Artist Harro Koskinen (born 1945) is known for socially critical works which draw on Pop Art. His pink and yellow pigs, which live in their pig reality, are especially well known. His life and art have been defined by works that he made in the early years of his career in the 1960s and 1970s.
Harro became seriously interested in art at the age of 17. He rented his first studio only a few years later. He graduated from school in Turku in 1965 and started art studies in the drawing school of the Turku Art Association. His art was shown the same year at a juried exhibition. His factual breakthrough, however, took place in 1969, when the young artist had to stand up for his artistic freedom. His The Pig Messiah, an almost four-metre tall piece that was completed in 1969, resulted in a blasphemy charge for Harro and a lot of attention in the press. He was soon after accused of desecrating the national coat of arms (The Pig Coat of Arms, 1969). Eventually, he received a sentence for blasphemy.
Harro’s pigs are a wonderful embodiment of the negative human traits he has always criticised. The figure parodies religion, the state, the police (The Pig Police Shield, 1969) and the bourgeois nuclear family (The Pig Family, 1969). The pig is industrious and leads the busy life of a young man. It rides boats, groans at its rundown cars, fights and loves, and like a snake, it wriggles out of the muddles it causes and treats its ulcerous stomach with Neutragel. Over the decades these works have lost their critical edge and the pig has become loved by audiences.
Put together by Turku Art Museum, the comprehensive exhibition of Harro Koskinen’s work spans his entire career of more than 40 years. Harro has always had a lot to say. In terms of expression, his art has varied and changed, always in close rhythm with the times, from Pop Art to assemblages and the ecological ponderings of the 1990s. The socially critical message of his works has remained the same, however.
The exhibition’s themes are about the turmoil of the 1960s, of ‘Kekkosslovakia’ in search of its identity, of the changing national landscape and countryside and the ups and downs of his own life. His works are multidimensional and he uses a variety of techniques. The vivid and humorous figures of his pop period are shown on the second floor of the museum. On the first floor, there are his skilled rural landscapes, executed with pastels and coloured pencils, shelters made of recycled materials for natural materials and human reason, and his homages to fellow artists.
The exhibition includes contemporary documents, films and TV programmes.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the richly illustrated monograph HARRO, produced by Turku Art Museum and edited by Mia Tykkyläinen, will be published.
The exhibition has been supported by: City of Turku, The Finnish Cultural Foundation and Regional Art Council of Southwest Finland.
The publication has been supported by: Arts Council of Finland, Alfred Kordelin Foundation and FILI - Finnish Literature Information Centre