paintings. In the works depicting vanishing innocence, longing, hope, and the unknown, the ethereal female characters wrapped in fabrics pose by raising their faces or turning their backs on the self-intentionally enigmatic.
In contemporary art the most rewarding thing for myself is that it evokes thoughts, feelings, and more difficult-to-word movements or sensations, affect. Art can also get annoying, frustrating and challenging – in fact, that’s often when it offers great insights. It’s hard for me to get anything out of mere pictures or longing female characters.
The previous year won the first prize of the Salmela Young Artists Fine Art Competition Anna-Liisa Kankaanmäki depicts female figures in her paintings as well. In the masterpieces, nature is lush and lush, the light bright. At the same time, however, there is both some disturbing strangeness and an original intensity present in the paintings, and that is why they feel particularly fresh in Salmela as a whole.
Kankaanmäki Picnic on the grass (2020) refers directly to both its name and pictorial subject Edouard Manet‘n work Breakfast on the grass (1863), who also versions older garden party-themed works.
In both paintings, two men in suits and a naked woman sit on the grass with their fins. In Manet’s painting, breakfast is enjoyed surrounded by sturdy trees, while Kankaanmäki places a picnic with wine glasses in the middle of the paved streets and cityscape. Kankaanmäki sharply highlights both the way in which female figures are depicted in the canon of Western art history and the way in which and how people shape the environment.
Younger in addition to the artists, Salmela has a number of better-known names Reidar from Särestöniemi Inari Krohn and Rafael Wardiin. Marika Mäkelän the works form their own entity, similar to a carefully hung gallery exhibition. The works that blur the line between painting and sculpture entice you to take a closer look and sink into the abundance of detail.
Of the parallels created by hanging between different artists, the most functional and gratifying is definitely Nina Ternon bringing bronze sculptures into the same space as Reidar Särestöniemi’s colorful paintings.
The light shades of the frosty birches and bog tufts in Särestöniemi’s paintings meet the rough surface of the Terno bronze sculptures or the sheepskin coat and the indicative softness. For a while, they are like those born of the same material, as Terno’s horsemen and animals roam the Särestöniemi’s scenic birches, yankees and the middle of the fells.