Sunday, 22 April 2012

Helsinki: Kunsthalle, liquor store and milk

Kunsthalle Helsinki (or Helsingin Taidehalli in Finnish) at Nervanderinkatu 3 has a church-like atmosphere, perhaps because of the echo of footsteps on the stone floor and the height of the rooms upstairs. The tall window at the end of the hall resembles an altarpiece or a stained glass window (even without the stained glass). Appropriate for a temple of art, of course.  
The exhibition by Finnish artist Lauri Laine is called Paintings of Light and Space. Unfortunately, I soon realize that right now I'm more interested in the light and space of the building than of his artwork. This is my first visit to Kunsthalle and there's something so special about the place.
The paintings on the ceiling remind me of something. My thoughts escape back to my hometown Jyväskylä and specifically to Taulumäki church. Later, in my mind I also compare something in Kunsthalle also with Workers' Club (1925) at Jyväskylä, by Alvar Aalto. What do these places have in common? Certainly not the architect, because the architect of Taulumäki church (1928-29) was Elsi Borg, and Kunsthalle (1928) was designed by Jarl Eklund and Hilding Ekelund.  However, they all represent a trend of classicism.
On street level, behind the ticket office, there is a tiny exhibition space called Studio which now houses Heini Hölttä's photography exhibition, Selfportrait as a building: Oslo, Helsinki. There is something really charming about her photographs, and the atmosphere that you sense in them. It seems that Oslo is somewhat dearer to Hölttä than Helsinki.

The café at Kunsthalle is about to close its doors so I can't linger in the building much longer. I head away from the city streets, towards Hietaniemi and the seashore at Lapinlahti bay. Have to watch my step there; the cyclists zoom past very fast. Once back inside the fences of the cemetery, the gravel paths through Hietaniemi cemetery are guaranteed to provide you with peace and quiet, with just the occasional bird or a squirrel. So many lives, so many memories. Having reached the tombs of Finland's former presidents, I turn back towards the city center.
I walk through the busy Kamppi area and can already hear the traffic from Mannerheimintie street. The liquor store Alko Arkadia has simply but nicely decorated windows and if you look closely, you can see an interesting work of art on the wall inside. For a closer look, better step in! I think they used to make this kind of artwork in the 1970's?
The bottom corner of this work of art reveals that it was designed by Aleksi Hautamäki who has also done the interior design of this Alko flagship store. You don't necessarily have to enter a museum or a gallery to see interesting design / art: it can be found also in places like this even if this is not marked with the blue World Design Capital stickers.

Where to next? I choose Kalevankatu street and turn back towards the sea, this time to Hietalahti. In one window I notice a life-sized Spiderman that turns its head all of a sudden. Oh! The body painting job is nearly finished, and there are only some finishing touches to his face left and he'll be ready to go. The sun will set soon...
On Kalevankatu, there are many restaurants, shops and art galleries. At number 33 there is something missing though: the text in black on the wall says MAITOA - MJÖLK (MILK) but the dairy shop is long gone.
The next morning I'm reading the local newspaper (Helsingin Sanomat) and find a short article that features a picture of the same text MAITOA of the pretty building I stopped to look at yesterday. The story advertises Font walk which will help you pay attention to graphic design by looking at different fonts you meet on the way. The map will be available in April... Later the same day, I decide to ignore the rain and get my copy of the Font Walk map from Napa Gallery at Eerikinkatu street.
I close my umbrella and step inside. Napa Gallery is exciting but I feel stupid because I didn't read the article carefully enough; the Font Walk map won't be available until next Wednesday, April 25, 2012.  Sigh. Back into the rain.


  1. But now you have something to look forward to :)
    It is an interesting concept - Font Walk...

  2. You're right, Scott. Have to pick up the map the next time when I'm in Helsinki.