Thursday, 20 August 2015

Gothic Art in Spotlight: disturbing findings from Vaasa and a bat exhibition

This post is under label Gothic Art in Spotlight, although I am at the same time writing a bit about the road trip of mine. The simple reason for this is that I encountered the works during my road trip and in the same city these were was an exhibition of bats too!

Main stars of this post are artworks by Tapani Kokko, and Eemil Karila. The were in Kuntsi, the Museum of Modern Art in Vaasa. The exhibition was called Out of the box and it was the annual summer exhibition, featuring the newest work of well known Finnish artists.

The self portrait

The work by Karila was put as a teaser in the previous post, so let's start with it. The name of this sculpture is Self portrait as a reindeer and it was made 2014. It is mixed media work, so when visiting the art museum of Vaasa the visitor will not know any more about the materials used to create this work.

I am a law obeying citizen, so I did not touch the artwork to figure if the fur is genuine reindeer.  The head is 1:1 size and I am ready to bet money that the antlers at least are of a reindeer. Like many deer animals, reindeer drop their antlers yearly. Tedious fun fact No. 13: Reindeer antler is the fastest growing bone in the world. It can grow up to two centimeters in 24 hours.
This self portrait looks a bit like the Wolf Man in the first black and white movies, doesn't it? I love the fact that instead of making himself a majestic reindeer galloping in the wild, the artist features himself as a mount on the wall.

Karila was born in Rovaniemi, the capital of Lapland province in Finland but he has moved to Berlin.

In April I featured a horned self portrait by an American artist, so if humanoid heads with antlers or horns interest you, go and check it out!

You better watch out, you better not cry...

Then the more disturbing and creepier one. This fine sculpture is made by Kokko year 2014. The statue is carved of wood. Kokko has used wood as material for many of his works. The works tend to be naivistic but there is usually a more gruesome aspect to them. It is said that Kokko brought carnivalism into the wood carved art in Finland.
The statue is hidden in a separated room from a larger exhibition area. You can see the room is dark, except for a source of light on the left. You boldly step into the room and gaze the opposite wall. Nothing. You turn to see if something is placed close to the light. No. The light is the only object in the room.
And then you flinch and some curse words might taint the air.
The light is a disturbingly grinning elf from Santa Claus' workshop. 

The name of this sculpture is A Gnome. So, instead of being a creepy little helper of Santa, it might be a regular garden gnome, ready to ambush you from under the rhubarb bush!
It is hideous and if you look closely, is that blood dripping down its beard?
I apologize for the poor quality but you are not usually allowed to use flash in museums and using another source of light would've lessened the creepyness of this creature hunching in a dark room.

That is it about the disturbing sculptures, I would love to know what you thought of them!

The bat exhibition

Vaasa has many museums and it is a nice place for a tourist to spend some days. There is an amusement park, possibilities to shop and experience culture, and the Kvarken Archipelago on the coastline of Vaasa is on UNESCO's World Heritage List. The natural history museum conserving material of the Archipelago is called Terranova. Since I have a tiny sci-fi freak inside me, I can't help but to smile for this.
In the same facilities is the Ostrobothnian Museum, concentrating on nature too, and they had an exhibition called Shadowed by the vampires - the secret world of bats. I actually had already seen it, since it is produced by the Finnish Natural History Museum in Helsinki and I had seen it at their museum almost three years ago.
I wanted to refresh my memory on bats and my travel companion had not seen the bat exhibition so we went to explore. The exhibition is really good, they have covered bats and their habits from many aspects. There is a lot of information about the creatures, why they are so misunderstood and what can people do to help keeping bats from becoming endangered species.
Again, all material is in three languages, Finnish, Swedish, and English. You can see from the photo above the information boards are cut into the shape of a resting bat.

The title of the display mentions vampires but they are in a teeny tiny role. one of the major points of the exposition is that the vampire legends have caused a lot of harm for all different bat species, because superstitious humans try to kill them even though they are not only harmless, they often have an important role in the ecosystem and polluting patches of vegetables humans rely on.
Above is a close-up of one of the cabinets that featured the way people have mistreated bats and had all kinds of superstitious beliefs about them. The title of this section is "Dark forces and witchcraft".

The exhibition is a travelling show, meaning that different museums and places can rent it to have at their facilities. It has mostly traveled in Finland but due to the three languages, I can't see why it could not be taken abroad.

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed the artworks!

Next up: Art featuring giant toys, odd phenomena from the Neolithic age and Finnish folklore.


  1. Oh, the bat exhibition sounds great, as a biologist I'm always happy if education and fun can be united! I also lve the creepy art, I really don't know how you are so lucky to find creepy paintings and sculptures all along your way!

    1. I am super happy that almost every exhibition had at least one creepy or disturbing work of art. ^___^ It does not happen always!

  2. BAT EXHIBITION. Ok. you got me here. Seriously this is the best roadtrip journey and I am sure a lot of people would have loved to join you on that trip!! <3 <3 <3

    1. Thank you! <3 This was my first road trip and first long vacation in Finland in new cities instead of my hometown and it was a great experience. :D

  3. All very cool! I now want a self portrait with horns! Yes, gnomes can be scary! Also I musread carnivalism as cannibalism so that was scary! And bats are cute!

    1. Hehe! That gnome could easily be a cannibal, if you ask me! :D