If you were asked to name a statue from the top of your head, you’ll probably say “The Venus of Milo”, as it might be one of earliest encounters with sculpture we all had. But if you ask this question in the Finnish town of Parikalla, in the south-east of Finland and next to the Russian border, the answer will surely be the strange sculptures of Veijo Rönkkönen.
Women washing clothes. Two of the many sculptures you can find in this strange park. This photo and all the others were made by Mike Ancient with CC (by-nd-nc) license.
Who is Veijo Rönkkönen?
Veijo Rönkkönen (born in 1944 and passed away in 2010) was a Finnish artist and sculptor. During his youth, while working at a paper factory, he started to make sculptures. He finished his first sculpture in 1961 and continued sculpting all his life, finishing around 450 statues.
All these statues are now standing in the park-like garden of the house where he lived with his parents.
Veijo never stopped living in that house, and he was a man who loved being alone. By placing his statues in the park, he made them available for anyone to see, but he never came out to talk to any of the visitors. He instead left a guestbook with a sign asking visitors to leave a note.
The man here plays Kantele, a traditional Finnish instrument, while the ladies dance.
Veijo never agreed to lend his statues to museums or expositions. When asked about it, he said he must “check with the statues first”. They must have always said no, since up to today none of the statues have left their places in the garden.
In 2007, three years before his death, he won the Finlandia prize (a multi-disciplinar prize granted annually), but he didn’t attend the ceremony to receive it since he didn’t want to leave his house. It was received by his brother in his name.
The sculpture park of Veijo Rönkkönen
The park is the most important set of pieces of contemporary folk art of Finland. The facial expressions of the statues, made from concrete, are part of what makes this group of statues unique. Their expressions are scary, since they aren’t fully realistic: instead they come close to the Uncanny Valley. Some of them also have real human teeth, and sound effects that make the whole park even creepier.
The biggest part of the statue collection is formed by 200 statues in different yoga positions, something that Veijo Rönkkönen knew to perfection.
Statues in different yoga positions.
The exposition has turned into a tourist attraction for the little town of Parikalla. Around 25.000 people visit there every year and the new owners of the park after Veijo’s death have planned to make his park an even bigger attraction. To pique your curiosity, you can check out the entrance to the park with Google Street View, and see many more photos of Veijo Rönkkönen’s statues on Findart.fi.
Here is also a video in which some tourists make a tour through the park, showing the statues.
What do you think about these unsettling statues? Which one is your favorite?