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Tuija Wahlroos

DICHOTOMY IN LIFE —LONELINESS IN HIS WORKS — viewpoints on the Art of Veijo Hukka

House of controversies

But is it possible that this castle is only an illusion?
What if it does exist!

My guests of this, at least, are sure; their impulses are an illuminated way leading there.

We indeed live there, each as we wish, at least, when there is where we happen to be.

Andre Breton, First Manifest, 1924  




Let's recall 1987, the eve of the mad final years of the 80's when Finnish financial markets overheated and brought with them rapidly created - and extinguished -consumer hysteria and newly rich, when the portable telephone became a sign of social status, the casino economy a new mantra in the mouths of the political decision makers, loose money moved in the hearts of Finns in a never before seen way and microwave ovens and waterbeds finally captured Finnish homes. The first real consumer wave washed over Finland and it appear that almost everyone who could cry took part; when getting drunk there is still no awareness of the next day's hangover.

The Kempele artist and regional manager of a multinational company, Veijo Hukka has been involved in witnessing all of these changes, has confirmed them for a long time in his shuttling to his areas of responsibility through tens of thousands of kilometres annually and gradually come to his own solution; the time has come for him to get off this treadmill. The decision has been ripening in his mind for a long time, the controversy between creativity and business life has become ever more insurmountable, nor does Hukka for his own part want to help this destructive development — after all the motives of his art have been greatly shaped by just the description of the relationships between nature and people and the significance of nature. In his delving ever more deeply into his creative work Hukka leaves working life five years before his retirement age, turning his back on development optimism and with his own works the criticism answers which has appeared in his pictures for a long time and in which he has sneered at modern man's selfishness, weak values and the division of the world.

1987 had brought up a situation where the sum of Hukka's internal controversies culminated and condensed — the artist's identity had won.

If Veijo Hukka is approached through the kind of setting given above - business versus the artist, it is undeniable that his life and person get a dichotic and even a dramatic stamp. It is however true that he balanced between these two worlds for almost three decades until running one became evermore burdensome and unpleasant. Due to these conditions in Hukka's artistic career nothing seems at all very uncomplicated and self-evident. It seems to be stamped by rapid decisions, changes and sometimes even fateful chance. Over the years Hukka's artistic personage has sought direction and rights as have the decisions he has made in his life, too. In himself our prejudicial assumptions about the difference between art and business life are concentrated — with contrasting properties being the assumed heartiness of business life and demand for growth and Hukka's sensitive, feeling artist personality with a deep global care for the world.

Controversy is one key which allows the opening of the interpretative door into the starring points of Hukka's art and it also offers the possibility to follow the artist's struggle towards individuality and harmony between life and art. Hukka's artistic career can be playfully called one kind of large mathematical equation when the sum of controversies is always an irreversible change. The results of such an equation represent the artist's naiveistic period which rapidly begun in the 70's when the realism-concrete experiment of the artist remained behind in finding the synthesis for his own technical readiness and on the other hand with a great deal to say, for Hukka a typical story. A second larger artistic controversial period was timed for the beginning of the 80s when Hukka again sought channels for his expression, aware of the dangers in the popularity achieved in naive art — the repetition of descriptive solutions." The thread in my art has been unyielding Karelian curiosity and the desire to see how far I can go". Hukka has been able to see when each road has been travelled to its end and to be humble as necessary to begin from the start by wiping the slate clean and to stumble on a twisty and heavy road for a picture, driven by his own honest desire and a feverish need for creation.

In Hukka's Karelian background can be found certain controversial features. In it are mixed a dose of the northern Karelian more courteous and adaptable frame of mind and on the other hand the vivacious Vyborg temperament from his mother's side. In the solutions which Hukka has made with respect to his life it is possible to trace this simplified split into two - he has1 arrived at his final destination through round- about ways and compromises when he has first gone along the compromise road but has always finally ended up with a violent cutting of his old ties. The important, however, has been the burning desire to produce a picture which has been in the background the whole time, haunting his desires and dreams and Hukka has not been able to resist this finally.

