Harro! A Classic of Finnish Pop Art

On Thursday, 1 October at 6 pm the exhibition “Harro! A Classic of Finnish Pop Art” will open in the Kumu Art Museum (4th floor, B-wing).

The exhibition will be opened by Jaakko Kalela, the Ambassador of the Republic of Finland to the Republic of Estonia. The opening will also be attended by Harro Koskinen.

The exhibition is open to the public from 2 October 2009 to 28 March 2010.

Press photos: http://digikogu.ekm.ee/lisa/press

The exhibition introduces Harro Koskinen’s (born in 1945 in Turku) work from his Pop Art period. Harro was one of the wittiest and most sharp-sighted artists in Finland in the 1960s and the 1970s, and his artistic production caused active opposition both by the conservative public and the bodies of power. Harro’s criticism aimed at the middle-class life style irritated censors and judges alike.

One of the most well-known figures in Harro’s work, inspired by Pop Art, is a brightly coloured fat pig, whom the artist has given human qualities: the fattened pig is having a cosy night in front of the television with his family, showing off his fine cars and boats or punching things with his fist. The figure of a pig first emerged in Harro’s works in the form of a skull in the still-lifes he made while he was in school. He later used the pig to mock bourgeois value judgements and double standards in comic strips published in the first Finnish underground magazine, “Aamurusko” (“Sunrise”), a magazine where he worked as the editor and the illustrator. The highlight of the piglets was the work called “The Pig Messiah” (1969) – a huge pig on a cross. He was convicted of mocking God. Proceedings were also instituted against him for “The Pig Coat of Arms”, completed the same year, but this time the charges were dropped.

Another important part of Harro’s earlier work is included in the series “Finnish Way of Life”. In the general elections held in 1970, this motto was used by the conservative National Coalition Party, which stressed patriotism and social values. This inspired Harro to create a number of works focusing on the Finnish flag, where the artist stretched, perforated, tore, crumbled, cut and shrank the national symbol; he figuratively splashed it with blood and finally set it on fire, turning the flag into a black liquid mass. The series “Finnish Way of Life” also includes the logos of big corporations – he played wicked language games with the names of companies. The well-known petroleum company SHELL, for example, became SMELL. In Harro’s version ESSO became ESTO, which to the audience in Estonia is mainly related to the foreign Estonian cultural festival or a TV show that irritated spectators at the beginning of the new millennium – the authors of the show made fun of everything they came across; in Finnish “esto” means “obstacle”. Harro also mocked the company NOKIA – now presumed to be a national pride of the Finnish people – which the artist redesigned to obtain NOKI! (“soot”). The reason behind Harro’s transformation is that the company used to produce tyres, cables and paper, and was thus at the forefront of polluters.

Harro Koskinen actively participated in the social debate of the 1960s and the 1970s, and joined the ecological movement. He also dared to express his critical attitudes towards issues in foreign politics. The installation “Bad Thing” was completed a day before Soviet troops invaded Czechoslovakia. A red children’s rubberboot carrying Soviet arms trampling on a female figure holding the Czechoslovakian, Polish and Hungarian flags in her hand does not require additional commentary.

The Pop Art period did not last long for Harro Koskinen. Already at the beginning of the 1970s, Harro calmed down and turned to more traditional artistic language, but issues related to nature and social problems touch him to this day.

The exhibition was organised in cooperation with the Turku Art Museum; it is accompanied by a catalogue published by the Turku Art Museum, which includes Estonian translations of the texts on separate slip sheets.

The exhibition is financially supported by the Finnish Fund for Art Exchange (FRAME).

The curator of the exhibition is Mia Haltia from Turku Art Musem.

The text of the press release is based on the exhibition catalogue HARRO!

Further information:
Kädi Talvoja
Phone: 602 6043, 5388 1439



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