Sunday, 8 January 2012

Jyväskylä: Free art on the Epiphany

Finally the ground in Jyväskylä is covered by snow properly. The landscape is so pure and white that it feels like the first snow of the winter. After the unusually warm winter this is paradise! The amount of daylight is still scarce but having snow around you makes life much lighter.
The fresh snow covers some tall aspens in layers like mountainous whipped cream frosting spread randomly on the tree trunks.
The duckboards on the little shortcut path that connects Kortesuo to Viitaniemi are frozen solid under the snow. When the small forest was almost flooding a while ago, the water came right up to the duckboards, and eventually the slush froze, making the surface uneven. That's alright for those of us who are on foot, and we don't mind the narrow pathway. This is no highway anyway.

I step aside to give way to a passing cyclist who complains about the narrow track. Well, the wide asphalt bicycle / pedestrian path is only a 100 meters from here... I'm not in a rush and stop to have a look at the tiny brook which is slowly freezing over.

I reach Viitaniemi and turn left. On Taidepolku lane, a dwarf snowman does its best to scare passers-by.

Soon I arrive at Jaroslavl square (Jaroslavlin aukio) which honours Jyväskylä's twin city Jaroslalvl in Russia. In the shadow of the tallest building of this suburb, Viitatorni - designed by architect Alvar Aalto, there is a lower building which used to house a small supermarket before most people started to go grocery shopping by car. There is a candle burning outside the large windows. Is that an invitation? I step across the snow-covered square and try the door handle.

I get a warm welcome from the smiling lady in black. The newest art gallery in town has opened its doors only some days ago, on Jan 4, 2012. Galleria Variantti is run by Kauko Sorjonen Foundation, and it was founded in celebration of the local patron of the arts / businessman's 70th birthday. The opening exhibition Ihmisiä ja mielenmaisemia (People and landscapes of the mind) presents paintings and small sculptures by Finnish artists from Mr Sorjonen's collection, mostly from late 19th and early 20th century.
The artists include e.g. Ville Vallgren, Alvar Cawén and Fredrik Ahlstedt, but my favourites are Wilho Sjöström and impressionistic Kylpijä, a bathing lady, and especially the small oil paintings that remind me of the still summer evenings: Järvenranta kuutamossa (Lakeside in moonlight) by Hjalmar Munsterhjelm and Elokuun ilta (August evening) by Ellen Favorin.

Until now I've thought that Epiphany is a real Bank Holiday but the shopping bags carried by people who are returning from Jyväskylä city centre reveal that at least some shops are open. As I descend from Harju ridge to Kilpisenkatu street, I realize my wallet is at home so there is no chance for a hot cuppa or anything else that requires a bit of cash.
Luckily, there are things that you can do for free. On Kilpisenkatu street, there is a window display by the Craft Museum of Finland:  Eija Koski's works made of natural materials. The gorgeous, simple wreaths could be displayed at any time of the year but now they seem to spell Xmas. However, the soft and sweet wreath covered in catkins (above) makes you think of Easter... Among other materials, Koski has covered her wreaths in birch bark, dried mushrooms and seedcases.
A collection of delicate himmelis, traditional Xmas decorations made of straw, decorate the second window. 
I wonder what the red wrinkled balls in part of the largest himmeli are? Probably dried rosehips.
A couple of steps down and across the street, I arrive at Kauppakatu street. Taidemuseo Holvi, Jyväskylä Art Museum, seems to be open, but what about the entrance fee? Wait a minute, it is Friday and free entrance! It's my lucky day. Downstairs, there is a pretty desolate large work called The World by Noora ja Kimmo Schroderus. Black mountains, steel roads, wrecked cars, people frozen as statues. A dead world to me.

Upstairs, the world seems brighter. I sit down for six minutes to enjoy the enchanting flow of bluish-lilac images that have taken over the wall of the gallery and feel relaxation take over my body. Artist Jaana Partanen displays her works in Mental Alchemy - Harry Potter Layer (don't fancy the name of the exhibition but suppose it hints at the magical element) which is quite captivating. At the next floor, Partanen's exciting 3-D imagery tells individual stories in each photograph that you need to pass very slowly to see the changing images. Quite fantastic, and I love the colours. Science meets the dreamworld.

The last work of art I pause to look at is outside Taidemuseo Holvi, on its window. The lady at the ticket counter reveals that this is created by the staff of the museum who happened to decorate the frame in the spirit of Xmas for the holidays. Next week, there may be something totally different!

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