9 November 2018 to 1 November 2019
The exhibition focuses on northern roots and heritage that inhibit the art of Reidar Särestöniemi (1925-1981). Born and raised in the village of Kaukonen, Kittilä, the artist drew his inspiration from the surrounding nature, farm life as well as the family’s spiritual legacy.
Reidar Särestöniemi, ”Escaped Violin", oil, 1961. Rovaniemi city collection. Phot by Arto Liiti.
Reidar Särestöniemi’s home farm Särestö was run by his mother Alma, a devoted christian Laestadian and father Matti, a convictional socialist. Alma had many stories to share with little Reidar from Finnmark, Northern Norway, where she spend her youth in Vesisaari (Vadsjo). Parent’s contradictional worldviews were furthermore mixed with local beliefs in elves, premonitions and natural deities. Local storytelling tradition, partly influenced by Sami mythologies, can be seen in Reidar’s paintings. The family’s wide circle reached from the shores of the Arctic Ocean to Kittilä, Lapland and formed a steady base for Reidar’s art.
Beyond Särestö courtyard, nature is omnipresent. Its arctic phenomenons: endless sunlight in the summer and polar nights in the winter reflected a wide emotional scale into the artist’s work. Art exists in relation to its surrounding society, and often a role reserved for the artist is to raise possible issues into wider discussion. Art is also influenced by the artist’s background: childhood, friends and different encounters, defeats or small victories in life. Reidar Särestöniemi’s art is visibly attached to his home area, but also includes symbolic elements. He often gave his audience freedom to interpret from their own standpoint the vivid colours and motifs.
Northern Heritage gathers Reidar Särestöniemi’s works from different collections around Finland. One can find paintings reaching far North in Finmark: “Soul of a dead Fisherman revisits his village” (1969), as well as commenting nearby events: “Silent Escape” (1970) brings forth the problem of depopulation of many villages in Lapland at the time. One of the spiritual places important for Reidar was the Monastery of Trifona, a kind of fantasy sanctuary he depictedin ten different paintings, of which three can be found in this exhibition. For instance “Trifona Orthodox Monastery” (1970) is a somber version of this Reidar’s beloved motif.