Reidar Särestöniemi
Rarely Does a Gentle Wind Blow on Arctic Fens
25 Jan – 28 Apr 2013

Reidar Särestöniemi (1925–1981) was the foremost Lappish artist of his time. He rose to nationwide fame in the 1960s and was greatly esteemed by collectors and the cultural elite alike. He is particularly famous for his intense and colourful paintings of Lappish themes that incorporate allusions to prehistoric art and to the great names of modernism. Works in the Rarely Does a Gentle Wind Blow on Arctic Fens exhibition are from the collection of the Kirsi and Keio Eerikäinen Art Foundation which was deposited at the Rovaniemi Art Museum in spring 2012. The exceptionally comprehensive and high-quality collection gives an excellent idea of Särestöniemi’s output, which is seldom accessible to the public without trav-elling to the North. The exhibition is produced in cooperation with the Rovaniemi Art Museum.

Särestöniemi was born in the village of Kaukonen in Kittilä, where he lived his whole life, and his greatest sources of inspiration were the nature of Lapland and Lappish folk traditions and beliefs. Peatlands, fells, grouse, rams and lynxes are all recurring motifs in his work. Often the animal figures are the artist’s own alter egos. Nature was very close to Särestöniemi’s heart – you could say it was his lifeblood – and he used his influence to promote nature conservation in Lapland. He also had a keen interest in literature and he travelled several times around the world, which had a distinct impact on his visual style.

Särestöniemi’s artistic career got off to a flying start with his first solo exhibition in 1959. In the Finland of the 1960s and ‘70s, Särestöniemi and his art were like an exotic bird next to which everything else seemed colourless and dull. His art differed significantly from that of his contemporaries. Its key element was colour, which made his paintings easily recognisable. They also contained the same impulsive and experimental quality as informalism, a genre that became rapidly popular in Finland in the 1960s. Särestöniemi’s paintings were never modernist in an orthodox sense, however, because form and content went hand in hand in his art. Särestöniemi’s distinctive style is difficult to pin down to any particular genre: there are features of romanticism, fantasy, naivism, even surrealism in it. Särestöniemi was ahead of his times as an artist, yet many prominent Finnish artists have since taken the trail he blazed.
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