August 13, 2022

Evgeny Smolik, Дом украшен резьбой по дереву / House decorated with wood carving

this photo and the next one (2019) 
from newspaper HKK (Oleg Kuzmin)

The image above offers a view of the house of Evgeny Smolik located in Irbeysky, a rural community with some 1100 inhabitants, one of 43 administrative units in the Krasnoyarsk region of the Asian part of Russia ¹. 

With its covered entrance and specific roof structure, the building resembles a small church or chapel, but if Smolik built his house himself, as is not unusual in the Russian countryside, this design can also be seen as an expression of his creative attitude.

decorated fence in front of the entrance of the house

Anyway, this attitude can be seen very clearly in the decorations Smolik has added to the fence around the house.

The image above shows the fence, probably a part on the backside, with a door leading to an entrance of the house, which has been decorated with a depiction of Adam, Eve and the serpent.

The image below shows another part of the fence, perhaps located along the street because of the decorated letterbox on the right. This fence is also richly decorated, including angel-like characters equipped with spears on the left and right of the door, guarding the decorated entrance. 

part of the decorated fence outside
photo from website

Life and works

As for Evgeny Dmitrievich Smolik, there is no orderly biography available on the internet. He was born  in a community in the Krasnoyarsk region, presumably in 1958.

After school, he completed his military service in Kamchatka in Russia's Far East, home to Russia's Pacific submarine fleet, before returning to his native region and settling in Irbeysky; where he had all kinds of jobs, such as electrician, concrete worker, but also photo reporter and graphic designer.

It isn't clear when it was, but at some moment Smolik came into contact with someone who worked wood in a creative way. This appealed to him and he started working as an autodidact sculptor himself. As a self-taught artist. he would devote further life to woodcarving

a decorated door and wall in the interior,
this photo also from newspaper HKK

He became an enthusiastic worker, taking care of everything that could be decorated with carvings. 

Not only the outside of his house was tackled, as already outlined above, nothing in the interior was also untouched.

There are large decorated panels, all kinds of decorated medallions and wooden sculptures, but also kitchen utensils and tables, chairs and cabinets were creatively worked.

this photo and the next three on artsphera

A clock on the wall in the bedroom is not just decorated with some motifs, but includes a carved portrait of Czar Peter the Great (1672-1725).

Smolik also had a personal sense of humour, what entailed for example that he made birdhouses with gloomy pirate faces, as in the examples above.

These and similar small-scale creations were intended for sale. For example, they were offered on the Artsphera website.

Other works of art by Smolik, intended for sale, had a more classical appearance, as can be seen in the above scene.

photo from livejournal

It is unclear to what extent Smolik's individual works of art have been included in an art museum. 

However, the chair as shown above, a luxurious wooden chair, carved from pine wood and decorated with intricate carvings, has been acquired by a museum, namely the Forest Museum in Krasnoyarsk, the capital of the region of the same name.

* Article (November 2019) in newspaper HKK 
* Article (March 2012) in Livejournal
* Article (May 2007) in newspaper Gazeta
* Website Artsphera, with pictures of Smolik's artworks

¹ The reviews in this weblog relate to  art environments in Europe. Nevertheless, characteristic sites in the Asian part of the Russian Federation are also included, in order to give a balanced and coherent picture of the entire field of Russian art environments.

Evgeny Smolik
House decorated with wood carving
Irbeysky District, region Krasnoyarsk, Russia
exterior decorations can be seen from the street

August 05, 2022

Erkki Känkänen, Muistojen puisto / Park of Memories

except the picture of the church in Muolaa, all images are 
published here in accordance with Juho Haavisto, Association 
for Rural Culture and Education

The art environment Park of Memories, located in the south of Finland, includes numerous scenes that evoke memories of the time when the Karelian Peninsula was still part of Finland and of the experiences of all those people who lived there and had to evacuate because of the wars that started at the end of 1939.

Above pictured decorated wall, for example, refers to a war waging from 1939-1940, in Finland called the Winter War. It started at the end of November 1939, when Russia wanted to conquer the Karelian Peninsula, located in south-western Finland, bordering Russia. In March 1940 the combat actions ended in an armistice. 

However, on June 22, 1941, Germany launched an attack on the Soviet Union, which also led to Finland's war with Russia continuing on June 25, 1941, the so-called Continuation War. This war ended in a ceasefire in September 1944.

Peace negotiations started that resulted in a treaty in 1944, in which Finland had to cede large parts of its territory in he Karelian Peninsula to Russia and 440,000 Finns had to leave their homes.

Life and works

Among them was 16-year-old Erkki Känkänen (25-7-1927/7-7-2022), born in and living with his parents in Muolaa, a former Finnish municipality on the Karelian Peninsula in South Karelia. It was the second time the family was evacuated, because already in the 1930s, when the threat of war had increased, the Finnish government had ordered them to leave their residence.

After the first armistice in March 1940 the family, like many other.inhabitants, returned to Muolaa with the intention of resuming their former life and repairing the damage.Times were tough because of the Continuation War, with food shortages and rationing.The plan to restore the church of Muolaa, which was completely destroyed during the Winter War, came to nothing. 

In 1944 the inhabitants of Muolaa definitively had to leave their home and start a new life elsewhere in Finland. They first stayed in Sääksmäki, a village in Western Finland, but in 1948 moved to Forssa

the church in Muolaa before the Winter War
picture licensed under Wikimedia Commons

So it happened that in Forssa, a town of currently some 16.500 inhabitants in the Kanta-Häme region in the south of Finland, some 960 residents of Muolaa, the Känkänen family included, ended up and formed a close-knit community, currently still referred to as Pikku Muolaa (Small Muolaa).

In Forssa, the young Erkki Känkänen developed into a successful vegetable farmer. who introduced modern technology, such as cold stores. The farm was initially run by Känkänen and his wife Hilkka, also from Muolaa,  then his son Jari and his wife were in charge and now (2022) the third generation is at the head, Jari's son Essamati.

Känkänen was actively involved in the development of the local society, especially with regard to the position of the Karelian community

He was a member of Forssa's city council for 16 years, supported and did a lot of work for candidates for parliamentary elections and was active in the Karelian community, collecting stories and books about earlier times in Karelia.

In 1964 Känkänen was asked to organize a nationwide competition of a traditional Karelian outdoor game in the sphere of skittles (a game called kyykka), which would take place for more than 50 years.

From 1973, he was closely involved with Forssa's local Museum, which set up a particular space dedicated to Muolaa, including a large portion of rescued artifacts from Muoola's ruined church.

And then, in the early 1990s, when he was in his mid sixties, Känkänen decided to create a memory park in relation with his early years in Muolaa and the history and culture of Karelia.

Creating an art environment

Känkänen created his Park of Memories, an art environment full of artistic creations, emotion and information, on the site of his summer residence named Rajaranta, located in the community of Salkola near the Lake Salkolanjärvi, some 28 km south-west of Forssa in the Varsinais-Suomi region.

The images at the beginning of this article show a number of bungalow-style buildings. 

The art environment includes six of these structures, which were common in the Karelia of Känkänen's childhood. They are richly decorated with colorful scenes, offering a reminder of the former living environment to residents who had to evacuate.

replica of the former church in Muolaa

Among the first buildings Erkki Känkänen made for the memorial park is the iconic miniature version of the church in Muolaa, built from 1849-1852 and completely destroyed in the Winter War.

When constructing this replica, a project that took a year and a half, Känkänen flawlessly respected the proportions of the original. 

Twenty people can enter the replica of the church a the same time. Inside they can view photos of the ruins of the original church and other documentation, such as the sermons of Toivo Rapeli, the preacher attached to the church during Finland's war with Russia.

The images above and below show a horse and carriage in a stable. This ensemble symbolizes the journey the evacuees had to undertake, leaving their home and living environment behind, on their way to an uncertain future.

