A middle-age man's life a blues? At least it's not the whimpering song of survival by the skin of one's teeth that plays in the world of Aarne Jämsä, soon to turn 50. His world tastes of life. Or what else would you say about the cartoon series Aarne and Arja?
The title of the series points to its prominent autobiographical streak. It is Aarne depicting his life by the side of his mate Arja over the past six years (1998–2004). The Kiasma collections already have several dozen of these paintings made in ink and watercolour. Square in shape, they are like panels in a comic strip that follows the changing fortunes of a married couple. Although Aarne Jämsä's narrator's voice comes across quite strong, the idiosyncratic scenes do not easily yield their secrets to those who have not shared the everyday life of Aarne and Arja. The viewer must invent the missing speech balloons.
Aarne's and Arja's life is no saccharine idyll. On the contrary, the pictures give a vivid sense of both love and anger on the home front, with the main characters loving, sulking or gripping each other by the throat. They watch holiday slides sitting in each other's laps in the light of a lava lamp. But they can also be staring at the computer screen, neglecting their spouse, or wallow in a crapulous anger that distorts everything. The lush domestic decorations in the pictures suggest the artistic life: there are Aarne's drawings on the walls, miniature sculptures on top of the cabinet. The forces of gravity or laws of perspective cannot flatten the visions in the pictures. Forms are distorted and bent, should the mood of the image demand it.
The basic ingredients in the pictures are most obviously sensual. At home, Aarne and Arja walk about in their birthday suits, naked like Adam and Eve. But the postlapsarian paradise must make do with withered potted plants for its symbols, nor is the state of innocence too pure, either. The pictures also contain – should one wish to read them so – elements of a trianglular drama.
Nevertheless, they are quite endearing, the soft, rotund Aarne and Arja, strangely alike, as if they have grown into images of each other. The pair of anti-heroes is sculptural. In artist registers Jämsä is described primarily as a sculptor. But the title does not tell the whole story of his artistic activities. Through his hands, a wealth of different materials has acquired a second, reckless life as works of art. Jämsä also teaches art, and the last item on his merit list is being short listed for the Ars Fennica 2005 fine arts prize.
But what is a series of pictures about the recurrent events in a couple's life doing in a show dedicated to new politics in art? The works do not convey a serious view of the world, nor do they express concern over anything other than the everyday life contained in them. But they take us to the very place where tolerance begins – our own living rooms.
Head of Education
FRACTURES OF LIFE
2 Apr–20 Nov 2nd and 3rd floor