Category Archives: Arts

Mänttä – a little Finnish town full of contemporary art (and naked men)

Yesterday we visited Mänttä, a little town 1,5 hours from Tampere (by car). It was a nice excursion, which we repeat almost every summer with my parents. “The dying industrial town” Mänttä has been able to do something admirable – it has converted into a lively centre of contemporary art! And now Mänttä is a bit stronger, as it was merged with the municipality of nearby Vilppula in 2009.

Mänttä Art Festival (Mäntän kuvataideviikot) is an event of contemporary art that represents mostly new Finnish visual work. There are some established names in the exhibitions, but the festival is also known as a show of experimental and daring art. The artists are invited every year by a different curator. The main venue is Pekilo, a converted factory now filled with art.

And then the verdict. For me, this year’s exhibition was OK, however I didn’t enjoy the it as much as last year – probably because of this year’s curator… for me, the exhibition could have been a lot more daring and focusing on one, interesting theme.

Anyway, there’s a lot more to see in Mänttä, as interesting exhibitions are held also in The Honkahovi Art Centre and in the two Serlachius museums: Gösta Joenniemi’s villa and Gustaf Serlachius Museum, which mostly tells about the centre of Mänttä life in old times – the Serlachius factory.

Here it all began – Serlachius paper factory in Mänttä.

The town has an important industrial past – it’s the former residence of industry magnate R. Erik Serlachius, who practically governed the town with his huge paper factory. The famous Finnish toilet paper Serla was born here. These big guys were luckily interested in arts and culture, too. The factory owner G.A. Serlachius and industry magnates Gösta, R. Erik and Gustaf Serlachius have all contributed to Mänttä becoming a flourishing art town. Now their great collection of famous artworks can be enjoyed by everyone in their museums.

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Pekilo – factory building converted into art museum. Quite ugly outside, full of contemporary art inside.

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Images from this year’s Mänttä Contemporary Art Festival main exhibition at Pekilo.

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This piece was composed by miscellaneous stuff found near the venue.

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At Honkahovi we enjoyed lunch (champignon soup) while admiring the peaceful lake scenery. The villa has also what was once the biggest one-piece window glass in the Nordic countries.

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Sculptures in the garden of Honkahovi by the lake.

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Joenniemi villa. Inside you can find some wonderful artwork from the Serlachius family collection.

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A typical old Finnish wooden house next to Joenniemi villa – inside there is a nice cafe-restaurant.

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We also passed by the centre of Mänttä – and saw some naked guys on the street. I would say this was the most daring performance I saw at the Contemporary Art Festival this year!

Credit of all these photos: Helsinkimylove

shooting the streets of Helsinki

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Practising street photography. According to my  teacher, this photo has a perfect golden cut! That was nice to hear, even if while shooting you don’t think about these things… at least I don’t.

So, I’m back & blogging. The last couple of weeks have been quite hectic. We spent the first days of May on a holiday in Berlin – a wonderful, lively city  of culture I want to visit soon again! Truly, this place has something, maybe because of its harsh history… don’t know.

Further, last weekend I participated a course on Street Photography. It was a great, eye-opening experience and at the same time very intensive, as we both studied theory and history of this interesting genre and got to explore the streets of Helsinki by ourselves by taking our own street photos.

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These two guys were on their way to a ice hockey match and looked just great. The theme for our photos was intimacy and we had to find repeated colors around, so here we go…

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One of the tricks of street photography is to use reflections: on showcases, windows, wherever you can find one.

On the second day of the course everyone “had to” choose 12 of their photos to be shown and commented by the others. I was a bit nervous, as I love photography but haven’t really studied it. Also, I feel that my knowledge of the technical stuff is very limited. So it was wonderful to receive some positive feedback, – like everyone did, of course. Our teacher was gentle with us, even if we all got homework to learn more about focusing and camera technology. Something you easily forget especially while taking photos on the street where situations normally are over in just a few seconds or minutes.

