Johannes Setälä

Karjalohja (1941)

Johannes Setälä is a shaman, who makes art. The subconcious and the hidden gain a visible form in his artwork. Setälä’s work comes from a connection with nature and it lives as a part of its surroundings.

The sculptures, produced from natural materials, are predisposed to the forces of nature intentionally and are thus under constant transformation. The themes of shamanism and kalevala appear as symbols and subtle gestures in the imagery of the work in the courtyard and the nearby forest. Setälä does not prefer monumental constructions in his art, but rather, in his words, sculpts thoughts.

In Setälä’s view, art has to have an effect, it has to entail meaning. Beauty alone is not enough. In Setälä’s work, the boards of old buldings emanate the charge of a life lived, and even a pile of rocks has its history along with recycled items and clothes worn by the sculptures.The materials of the sculptures have memories and the courtyard trees and places have sprites in Setälä’s art. Setälä creates his pieces by being perceptible to messages, that most overlook in their busy day-to-day life and abundance of material goods. In his work he criticizes fussing over wealth and prosperity with gentle sarcasm. He is happy to have saved himself from the art scene of the capital area to become a shaman intact with nature on an island.

Johannes Setälä has over 30 years of experience in shamanism. In 1996, at the international Four Winds – convention for native people, he was ordained guardian of the spiritual legacy of Finland and of the shaman fire by Native American participants. Setälä has written and illustrated four books about the heritage of kalevala and shamanism.

Text and photos: Minna Haveri. Translation: Ina Aaltojärvi.