In the photo above there is also a kind of signpost on the right, indicating the distance from the site to towns and villages that were involved in the war in one way or another, such as the distance to Muolaa which is 371 km.

The horse pulling the wagon, as depicted above, was made by Kankänen himself and has a very realistic impression, which fits well with this scene depicting the journey of the evacuees.

This applies just as much to the person on the box, above left, who steers the horse and it certainly applies to the little luggage that could be carried, as in the image above right 

The red colored character in the image above is  a stylized Karelian cuckoo. 

Protected by an open wood and glass enclosure, the bird bears the coats of arms of all the municipalities that were part of Karelia ceded to Russia. It was quite a quest to find all those coats of arms, Känkänen is reported to have said.

The above image in all probability represents a memory of the Karelian lake Äyräpäänjärvi, because of the many birds that almost completely fill the sky above the lake. There are also numerous fish, swans and other animals present.

The lake, known for its rich bird life, borders the community of Muolaa where Känkänen was born.


Above picture portrays Känkänen seated on a bench in his Memory Park during in open day in July 2020.

Erkki Känkänen passed away on July 7, 2022, at age 94.


* Article by Paula Susitaval, with images by Juho Haavisto. on the website ITE-art in memory of Erkki Känkänen
Article (November 2009) on the page of Finnish broadcasting company Yle about Känkänen's first visit to his former home in Karelia
* Article (July 2022) on the Facebook-page of ITE-taide in memory of Erkki Känkänen
* Article (July 2020) on the Facebook-page of ITE-taide about an open day in July 2020 at the Memory Park, with a large series of pictures 
* Website Vihannestila Känkänen Oy of the vegetable farming business of the Känkänen family
Article by Eeva Suojanan (July 2007) in newspaper Turum Sanomat
Känkänen has written several books, mostly related to Karelia, such as: Karelianism the source of strength (2011), but also about his art environment: Rajaranta is the Karelia of Memories (2012)

Erkki Känkänen
Park of Memories
Salkola, region Varsinais-Suomi, Finland
pending further notice about opening after Känkänen's death

July 30, 2022

Edouard Erhart, Arrangements de sculptures en bois / Arrangements of wooden sculptures

all pictures courtesy of Sophie Lepetit, 
from her weblog

The scene with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was created by Edouard Erhart (1928-2009). who lived in Bruebach, a village of about 1,000 inhabitants in the south of the Alsace in France, near its border with Switzerland. 

Life and works

The photo above by Sophie Lepetit shows a portrait of Edouard Erhart that hangs on a wall in the house where his wife still lives. 

It's a portrait of a man with a determined character. Born as the eldest in a family with seven children  that struggled materially, he dreamed of acquiring his own paradise in Bruebach. So once an adult, he would not go on holiday for years to save money in order to buy plots of land.

Young Edouard was only sixteen years old when in 1945, after Germany had lost World War II, he enlisted in the French army, which was then a temporary occupying force in the part of Germany bordering France.

From 1947 to 1949 he had a job as an underground miner in the potash mines of Alsace, for which he had to cycle about 40 kilometers a day.

Then he learned the butcher trade from an uncle, and he would work for about forty years in butcher shops and slaughterhouses in France and, just across the border, in Switzerland,

Erhart married in September 1955 after he had built his own house and furnished it with chairs, tables and the like that he had also made himself. The couple would have three children.

Decorating home and garden

Building and furnishing his own house also marks the moment where the story begins of the various art environments Erhart created.

Once he had planted a garden with a pond around his house, the desire arose to provide this garden with self-made wooden sculptures.

Like so many non-professional sculptors, he could see in a log or similar piece of wood the character hidden there, which he just had to free from the wood, so to speak.

As the pictures in this post show, Erhart populated the garden with a significant number of sculptures, including many depictions of animals such as squirrels, lemurs, bears, owls, swans, crocodiles, goats, dogs, rhinoceroses, penguins, panthers, wolves, foxes, kangaroos and birds.

