May 24, 2024

Leena Nio, Kimara mosaiikkinäyttely / Kimara mosaic exhibition

pictures courtesy of Raya Kalioinen, MSL

Jokela is a community with about 6,000 inhabitants, part of the Finnish municipality of Tuusula, located about 50 km north of Helsinki.

Life and works

Leena Nio was born in Jokela in 1963. 

She already showed artistic talent as a young girl when she became a winner in a drawing competition for children.  And as a high school student she won a prize in a photo-taking competition that included a three-week trip to Canada.

In 1979 and 1980 she spent a year in the United States as part of a student exchange program. In that context, she also learned to speak English well.

Leena apparently enjoyed traveling, because she subsequently spent a few summers in Germany and then moved to Paris, where she stayed for eight years and taught English.

In 2004, still living in Paris, she had an experience that was of great significance for the rest of her life: 
her dormant passion for making mosaic was sparked.

There is a story that says that when entering a small Parisian art shop, she realized that this was the world that actually suited her. Leena herself said in a publication that she was triggered by an article about the French mosaic artist Virginie Loÿ.

Either way, the experience led her to decide to return to Finland to work there as a non-professional mosaic maker.

She was welcome to return to the home of her parents, who meanwhile had retired and who enjoyed having her around in the house that was large enough to provide her with not only shelter, but also a place to work as an artist. 

Moreover, the house was located in a rural area slightly outside the built-up area of Jokela and there was sufficient green space to install any larger creations.

The photos in this post show that this space has been gratefully used indeed. 

From the moment Leena Nio started making mosaics, a colorful exhibition of mosaics with a wide variety of attractive works came about in the green area around the house.

Circular signs with mosaic, mounted on small posts, decorate a lawn near the house in a special way, as shown in the image above, while as in the image below, the wall of a shed near the house is decorated with mosaic on a surface in all kinds of shapes,

Nowadays there is also a 500 meter long walking path available, along which mosaic creations are displayed.

* Website of MSL with info about openings dates and hours in 2024
* Website of Middle of Nowhere with a variety of pictures and a page about the Art Trail
* Website by Leena Nio, with an extensive presentation of her mosaics and some personal notes

 * Video (December 2023, YouTube, 0.59) by Middle of Nowhere

* Video (September 2023, YouTube, 1'27") by Maaseudun Sivistysliitto (MSL)

Leena Nio
Kimara mosaic exhibition
Tiensuuntie 112
Jokela, part of Tuusula, dept Uusimaa, region Southern-Finland, Finland
can be visited, see this website for opening hours
Google Streetview, with a series of photos of the site

May 17, 2024

Pietro Aurelio Antonutti, Facciata decorata della sua casa / Decorated facade of his house

this picture and the next three: screenprints from Google Streetview

The mosaic-decorated house pictured above is located in the small Italian village of Blessano, which is part of the municipality of Basiliano, located northeast of Venice.

Life and work

Pietro Aurelio Antonutti (1919-1990) was born in Basiliano. He married and the couple got children. The family lived in a house along Via Pantianicco in the small village of Blessano, part of the municipality of Basiliano.

He had a great deal of manual dexterity, which came in handy not only in the various jobs he had, but especially once he retired and started to focus on all kinds of artistic activities.

His retirement started in late 1950s, when he was forty years old and had health problems due to the heavy work in a quarry in France where he worked for a while.

Not being a man to do nothing, he and a son set to work in the house to provide the interior of the house with new home-made furniture. 

Antonutti also started making paintings, and thanks to the son, who attended an arts and crafts school specializing in mosaic and terrazzo; he became familiar with the technical side of mosaic making.

This led to the first major project with which he came out. 

Between 1975 and 1981 he decorated the 10 by 7 meter facade of his house with mosaic scenes.

Using colored silicon plates crumbled into small pieces, he gradually filled the facade with a large number of individual scenes, as shown in the accompanying images. 

There are images of Venice, as below, and other landscapes, as above, but also all kinds of religious scenes, and images of family members, friends and acquaintances.

When the decoration of the facade was completed in 1981, Antonutti devoted himself to making several standalone creations, such as a wooden nativity scene (gifted to Pope John II), a depiction of the flight into Egypt of Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus (in the church of the city of Udine), a representation of the last meal of Jesus and his disciples (in the council chamber of Basiliano) and of the fourteen stations along the way of the cross (in the parish of Blessano).

Pietro Aurelio Antonutti died in 1990 at the age of 71. 

His family tries to maintain the mosaic decorations on the facade of the family home as best as possible

* Article with photos on the website Costruttori di Babele
* Article by Giada Carraro on the website Bric-à-Brac Italia

Pietro Aurelio Antonutti
Mosaic decorated facade of his house 
Via Pantianicco
Blessano, part of Basiliano, dept Udine, region Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy
can be seen from the road

May 10, 2024

Pekka Helenius, Tao Tao Puisto / Tao Tao Art park

this picture and the next five courtesy of Pekka Helenius
as published on Google Streetview

Located in the Greater Helsinki region, Nurmijärvi with its more than 44,000 inhabitants, is one of the largest rural municipalities in Finland.

The community, with characteristic village centers, is close to nature, for example in the Kaukkala agglomeration of Nurmijärvi, there is a wooded area.

An art environment in a forest

In this forest the Tao Tao Art park is located, an art environment shaped from the mid-1990s by Pekka Helenius, assisted by his wife Anne. 

The site was only recently given that name. In October 2021, the then designation Spiru's workshop was changed into Tao Tao, and this name was upgraded to Tao Tao Art Park in May 2022.

The site became better known in Finland and beyond through an inventory study aimed at expressions of ITE art (=outsider art) in the Uusimaa region (2022-2024), carried out by the Finnish Association for Rural Culture and Education MSL.

Life and works

Pekka Helenius, who created this art environment, was born in 1966.

He had a difficult childhood because he was bullied at school and his parents didn't notice that or were unable to help him. In the years that followed the period at school, the effects of that bullying led to a less stable, vulnerable life for Helenius, often with pain.

However, this ailment went away after Helenius in the mid-1990s started creating an art environment in the forest of Kaukkala. About this Helenius himself said on Facebook:
I've been doing this job for almost 30 years, due to illness I couldn't move forward.
I've been making creations in the Tao Tao park for a while at the workshop even in a lot of pain. The disease has been defeated and quite simply, nobody noticed.

Helenius did a training as a shoemaker and during that training he also got lessons in working with iron. 

The blacksmith skills he acquired from these lessons served him well when he became active in adding  decorations to the art environment.

The site includes a forge where Helenius assembles metal creations in many sizes and appearances, that get a place in the park. 

As materials he uses all kinds of metal items such as pieces of scrap metal, parts of cutlery and horseshoes, in short, everything that can be processed in a forge.

His collection of sculptures, both small ones such as an ensemble of six spoons and large ones such as a metal bush with waving branches, includes several hundred creations that are placed in the forest along a rocky and stony path.

Pekka himself says that his subconscious thoughts become visible in his creations. 

When he is forging iron, he is simultaneously shaping his feelings. The Tao Tao park can be seen as a representation of a kind of knitting, in which the visitor can see visions or make unexpected discoveries.

this picture courtesy of Pekka Helenius
as published on his Facebook account

Located in a forest, the art environment managed by Pekka and Anne Helenius offers visitors the opportunity to relax and reflect all year round and in changing seasons.

Article by Veli Granö on MSL website
* Announcement with info about contact on MSL website

* Video (October 2023, YouTube, 2'43") by MSL

Pekka and Anne Helenius
Tao Tao Art park
Julmankalliontie 2
Nurmijärvi, dept Uusimaa, region Southern Finland,  Finland
guided tours for a small fee, on appointment

May 03, 2024

Pierre Auger, Le Mont Saint Michel en miniature / Mont Saint Michel in miniature

photos published here in agreement with the photographer
Francis David, as on the website Habitants-Paysagistes, LAM

Saint-Marcan is a small village with about 400 inhabitants, located in Brittany, France, about 12 km as the crow flies south-west of the well known French tourist spot Mont Saint-Michel, pictured above in a miniature version 

Because the area north and northeast of Sant-Marcan is virtually unbuilt and mainly includes pasture and agricultural areas, the Bay of St. Michel can be seen unobstructed from the slightly higher located village Saint-Marcan. 

And from some places in the village, on clear days Mont Saint-Michel itself can also be seen.

Life and works

The miniature version of the Mont Saint-Michel was created by Pierre Auger (1920-2001). the man in the red sweater in the top photo.
He  was a farmer, running a farm located at some distance from Saint-Marcan. However, he saw himself more as a handyman and builder of large and small creations. He loved working with pebbles, cement, slate and concrete blocks and built a stone (holiday) house and a wooden creperie in Saint-Marcan.

Auger probably chose that village because it was home to many holidaymakers, who provided a welcome public for the art environment he built in the area at the foot of the house.
The image above gives an impression of this site, which on the left side includes the miniature St. Michel, while more in the distance an oval space can be seen, walled and with some mini-towers, as pictured below.

Auger started the project in the year 1968, when he was in his late forties. 

The most impressive part, which also had its own place with accompanying entourage, was the miniature replica of Mont Saint Michel. a creation with a height of about two meters, which, as he has said, took 1,000 hours of work.

The separate walled part of the site was mainly intended to entertain children. They could take a ride on a decorated bicycle, there was a mechanical horse that could make all kinds of movements, there were ropes hanging vertically in a scaffold so that you could climb up, there was also a kind of railway train. 

Children had a great time and nearby neighbors heard them roaring with laughter.

The site also had some miniature creations, mainly depicting well-known buildings in Normandy and Brittany, such as the churches of Pontorson and Saint-Brice-en-Coglès

Pierre Auger died in 2001. 

After that, visitors could visit the site for a number of years, but in 2008 it was permanently closed, also for safety reasons, and fell into disrepair. The newspaper  mentioned in the documentation, has a photo from 2021 showing a completely overgrown mini-Mont Saint-Michel.

* Pictures of the site by Francis David on the website Habitants-Paysagistes by the Lille Art Museum 
* Article on the website of newspaper

Pierre Auger

Mont Saint-Michel in miniature

Saint-Marcan, dept. Ille-et-Vilaine, region Brittany, France

site in disrepair, no visits

April 26, 2024

Guy Souhard, Créations sur la haie, dans le jardin de devant et à l'intérieur / Creations on the hedge, in the front garden and indoors

all pictures courtesy of Sophie Lepetit 
from her weblog 

The decorated hedge pictured above could be seen in Saint-Berthevin, a municipality with around 7400 inhabitants, in the Mayenne department in France, bordering the large city of Laval on the west side.
This hedge was part of a larger art environment, created by the resident of the house behind the hedge, Guy Souhard (1932-2020).

Life and works

Guy Souhard. born in this area, after primary school became a carpenter, working in Laval. 

He retired in 1992 and a few years later, in 1997 when he was 65 years old, he started decorating the front garden of the house in Saint-Berthevin where he and his wife were now living. Their house was located on a corner where two streets intersected. 

As the images above show, it's a special feature of Souhard's creation that he provided the semi-circular cedar hedge around the house with bas-reliefs. This is a way of decoration that has not yet appeared in this weblog and also in France such a decoration occurs very rarely. 

Souhard initially performed the operations with a hand scissor, later he used an electric tool.

The front garden, which could be reached via a gate in the hedge, was decorated with colorful creations, many of which depict all kinds of personalities known in France. such as Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot, but there are also international characters, such as Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy.

There was also a meters-high giraffe, made entirely of aluminum. And the ostrich in the image below was made from 1,200 individual feathers, a creation that took 240 hours of work. 

There were two horses made of metal, dolls in trees and a monkey climbing on a deer.

the ostrich

The interior was also full of all kinds of things, mostly from flea markets or found somewhere by chance. 

All kinds of items were gathered together on shelves and on the furniture, such as dolls, toys, a collection of telephones and cameras, and so on......

In 2018, when the art environment had been a familiar phenomenon in the municipality for some twenty years, a representative of the city council reported that a complaint had been received about the hedge

The rules had been checked and Souhard was asked to reduce the height of the hedge to 1.60 meters as permitted in the regulations. Since that would mean that most of the greenery would be lost and mainly the wooden trunks would remain, Souhard decided with a heavy heart to remove the hedge.

Souhard himself was too old to do such a job, but his son and grandson offered a helping hand. The hedge was removed and (with the cooperation of the municipality) a white fence replaced it.

Rather shortly after all this, on November 28, 2020, Guy Souhard passed away, aged 88.

The decorations in the front garden have now been removed.

* Article (November 2012) in newspaper Ouest-France
* Article (April 2015) and an update (April 2018) on the weblog of Sophie Lepetit

Guy Souhard
Creations on the hedge, in the front garden and indoors
rue Madame de Sévigné, corner avenue du Maréchal Leclerc 
53940 Saint-Berthevin, dept. Mayenne,  region Pays de la Loire, France
the site doesn't exist anymore

April 19, 2024

Teijo Monni & Pertti Riikonen, Middle of Nowhere Taidepuisto / Middle of Nowhere Art park

pictures published here in agreement
with Middle of Nowhere

In a wooded area in the village Kaukanen in Finland, 50 km north of Helsinki, work is currently underway on the design of a park exposing outsider art (ITE-art in Finnish). This park, new in the field of Finnish art environments, will be officially opened on June 29, 2024.

The initiators

It is a project undertaken by two entrepreneurs,  Teijo Monni who was a wholesaler of office supplies for over twenty years and Pertti Riikonen, who was an electrician by training and had a business in that field.

Inspired by the publications of the Finnish organization Maaseudun Sivistysliitto (Rural Culture Association) that promotes ITE art in Finland, they visited art environments and studios in that field to take photos and then it happened that they gradually became great enthusiasts of this form of art.

Creating an art park

Their enthusiasm went so far that they decided to quit their current jobs and start working on the realization of a park where ITE art would be exposed.

A daring undertaking indeed. The two initiators also thought so .....

Anyway, they bought a wooded site of two hectares near Kaukasten and began working on this project in November 2022. 

The site included an old, abandoned farmhouse and a barn, that needed to be renovated. But these buildings also included many old items that could be used. There is also a beautiful apple orchard.

Now, almost a year and a half after the start of the project, the park is beginning to take the shape that the two initiators had in mind. The existing accommodations have been renovated and made suitable to receive visitors, provide refreshments, repairing bicycles and so on.

Paths have been laid out, along which visitors can take a walk to take a look at.....well, that is the most surprising happening of the past period:.....various ITE artists have contributed in many ways to enriching the park with sculptures and other creations, both for permanent placement in the park and for contributions to intended stand-alone exhibitions.

Meanwhile, the park already has a large number of sculptures. For example, the family of ITE artist Pekka Lampinen donated sculptures and other work to the park after his death, a gesture based on the expectation that they will be better maintained in the park then in their own environment.

The second photo from the top shows an airplane painted in many colors, a creation by ITE-artist Paula Huhtanen.

The three-time chainsaw champion Juha Käkelä contributed some image-defining works, namely Big Foot and Green Man.

Big Foot, pictured above, now accompanies the large Middle of Nowhere nameplate seen in the photo at the very top.

The Green Man, pictured above Big Foot, is a large pine that grew on the property and had to be felled. This tree had a rare three-armed top and, after being processed by Käkelä , is now exhibited in an inverted position as a three-meter-high Green Man with a triple beard. 

The Green Man, usually depicted with a face made of leaves and the like, is a legendary creature, often seen as a symbol of rebirth or the dawn of spring.

The park now has a collection of almost a hundred sculptures and other creations, made by about twenty artists. They are partly located in the vicinity of the main building where refreshments are available, and partly along the recently constructed walking path as shown in the photo above.

Photos of the creations can also be seen on the Facebook site of the art park, but given the atmosphere provided by the wooded area, there is a lot to be said for seeing the creations in reality

The opening season will feature all artists who have so far been nominated for ITE artist of the year. They are presented on the park's website

* Article (September 2023) in Finnish journal Helsingin Uutiset

* Video (December 2020, YouTube, 1'54") by Middle of Nowhere

Teijo Monni and Pertti Riikonen
Middle of Nowhere Art park
Koskenmaantie 187,
village of Kaukaasa, part of Hyvinkää, region Uusimaa, Finland
park will be open for the public from June 29, 2024

April 12, 2024

Anonymous, Mini vodní mlýny obydlené pohádkovými postavami / Mini watermills populated by fairytale characters

all pictures courtesy of Justyna Orlovska,
from her website Off the Beaten Track

On her website Off the Beaten Track, which has existed since 2013, Justyna Orlovska describes deserted and unusual places she encounters on her travels through various European countries. 

It often happens that she discovers creations that are also worth mentioning in a blog about art environments. 

Recently an article appeared on her website about miniature watermills along a stream in the Czech Republic. 

In terms of the field of art environments, such miniatures belong to the category of singular architecture.

 So a signaling of her article about these creations fits in with this weblog.

The two miniature watermills are located in a wooded area in the Havlíčkův Brod District in the Czech Republic. Who made the creations isn't clear and where they exactly are located is deliberately not stated, this because of the vulnerability of the creations.

The wooden miniature watermills are decorated with small sculptures depicting all kinds of Czech fairytale characters. 

A surprising feature of these figures is that they make movements, driven by a paddle wheel in the flowing stream.

Watch the video below and enjoy the scene !

Miniature scenes with all kinds of characters moving on flowing water are rare in the field of art environments. In my blog a post is dedicated to Vincent Navratil who put together such a creation in the community of Vir, also located in the Czech Republic

* Article (April 2, 2024) by Justyna Orlovska on her website Off the Beaten Track

* Video (April 2024, YouTube, 3'08") by Justyna Orlovska

Mini watermills populated by fairytale characters
hidden somewhere in the 
Havlíčkův Brod District, Vysočina region, Czech Republic