Niilo Rytkönen

Suonenjoki (1928–2018)

Niilo Rytkönen’s art opens your eyes and mind to the beauty hidden in natural forms. Old dead branches and lumps of stone can contain expressions much in the same way as clouds form figures on the summer sky. Let Rytkönen guide your imagination. Your eyes will learn to recognise figures and soon his garden is filled with animals: birds, calves, beavers, stoats, bears and numerous others. Yet not all natural forms exhibited are meant to be figurative. Rytkönen tells us that there are stones and tree stumps in the farm and the outbuildings whose beautiful and fascinating forms make them pleasing to the eye in themselves.

At first Rytkönen displayed his work on the barn walls, tucked away. He was worried about other people’s reactions and, in all fairness, the feedback was not always purely encouraging. “What the devil have you done to spoil the barn walls?” asked one neighbour. As the collection of work has grown, neighbours have learnt to understand Rytkönen’s art and he no longer worries about criticism. He says that other people’s opinions only matter if they are positive as it motivates him.

Rytkönen has taken to old branches and other quirky, beaten materials found in the woods. Time and happenstance make art of natural forms. In spring and autumn evenings Rytkönen will walk to a clearing in the forest. When he notices a branch or roots sticking out from moss, he knows he is onto a treasure. He never knows what he might unearth. He says that the items found in nature and carried home are at their best if left untouched, only carefully cleaned. Sometimes, though, he paints natural forms in bright colours, just to make his garden more cheerful and dramatic.

Text & photos: Minna Haveri. Translation: Kirsti Nurmela-Knox.

Niilo Rytkönen passed away in autumn 2018.