But he also portrayed princesses and dwarfs, all kinds of fairytale characters. famous people from Alsace, accordionists, a whole range indeed.

The creations were painted in appropriate colours. Not all of the many wooden sculptures Erhart installed in his garden have withstood the test of time, but many scenes have been captured on photos.

Creations in the interior

In the 1990s Erhart -who had retired in the mid 1980s- also began to furnish a spacious interior room with sculptures. 

There was a specific reason for that. A daughter of Erhart who had become a ceramist had made a nativity scene for the parish church in the village and, inspired by this, Erhart wanted to realize something similar indoors.

The nativity scene (no images available) includes the usual characters, such as the Virgin Mary, Joseph, the newly born Jesus, shepherds and the three wise men.

In addition to the Christmas scene, there are other characters, all together some forty sculptures.

Compared to the characters in the garden, the sculptures of the human characters in the interior room are made on a more human scale.

Sculptures on a site a little further away of the house

In addition to the plot of land on which he was to build his house, Erhart also bought plots of land elsewhere in Bruebach.

If I have understood correctly, the entrance to these plots was marked by two rather large, sturdy wooden sculptures, as if figuring as guards.

The surrounding images give an impression of such a plot of land, some distance from Erhart's house, as well as of the sculptures that (still) decorate the site.

The sculpture above left already shows signs of decay, which is not surprising for wooden sculptures that are outside and not maintained.

The image above right shows Little Red Riding Hood.

* Article (July 2022) by Sophie Lepetit on her weblog

Edouard Erhart
Arrangements of wooden sculptures

Rue Principale 57 68440 Bruebach, dept Haut-Rhin, region Grand Est, France

sculptures in the garden of the house can be seen from the street

July 23, 2022

Pekka Lampinen, Puiset veistokset takapihalla / Wooden sculptures in the backyard

pictures are screenprints from the video below

The images in this post show some of the wooden sculptures in the sculpture garden of Pekka Lampinen, Finland, as they still stood there in 2022. At that time. more than a decade after Lampinen's death, many sculptures had deteriorated and those still in reasonable condition were taken to safety.

Life and works

Pekka Lampinen (1931-2011) had a busy job and only got the opportunity to pursue visual arts and woodworking at a later age, when he, in his early fifties, in 1983 joined the art circle in his hometown Aura, a community in the coastal area in the south-west of Finland.

Lampinen made various reliefs in wood and his favorite was a moving work entitled Viimeinen menettäminen (The last loss), in which he depicts his father in military uniform, saying goodbye to his two sons to join the Finnish army in the winter of 1939 in the war that Russia had started with Finland . 

His father would never return from that war and young Lampinen was orphaned before he was ten years old. 

Not all of Lampinen's works had that sad connotation. 

Certainly in the late 1990s, when Lampinen was retired, he took great pleasure in making dozens of wood sculptures and paintings. 

He built a barn in his backyard, where his paintings were displayed and the garden was transformed into an art environment with numerous wooden sculptures, often in the form of totems, but also sculptures of all kinds of animals and famous people from the village, such as a police officer, a pharmacist and a priest. 

It became a whole world of all together some 120 sculptures spread out in his garden, where visitors were warmly welcome to view the collection.

Lampinen became nationally known in Finland as an ITE artist after in the years 2002-2004 a research project took place into the occurrence of outsider art in the province of Varinais-Suomi.

His work was subsequently displayed in the Kiasma Museum in Helsinki and it could also be seen in 2006 in Paris at the exhibition Esprit de la Forêt (Spirit of the Forest) at the Halle Saint Pierre, where one could see a number of totems he had created.

After Lampinen passed away in 2011, the wooden sculptures in the backyard have been neglected for a number of years. The available documentation on the internet provides no background information in this regard.

Action was taken in the summer of 2022, when Pertti Riikonen and Teijo Monni from the Design Spot organization visited the site, when part of the creations in Lampinen's estate had been donated to this organization. 

