ITE #3. Alpo Koivumäki and his Alpon Savaani.
Finnish Contemporary Folk Art
Take the gentle 2 lane highway that swerves out of Karvia’s undulating golden wheat fields, through forests of innumerable tall trees for some twenty kilometers, hang a left turn and look for a small sign that says Alpon Savaani, it’s got an alligator on it.It’s a dirt road plunging into the forest quickly leading to Alpo Koivumäki’s fantasy land, a world populated by a jungle of palm trees and wild animals. Only the animals are sculptures of recycled metal and car tires, sometime life size. A large pair of birds, sheet metal and rusted exhaust pipe in amongst their ingredients, guard the entrance 100 yards down the road.
It’s my good fortune that the folks hosting me in Karvia have told me about this place’s existence. That’s what I am telling myself as I my amazed eyes let it all sink it.
I have been lead here by hand drawn directions, no gps design. My instructions are that it is fine for me to look around, and maybe the artist is home, maybe not. To my great fortune, there is Alpo, tinkering away in his yard, carrying a big plastic pale full of sheet metal scraps towards the front of one of a number of work-sheds in the vicinity.
Alpo and I have a casual acquaintance, having eaten pizza together in Merikarvia after the art-gallery opening, where I discovered the ITE movement, and the artists present discovered Mr. YooWho. We also shared a wonderful opening presentation for the artists, where we all received the big hunks of most delicious smoked fish before heading out for the local pizza and doner spot.
At first, Alpo doesn’t recognize me at all. Certainly not Finnish he can tell, but he’s eying me with a kind but hesitating eye until I remind him of the Merikarvia, where several of his amazing savanni sculptures are currently residing. Then his eyes light up in recognition, and he makes a renewed effort to elaborate his broken english to my non-existent finnish and we dig into a conversation populated by my umpteen questions …
I don’t ask him why he has built of a forest of palm tree fronds, as it turns out all out of green beer cans. The long winter has been a frequent topic of conversation these past 4 weeks on the back roads of Finland, and the darkness is often a topic.
How long is it? . “90 days without seeing the sun last winter” the Helsinki taxi driver told me. It might have something to do with the ITE movement… I ask Alpo the basics, yes this is his house, he lives over there, and works over here. He has brought me into a large garage space in a barnlike structure. It is mostly full of his sculptures. I ask if this is his workshop? No it’s just a place, I work over there as we walk to the doorway, and he points over to a barren flat expanse of land next to a number of real trees. In the winter I work in one of the sheds. Where does he get the material to work with? Most of it comes from an automobile repair shop nearby. How long does it take to make the art? Well the large horse there took me about 3 weeks. Do many people come to visit the savanni? Yes, he tells me, all kinds of people, and lot’s of schoolgroups.
That last question leads to Alpo explaining how recently he has exhibited in a number of European cities, and always (or perhaps most always) creating the artworks in place as an artist in residence Alpo also tells me that most of his larger pieces are outside, in the urban lands beyond his savanni inluding the buffalo and the lion on exhibit in Merikarvia. He tells me that the alligator is in the nearby town of Parkanon (Watch out for an upcoming post.) There is probably more info on the web yet the video interview guided tour in Finnish of alpon savanni on youttube is no longer online. If you are super curious, perhaps a web search will yield results. Meanwhile, here are a few of the inhabitants of alpon savanni.