First published: Spring 2004
Finland’s exceptional and vibrant contemporary folk art is at last getting the attention it deserves. Exhibitions have recently been staged, and a major international conference, hosted by the newly-opened ITE-Contemporary Folk Art Museum, was held last spring. Photographer Veli Granö’s pioneering project ‘Onnela – A Trip to Paradise’, created nearly two decades ago, was the first exhibition and book to present contemporary Finnish folk art, and helped it to gain a wider acceptance.
In the summer of 1985 I began to photograph ensembles of works and yards by self-taught artists, art I then called ‘backyard art’. Over a period of three years, I photographed 45 artists and ensembles of works (exhibition held in 1986, book published in 1989). The project was motivated by my personal questions about the significance of art and my interest in how creativity emerges.
At that time, folk art, even in the form of photographs, aroused a great deal of resistance in Finland. Self-taught art had not been studied, though paintings by patients in mental hospitals had been on show in the 1970s. It wasn’t until the 1990s that there was a more tolerant attitude towards folk art in Finland.
This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #46