June 21, 2024

Heikki Meriläinen, Maalauksia, piirustuksia ja veistoksia / Paintings, drawings and sculptures


images (by Veli Granö) published here in agreement with the
Finnish Association for Rural Culture and Education (MSL)

Characterized by a large number of hand-made artistic items in both the interior and exterior, Heikki Merilainen's house is located in Hanko, a town with approximately 8,000 inhabitants on the south coast in the far west of Finland.

Life and works

Meriläinen, currently in his mid-80s, was born in 1938 on the other side of the country in Tuupovaara, a community in North Karelia in eastern Finland, near the border with Russia.

He grew up in a farming community, and because it was wartime, many young fathers had been drafted to serve in the military.

After primary school Meriläinen studied to become a construction draftsman and architect.





Once qualified, Meriläinen moved to the city of Hanko, where he started working as an architect. 

The family lived in a house designed by Meriläinen and built with his own hands. It became a nice, light house with a studio, which he needed for his work. But not only that, he also had the studio because he had become interested in art and wanted to be creatively active. He had therefore previously taken a course by correspondence in art history and artistic design.

In his spare time he made sculptures, paintings and drawings. 

Images in this article show some of the sculptures he made. All in all a considerable amount, not too large qua format, quite expressive and partly mounted on the wall of a shed near the house, a method of exhibition we see more often in Finland.

In his paintings and drawings he depicted Finnish landscapes that no longer exist in that capacity and also Finnish ways of life that are now lost, such as horses pulling sleds, however not in a nostalgic style, but rather with a timeless character.

Nowadays Meriläinen lives alone in his house. 
  

Documentation
Article by Heini Heikkilä on the website of the Finnish Association for rural culture 
and education MSL  

Heikki Meriläinen
Paintings, drawings and sculptures
No address available
Hanko, region Uusimaa, Finland 

June 14, 2024

Josian Izoird, La cabane de Josian à la Pointe Courte / Josian's cabin at Pointe Courte


images are screenprints from the video in the documentation

Facing the Mediterranean Sea, Sète is a town with just under 45,000 inhabitants (2021) in the south of France in the Hérault department. The city is located at the beginning of a long dam, running parallel to the coastal strip. Between this strip and the dam is a lagoon or inland sea.

A small area of ​​the city, called Pointe Courte (Short Tip), which extends into this inland sea, has traditionally been a place where fishermen live and hang their nets to dry and where a variety of cabins lines the waterfront. 

The image above shows one of these cabins, topic in this post. More pictures, giving an impression of the area, can be seen on  Google Streetview. 


The cabin in the picture is Josian's cabin, a shelter that Josian Izoird, who was born in Sète in 1954, uses as a studio.

As a young man he was already interested in artistic activities, but following an education in visual art was out of reach for him. 

So he became a fisherman. 










Once retired, probably around 2014, he was able to devote himself to artistic activities. 

The images around give an impression of the kind of artworks he made.


However, he also used the space in front of the cabin, which was public area, as a place to display all kinds of more or less artistic objects. 

This exhibition outside of the studio grew steadily.


Local residents had different opinions about the display, some were sympathetic, but others thought it was just a mess. 

And so it happened that at the end of 2017 the latter residents turned to the local authorities with a complaint about the display. 

Around Christmas Sètes' local authorities gave order to remove all items exposed in the public space.

the French text says: forbidden to annoying people

In part of the art world in Sète, this led to expressions of support for Izoird, especially from Pascal Larderet, who from 2008 for fifteen years caused a lot of cultural commotion in Sète with his Cacahuète company. 

In defense and support of artists like Izoird, an account was opened on Facebook entitled Front de Libération de l'Art Modeste (Front for the Liberation of Modest Art) and on May 1, 2018 a festive meeting (see images on FB) was organized near Izoird's workshop, where the exterior decoration had been reduced to a minimum.

After this festival, Joseph Izoird continued his artistic activities more or less quietly in the following years.

The display along the street has returned, with a more modest, but still colorful design. Kind of a small-scale art environment. 

 

Documentation 

* Article in the Francebleu news magazine about the removal of the decorative items outside the barn and the subsequent development of a counter-movement
Account on Facebook of the Front de libération de l'art modeste (Modest Art Liberation Front)  

Video 

* Video (May 2023, YouTube, 4'09") by Jean Michel Guidez




Joseph Izoird

Josian's cabin at Pointe Courte

195 Allée du Jeu de Boules, Sète, dept Hérault, region Occitanie, France

can be seen from the street
Google Streetview with visitors watching the display and a photo of one of the items

June 07, 2024

Josep Almar, Museu del Rat Penat de Mascanada / El Rat Penat Museum of Mascanada


 all images courtesy of Dominique Clement, as on Facebook


Near the small valley Mascanada in the countryside west of Sant Feliu de Guíxols, a town of almost 22,000 inhabitants (2016) in Catalonia, Spain, not far from the border with France, there is a museum called Rat Penat Museum of Mascanada

The decorated building shown above is part of the site where the museum is located.

Created by the museum's owner, Josep Almar, these decorations are so numerous and of such a signature that all together they form a special art environment.

Life and works

Josep Almar was born in Sant Feliu de Guixols in 1949. He left primary school a year earlier than usual and subsequently he had all kinds of professions, such as mechanic, electrician and plumber.

In 1972, when he was 27, Josep married Mariángela Sayols Dausa. They had a daughter and a son.

Almar wanted to build a beautiful house, something like a palace, for his family. To this end, he bought a piece of land in 1974 near the Mascanada  Valley. There, helped by some friends, he built a two-storey house.


After 15 years, of marriage, Josep and his wife separated, without an official divorce, because Mariangela wanted to live again in the center of Sant Feliu de Guíxols. Probably a few years later his son and daughter also started living independently and then Almar lived alone in the house.


He had developed a hobby involving collecting objects and instruments in all kinds of areas, such as old machines, tools and scale models of ships.


And now he got the idea to turn the house into a museum, where he could exhibit his collection


Almar transformed the five rooms of the living area of ​​the house into museum halls, where he installed paintings his father had made and all the special items he had collected in previous years.

After years of preparation, the museum was officially opened on July 15, 2007. Almar was then 60 years old and in all likelihood he was retired by now







After seven years, in 2014, the museum was closed.
 
This probably had to do with the fact that Almar wanted to spend all his time in transforming the one hectare of land on which the museum was located, into an art environment.

However, from 2014 onwards it could happen that interested parties got access to the museum, but only if this was suitable for Almar in terms of realizing the art environment.


As the images in this article show, creating the art environment was an extensive project, which included not only decorating all kinds of buildings on the site, but also creating new decorative items, such as the animal in the image below.

Both the existing buildings and the stand-alone items are  lavishly decorated. 

Working with colored pieces of mosaic (trencadis in Spain) plays an important role and flower decorations are a popular item.


What will happen to the museum and the art environment if Almar is no longer here, has not yet been arranged. Family members have already indicated that they do not want a role in this. 

The municipality seems to be positive about a takeover, but nothing has been officially recorded yet and in addition, the municipality has mainly shown itself to be interested in some parts of the museum, and seems less interested in the maintenance of the entire complex.

 

Documentation
* Weblog by Josep Almar, 2008-2016
* Facebook of the Rat Penat Museum
* Article (undated) by Anna Jurado on her website, with a series of photos
Article (June 2018) on local newspaper Guixols des del Carrer-ECP
Article (September 2019) in regional newspaper El Pont Avui
Article (June 2023) about Josep Almar's creation by Jo Farb Hernandez in her book 
   Singular Spaces II, pp 288-299
Article (August 2023) on the newspaper of Ràdio Capital, with a series of photos 

Video
* Video (2015, YouTube, 8'37") by Josep Almar

 

Josep Almar
Rat Penat Museum of Mascanada
Camino de les Comes, 16
Sant Feliu de Guíxols, dept Girona, region Catalunya, Spain
visiting the museum only if Almar agrees
most decorations can be seen from the road
Google Streetview with some 250 photos

May 31, 2024

Jaroslav Horák, Umělecká prostředí v Černilově / Art environments in Černilov

unless stated otherwise, images are courtesy of Jaroslav Horák


The community of Černilov with about 2,200 inhabitants in the east of the Czech Republic, can boast of the presence of two art environments.


These sites were created from the early years of the 21st century by Jaroslav Horák, who lives in Černilov and was born into a family of millers.



The art environment with a mill 

and an area named Pohádkov (Fairy Tales)

Jaroslav Horák owned a piece of grassland just outside the village, along the road from Černilov to Libřantice. 

This meadow was no longer used for grazing cattle and there was only some dilapidated shed. 

Around 2011 Horák decided to renovate this shed, but the renovation wasn't just a matter of repair, it rather was a creative project, as a result of which the shed became a house with a lovely appearance, beautifully designed, especially with regard to the windows.


As the above image shows, near the now renovated and embellished barn, there is an area with arrangements of small-scale decorative wooden creations, made by Horák himself, This are was named Pohádkov, which means Fairy Tales 

There are all kinds of fairytale items here, such as mushrooms, strange trees and giant flowers. 

Children of visitors can have fun here to their heart's content, such as playing hide and seek, using the many bushes to hide.


As the images show, the colorful elements are characteristic of the art environments created by Jaroslav Horák. 

They can also be found, for example, on the entrance gate, which has been decorated with colored round plates.  


In 2016, Horák started a big project that he had dreamed of for a long time. On the highest part of the meadow he built the mill that would become rather iconic for Černilov

Just as the renovated shed, the mill is characterized by colorful accents, such as the blades that are colored at the ends. These blades can rotate, but they do so powered by an electric motor.

The tower has three floors, is 13.5 meters high and has a diameter of 8 meters. The blades are 12 meters long. The interior of the mill includes a gallery with photos of interesting and attractive locations in Černilov and there is also a room for meetings and other social/cultural activities,

A plaque is attached to the facade in memory of victims of the 1950s, among whom Horák's parents.


As shown above, on the site also a special a creation has risen, consisting of nine high poles.

This ensemble is referred to as Černilov's Stonehenge, this because of the association with the megalithic monument in the English county of Wiltshire.

The two areas with semi-circular shelters are equipped with a table and benches, this to offer visitors a place to consume a drink or meal, if they have brought something similar.

This art environment can be visited by the public and visitors are welcomed with the text on the entrance gate saying Vitel kdo v dobrém přicházíš, which means Welcome who is coming in a good way.


The art environment Wet Meadow Gallery

this image (April 2024) as on Google Streetview

Around 2020 Horák started to create another art environment, also located on an arterial road from Černilov, but this time the one to Librice.

The site is located on a somewhat boggy piece of grassland and is referred to as the Wet Meadow Gallery (in Czech Mokrá louka-galerie)

The image above shows a small cottage, reminiscent of the shed near the mill site.

Seen from the road, a fairly long series of colorful sculptural ensembles starts to the right of the cottage, and it seems that this line, probably running along a ditch, continues until a side road of the arterial road.










Along the line there is a tulip tree, as in the image below, and then there is a group of aliens and there sheep, vases of flowers, gentlemen with parasols and so on.....
 
Gallery Mokrá Louka can be visited for free all year round.


Documentation
* Website dedicated to the two art environments, edited by Jaroslav Horák, with a variety of images
Brief article about the two art environments in a publication dedicated to sights in the Czech Republic
* Facebook "Mlýn Černilov" (Černilov Mill) with various recent photos

Video
* Video (2023, YouTube, 5'32") by Patka Filmové studio



Jaroslav Horák  
Art environments in Černilov
along the roads to Libřantice and to Librice
Černilov, region Hradec Králové, Czech Republic
visitors welcome
Google Streetview with over 750 photos of the mill and the area around 
Google Streetview of the Wet Meadow area

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.


Documentation
* 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

Videos
 * 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


Documentation
* 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.

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

Video
* 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