During May, an exhibition presenting the impact of “eastern spirituality” in Finnish art will open at the Tikanoja Art Museum. In the exhibition, historical and cultural objects as well as around 100 artworks from the late 19th century until today will be on display. The exhibition Eastern Spirituality is curated by Nina Kokkinen, researcher specialized in art and religion.
For a long time, ideas of the deep, spiritual wisdom of the East have fascinated those who live in the West. This exhibition explores the history of these ideas, and considers how for example yoga, oriental dance, and the sages of the East have attracted artists since the late 19th century – and how the fascination of eastern spirituality can be observed in their art. In the exhibition, artworks by the Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela will be displayed together with artefacts that he collected during his travels. Under the dark shadow of colonialism, a large array of exotic objects were imported to Europe. These oftentimes became part of museal collections and décor in ateliers in the West. The exhibition highlights not only the problematic nature of the ideas surrounding Eastern spirituality – but also the artists’ genuine will to understand and learn from different cultures. Eastern Spirituality also brings to the fore works by the Vaasa-born Ilona Harima, who has long been hidden away from the Finnish art history canon.
In recent decades, Eastern spirituality has merged into popular culture and the multifaceted milieu of the spiritualities, to live in the minds of Western people as a longing for aesthetics, escapism, and a desire to look at life from more spiritual perspectives. The exhibition Eastern Spirituality also displays works by contemporary artists who have embraced eastern traditions and philosophies, such as Outi Heiskanen, J. O. Mallander, and Silja Rantanen. These artists contribute to the exhibition by offering perspectives on spiritual growth and the freeing of the mind from its shackles.
The exhibition is produced by Vaasa City Museums and contains a significant number of loans from art museums and rarely seen private collections. Vaasa City Museums is also presenting work of four women artists: Eva Bremer, Meri Genetz, Ilona Harima, and Lyyli Visanti, which are selected from both public and private exhibitions.
Statue, Guhyasamāja. Photo: The Mannerheim Museum / Liisa Oikari.