June 09, 2010

Johannes Setälä, Veistospuutarha / Sculpture garden

all pictures courtesy of Dirk Hülstrunk 

Life and works

Johannes Setälä (b. 1941) from Karjalohja, Finland, as a youngster already showed his creative skills when at age twelve he participated in a contest of drawing comics and won the competition.

After this, he also made cartoons for Finnish magazines. but his main professional activity was being a jazz-musician, playing drums.

In the 1970s Setälä became interested both in visual art and in shamanism, two topics that strongly influenced him during the rest of his life.

Using all kinds of recycled and natural materials he began making life-sized sculptures he displayed in the garden around his house. These sculptures impersonated all kinds of people.

He also covered the walls of the barn and the house with frescoes and he made a lot of paintings and drawings.

With regard to shamanism, Setälä deepened his knowledge of shamanism in such a way, that in 1996 his qualities in this field were recognized and he on an international conference of indigenous people formally was ordained as a shaman.

Setäla wrote a number of books on this subject. Currently he is still active in this field, giving courses in and lecturing on shamanism. 

He also is active in the world of art, doing performances and participating in exhibitions (Kiasma, In another world, 2005; Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova, Not to be framed, 2010)

Paintings by Setälä have been shown (some for the first time) on the Kalevala mindscape exposition in the Gallen-Kallela Museum, Espoo, Finland (September 2010-January 2011)

* Article with illustrations on website ITE-taide
* Setälä appears in the Cristoph Schuch movie Self-made paradise (Germany 2007, 84 min)

* Video by Erkki Pirtola, ITE-samaani Johannes Setälä (You Tube9'.59", march 2010).

Johannes Setälä
Sculpture garden
Karjalohja, Uusima, Southern Finland


  1. Shamanism and art were closely related long time ago, on times of the srt´s sunrise. Many researchers state that those extraordinary paintings like the Lascauz ones may have a shamanic purpose. In the deep of the forest, exposed to all nature´s power, it should be easy to develop a kind of mysthical link with nature. We have previously discussed about the rich presence of artists like Mr. Setälä in the vasts forests of Finland. The fame of Karelians as powerful magicians date back to ancient times, so feared by some Scandinavian kings that they even banned its people to stablish any kind of contact with such wizards. Let´s not forget that the origins of the finnish epic Kalevala, plenty of color, legends and magic, can be traced mainly to the folklore of that part of Finland. It is quite satisfactory that such a rich folklore still survives and have so remarkable representants like Mr Setälä.
    Regards dear Henk

  2. I did not mention the Kalevala in my note, but mr Setälä has been working a lot on and with this epic. Thanks for your comment, dear Alberto, you always have such wonderful observations. All the best.

  3. This gentleman does appear to be a fascinating character... wish I could just fly all over the map to see each place as you present them, whether in Finland or France or England or wherever.

    But maybe little by little...

    Am planning tomorrow, Monday, to go up the coast to Wirwignes to see the church there. Hopefully will be able to get inside it. Will most certainly let you know if I'm able to do some photographs of the decorations there...
    All the best,

  4. Hi Owen, A beautiful day to make a trip to that region. Would be wonderful if you succeeded in visiting the church.
    Have a very nice day (and week of course, that probably will be dominated by the World Championships in South Africa, not my piece of cake, however...))

  5. The pictures you present here are actually made by myself, when I visited Johannes in May 2008 together with finnish Videoartist & ITE specialist Erkki Pirtola. It´s ok to use the pictures but credit would be nice. You can find them on my myspace site: www.myspace.com/dirkhuelstrunk.
    When I was visiting Finland this September, I met Johannes again. He was the featured artist at a big exhibition about ITE (Outsider Art & Kalevala)in the Gallen-Kallela Museum, Espoo. The exhibition can be seen until Jan. 2011. Its worth going there, especially because a lot of Setäläs paintings are here exhibited for the first time Here´s a link: http://www.gallen-kallela.fi/ite/english.html
    Regards, DH

  6. @Dirk Hülstrunk. Thanks a lot, Dirk, for the comment and the permission, I added credits to your pictures and made a referral to the expo in Espoo.