The dichotomous and uncertain attitude of the young Veijo Hukka toward the creation of a picture was strengthened by the stereotyped criteria of a good drawer used in the schools at that time. The line has always been problematic for Hukka, and his drawing even clumsy, but in those days these were generally thought to be the only possible basic means to create a picture. Later Hukka has managed to solve the controversies between graphicness and his own artistic visions, and he has approached picture creating spontaneously and in a childlike manner, expressing his visions with colours, symbolic meanings and compositions. Hukka's approach and manner have the same sort of unconscious naive quality as the art of Simberg and Rousseau, when it is not a deliberate joke but instead, a real and sincere effort on the part of the artist to develop his expression.

Hukka's artistic decisions seem often to rely on small lucky incidents. In the beginning of the 70s, after the realistic and concrete experimenting of the 60s did not feel to be the most natural way of expression for him, Hukka, led by his "Karelian curiosity and courage", sought apprenticeship with the Kemi-based artist Nina Vanas, who originally comes from Joensuu. Vanas sensed that the self-taught artist's approach to art came from the spinal cord and urged Hukka to create naive pictures and to work with oil instead of water colours. "Everything fell into place at once", with clumsiness, humour and shining colours Hukka found a world of pictures which was recognized immediately.

Hukka 1993

The individual, awkwardly playful and often deliberately erroneous naive style gave Hukka a chance to express his visions and to take a position. With the new pictorial world Hukka seemed to find the main thread for his work and a freedom to create multidimensional pictures with various interpretations. Hukka dived deep into small stories, the grotesque controversies of human existence, the presence of death, into the imminence of temptation, and already by then his work showed certain ethical or moral undertones. The way of expression for Hukka was not open laughter but rather biting satire and quiet smiles. Thus the 70s was for Hukka a period of strong social criticism in spite of the traditionally joyful and humorous form of expression that he now represented. The naive style was, however, a decision of only one period, and in any event Hukka was not a traditional naive artist: laughing, exuberant and ebulliently colourful. Already in the 70s the controversy between Hukka's style and his aims became apparent - the lightness of his expression and the darkness of his themes. Hukka's art simply did not fit into one purely childlike pattern, and critics soon noticed his singularity among the naive artists. When naive stories usually had a happy ending, Hukka's works seemed often to end with a question mark or a twinge of the viewer's conscience.

Hukka's naive period ended in a strong need for personal renewal as the controversy between expression and style became so overwhelming that it suffocated all activity. Naive art had in any case opened a door, and this had an irreversible influence on Hukka's development. Not even the relearning and the experimenting with expressionism and pure abstract art in the beginning of the 80s managed to extinguish Hukka's basic nature, his childlike, obvious and dreamlike expression which didn't fit into the right perspectives, the realistic outside world and its patterns, but instead into an inner world of pictures created by his imagination. The influence of naive art on Hukka is difficult to ignore, and, indeed, its importance for his art cannot be denied since due

The naive style Hukka ended up creating art resembling himself. Already the beginning of the 70s showed the characteristics that mark his later work, such as surrealist shades, symbolism and even certain ornamental and compositional decisions. The naive style also brought back in Hukka's pictures one of the basic elements of his art today, namely man, which had disappeared from his paintings after the realistic period. Hukka's naive man, the little jovial adventurer, managed to escape the official model-man and to come out as the story's leading character, avoiding strict formalism.

The controversy between motif and style arising during the naive period has been solved by Hukka in his present work, where his expression is even more compressed than before: the distribution of colours is clarified, and the reduced human characters and imaginary signs create a dense world of mystical meanings - the presence of the naive can still be sensed.

As an artist from either Karelia or Kempele Hukka has always reached across national and regional boundaries. For Hukka the world is one and belongs to everyone where the archetypes created by him function as representatives of the collective consciousness. Today Hukka has compressed his human characters into anonymous silhouettes, into the idea of man. But the spectrum of human relationships and the struggle for diversity still remain the starting point for his art. The clearer and the stronger the artist's hold on the world of visions, the more emphasized is man's, the great loner of the world, problematic and ambiguous relationship with the world. "An artist creates firstly for himself and with his work he deliveries a defence and, in a certain manner, an apology for his deeds. I'm as wretched as the rest of us, I waste natural resources, I'm an egoist, I would run public affairs the wrong way.. .all these are matters which as a whole will determine the direction of development. That is the reason why we need to stir up people, and in my pictures I try to stir up myself as well."Up to page

Tuija Wahlroos

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