Those creations that at that time were still in good condition, were recovered. On that occasion, the short video, which is included in the documentation below, was also made. Some screen prints from this video illustrate this article.

Article about Pekka Lampinen by Teijo Monni and Pertti Riikonen on the website of Maaseudun Sivistysliitto MSL (Rural Culture Association MSL), Finland, with a number of photos.
* Article (2006) in newspaper Turun Sanomat about the exposition in Paris

* Video (0'59", YouTube, 2022) by Pertti Riikonen and Teijo Monni 

Pekka Lampinen
Wooden sculptures in the backyard
Aura, province of Varsinais Suomen, Finland
site doesn't exist anymore

July 15, 2022

Jacques Pascal, Chapelle ornée de sculptures en pierre / Chapel decorated with stone sculptures

photo by Robin Chubret, licensed under
Creative Commons share alike 4.0

The photo above shows part of the facade of a chapel built in the early 1740s and situated in the small community of l'Auberie, which belongs to the municipality of Saint-Bonnet-en-Champsaur in the department of Hautes-Alpes, France.

This facade is special because it is provided with numerous niches, in which sculptures are incorporated

this picture and the next ones courtesy of
Sophie Lepetit, from her weblog

Life and works

Only limited biographical information is available on the internet about Jacques Pascal, who built and decorated this chapel with his own hands.  He was a mason and carpenter, living in l'Auberie, and in 1740 he started the construction of the chapel, which was completed in 1743. It is quite possible that he had already begun to form a stockpile of stones before 1740.

There is a story that Pascal started his project to impress a young shepherdess from the village. In this context, the chapel is also referred to as Chapelle des Amoureux (Lovers' Chapel). The creation is also referred to as Chapelle des Pétètes, where "pétètes" is local slang referring to "dolls".

The chapel that Jacques built was thatched and the walls were not plastered. The creation was refurbished around 1920, the roof was fitted with tiles and the walls were plastered.

Owned by the municipality, the chapel was included in the inventory of historical monuments in 1973 and on May 19, 1994 the building was listed as a monument.

The decorations

The chapel's interior has a 17th-century altar, decorated with strips of gilded leather and depictions of tendrils of leaves, flowers and fruit. There is a painting of Mary and Joseph and the child Jesus, accompanied by a bishop, perhaps Saint Gregory to whom the chapel is dedicated.

What attracts the most attention, however, and for which the chapel has become famous, are the sculptures posted in a variety of niches in the chapel's facade.

The facade depicts saints such as Mary, Joseph, Gregory, Jean-Baptiste and Antoine, as well as characters representing lost souls in search of purgatory.

The sculptures have an extremely simple design, often with only a head on a body without arms, and sometimes only a head in a circular setting, as in the picture below. The image also shows that the sculptures, although simple in design, can have an intense expression.

Comparable creations elsewhere in Europe

Hand-built and decorated chapels or small-scale churches can also be found elsewhere in Europe.

Of relatively recent date are the Stalingrad Chapel created by Josef Haas, the East-West Church of Peace, manufactured by Timofey Prokhorov both located in the south of Germany and the Chapel in Iceland, built by Samúel Jónson.

From an earlier date, around 1890, are the chapel and the small church in a village in the Perm region in Russia, built and richly decorated with sculptures by Nikon Koryanov. The buildings and the village no longer exist, but some of the sculptures have been preserved and are included in a museum. 

* Article (May 2019) with a series of photos on the weblog of Sophie Lepetit
* Article (January 2013) with a series of photos on the weblog of Sylvie Damagnez
* Article (September 2018) with a variety of photos on the weblog l'Internationale interstiCielle

* Video (July 2020, 2'16") by DICI TV

Jacques Pascal
Chapel decorated with stone sculptures
l'Auberie (Municipality of Saint-Bonnet-en-Champsaur), dept Hautes-Alpes, France
can be seen from the street