But in photography, if you don’t control your camera perfectly you might miss The Perfect Picture just because your camera’s settings are wrong. And that feels bad.

In street photography, another trick is “repetition”. Here’s an exercise about that – I found even 3 pairs at one shot!

I liked the ensemble of the soft colours: on the girl’s cuddly blouse, the tram and the showcase behind. But damn it, the photo is not sharp!

So, my goal for this spring and summer is to really learn how to use my camera – and this can only be done by practising: taking thousands of photos. Our teacher said that for every 1000 photos he takes there are 100 OK ones and 1-2 excellent ones. So even professionals have it tough.

My camera is nothing special, it’s a basic system camera by Sony with a lens of 18-200. For me it’s just fine. Some of the participants of the course were showing off with their big expensive cameras but in the end, looking at our photos, all of them seemed quite the same level when it comes to the common problems of focusing and limiting the image right.

One of the themes given for our photos was “intimacy”. For me, these girls offered a good example. And it was a chilly Saturday night.

Anyway, I felt happy when the teacher said that I really control the composition and color, as these are the two aspects I’m really interested in – not only in photography but in all arts, interior design etc.

All in all, street photography truly is a new discovery to me. When I travel, I love to take photos of people and the little incidents and situations happening spontaneously on the streets, but I’ve never analysed the concept further.

There is a long and vivid tradition of street photography with its conventions, rules and heroes. Now I just want to learn more. I guess this is what happens when a course has been successful – it makes you feel that you know so little but in a positive way – and it gives you the basic tools to go further and discover a new, interesting world.

Here’s a couple of links for street photography beginners like me…

  • Matt Stuart, who is one of the most appreciated and well-known street photographers of our days. He really has captured some legendary moments!
  • Hannes Heikura, a modest guy and a great Finnish photographer (not only “street” one) who mostly works for Helsingin Sanomat, the major Finnish newspaper.
  • Shoot the street, a webpage I came across, promoting street photography.
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Helsinki: design, design and sponsored beer!

Last Thursday my dear friend, who owns a growing illustrations agency here in Helsinki, published a book! The book is called “Keltainen Kaupunki“, The Yellow City, and it features seventeen Helsinki themed stories by prolific Finnish authors. These stories are illustrated by some wonderful illustrators from my friend’s agency.

This year Helsinki is the World Design Capital, and the book project is part of the year’s events. Honestly, I don’t know how many people know about this year outside Finland (and Helsinki) but at least inside the design quarters of Punavuori, Helsinki, it certainly is a big thing. A couple of my friends are working in the Design Capital office, so I’ve stayed more or less tuned on what’s going on. And the good thing is that many young, prominent artists get new opportunities thanks to this special year. I only hope the good things shall continue in the years to come…

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A new, still unfinished gallery in Jätkäsaari, Helsinki. Looks good!

Anyway, it’s always a pleasure to attend an opening or a publication party of any big project: observing the relieved faces of the people, happy of the luckily finished cooperation and, for us visitors, sharing their joy and catching up with old friends. The party was organised in an old factory compound in Jätkäsaari, the newest neighbourhood to-be here in Helsinki, at the moment still under construction. But there’s already some vivid cultural activity going on there.

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Carlsberg, good bread and cheese - all you need for a good party. Well, maybe some wine too...

My friend was even lucky enough to get the Danish beer Carlsberg as sponsor. To accompany the beer, we enjoyed some big fresh bread with cheese and grapes. Basic but so good – both for your eyes and palatals. Here’s another blog entry about the event – and the beer – by one of the illustrators of the The Yellow City.

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There was also a DJ playing some smooth music and on the second floor we could visit a photo exhibition about Finland – the big images looked great in the empty, unfinished loft space and some of them were quite impressive…

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Yes, in Finland people like to be naked. Sauna and all. A work from the photo exhibition in Jätkäsaari.

All in all, it’s great that interesting cultural things are going on in Helsinki. And what’s even better is that my friends are taking so active part in them! These moments I feel so proud of my city.

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