August 20, 2009

Juha Vanhanen, Armohuvilla / Villa of Grace

picture courtesy of Minna Haveri

Juha Vanhanen (1957-2021) was born in Alavus, Finland. He began making white painted creative structures by using parts of agricultural and other machines, when he got kind of a religious vision, saying that recycling old materials and presenting them could be a good factor in evangelizing Christian belief.

Recycling, art, evangelizing, these three have guided Vanhanen in making his constructions.

It's not clear when he started making creations, but when this text was first published (2009), he obviously had been doing this for many years. 

Vanhanen has become known in Finland and his creations have been exposed in a number of expositions (like next picture is from an outdoor exposition of Finnish sculptures)

His white painted creations and structures were displayed around the house in Myllymaki where he lived, together with a collection of Mercedes automobiles.

Mercedes originally is a Spanish name, referring to the Virgin Mary, Maria de las Mercedes or Mother of Mercies. In Finnish mercy or grace is armo and so this environment is called armohuvilla (villa of grace).

 this picture and the next one courtesy of Sophie Lepetit

The photo above and the one below give an impression of how the white painted agricultural tools were positioned near the house

The next picture shows a creation made by Juha Vanhanen, that is not part of the art environment around his house.

It is an installation in Sweden that shows an ensemble of white painted plowshares, which refer to souls that fly to heaven.

this picture (October 2005) courtesy of Mats Karlsson

This creation is situated on a field in Västerkvarn, in the surroundings of the city of Halstahammer (on the road from Strömsholm to Kolbäck), where Vanhanen happened to live for some time. The installation is a gift by Vanhanen to the people of Halstahammer.

Here is a quote from a comment Alberto Oliver made about this ensemble: 
"The installation of the plowshares is superb. As a matter of fact, it needs no explanation to understand its feeling, a feeling of freedom, liberation and detachment, detachment from prison, after all, since from a religious point of view, the soul inhabits nothing but a prison of flesh".

Vanhanen made a comparable installation, this one exposed in Finland. It can be seen on the premises of the Finnish folk art museum in the community of Kaustinen.

picture from the Hungarian website csatolna egyesület

Juha Vanhanen passed away in November 2021.

Article by Erkki Pirtola on  the website ITE-taide 
* Article and a series of photos (November 2018) on the weblog of Sophie Lepetit
* Memorial article by Minna Haveri on the MSL website
Juha Vanhanen
Myllymäki, Alavus, Southern Ostrobothnia, Western and Central Finland


  1. Dear Henk, this is one of the most extraordinary and pure examples of an Outsider Environment. what more elements do we need in order to considering him in such that way? In first place, the materials used, industrial waste, agricultural machines, in second place, the intention of the artist, to use the art for spreading his spiritual and moral ideology (isn´t it Hieronymus Bosch´s intention after all?) and not for figuring in a snob gallery claiming for aplauses and flashes. The instalation of the plowshares is superb. As a matter of fact, it needs no an explanation for understanding its feeling, a feeling of freedom, liberation and detachment, detachment from prision, after all, since some religious points of view, soul inhabits in nothing but a prision of flesh.

  2. I completely agree with you, Alberto Oliver. Especially the installation with the white plowshares is unbelievable pure. An artist eye is needed to see what the effect can be of arranging and painting machinery items in this way. No words are necessary to understand what the installation is about...

  3. The pkowshares are amazing. His motiviation is very like that of the late Howard Finster in Athens, Georgia.

  4. These creations really are amazing Henk, you've done it again... finding the extraordinary, and presenting it beautifully for us.

    For me these plowshares soaring up into the air remind me of the flocks of snow geese that would take off from the water in a game reserve area of marshland in New Jersey where my grandparents lived. The snow geese would stop to rest there while migrating in the Fall and Spring to or from Canada. Very good memories there...