Jussi Tukiainen

Kerimäki (19342022)

Jussi Tukiainen makes art with an essence of black comedy out of every possible material he can get his hands on. He is a self-taught Dadaist, whose talent would win him a place on the official side of the art world, but whose explosive style makes him a particularly strong outsider artist with numerous art brut characteristics.

Tukiainen – a clergyman’s son from Vaasa – studied theology at university. His studies came to an abrupt end and in 1965 and Tukiainen became a radical artist. One of his works parodies the Church’s power: figures made of pliers are at a christening, where a priest made of pliers bound in string is baptising a pliers-baby in front of a congregation of pliers-people. Tukiainen has sold works entitled Jesus’ cloakroom to some parish councils. A crown of razor wire hangs from an ancient giant nail on a blood-red background.

His political opinions take dark satirical forms in his art. He often bases his works on his opinion of a topical issue. “When I read the paper, I fly into a rage, which I then take out on a piece of art.” He makes a comment on unemployment with a shovel and a pair of gloves, and on the consequences of biased politics with a fist and an axe. To counterbalance this participatory realism, Tukiainen creates the most beautiful arrangements of jam jars and wool, and amazing sailing boats, which can have a keel made of an ice skate or a horse’s collar, a sail made of bark or rusted iron. The figurehead of a biggish boat is the head of a huge pike. Sails made of bones of various sizes of fowl are absolutely graceful.

Tukiainen has been creating works of ITE since 1986 in the old school building in Kattilamäki, Kerimäki, where his family has also lived all this time. The house is still in use, and works have filled both the building and the garden. A float and a gigantic fishhook used to hang from a birch tree; a rusty old bike has been caught in the hook by accident. This has been replaced by a toilet bowl with the inscription ‘Viva Duchamp!’

Tukiainen is well aware of historical Dadaism and stays true to its rambling roots. His works do not follow the rules of artistry so much as the whimsicality of creativity. Each one of his works is surprising in its form, choice of materials and idea. A serious subject and a caricature nature may be expressed in two pieces next to each other. He is a highly skilled artist, whose scale extends from abstract conceptual pieces to completely anarchic assemblages of objects.

Text: Erkki Pirtola. Photos: Veli Granö and Sinikka Varila.