Teuvo Jalonen has had a long career working shifts at a paper mill. Jalonen kept his creativity hidden for a long time, but his wife, Marjaana, suspected that something was going on as her husband had got into the habit of rolling a big ball of Blu Tack in his fingers, and once, while drinking his coffee in the morning, he turned the ball into an elaborate animal figure. Marjaana bought some modelling clay, and soon Jalonen showed her a mammoth sculpture he had made. It was very lifelike and even had the dense coat typical of woolly mammoths. The origins of the coat became clear when the family’s dog was found to have a few bald spots. Having attended clay sculpting courses, Jalonen felt he was ready to start his career as an artist almost there and then.
The house is now full of small clay sculptures. The range of species is wide; there are exotic and rare animals but the most popular subject is the cat, which is interesting to sculpt because of the plasticity of its body.
The joy of seeing his works turn out so well has spurred Jalonen to take on increasingly demanding challenges. In 2012, he began casting life-size concrete animal figures in his garden, where Finnish fauna could be found accompanied by exotic animals as the artist made a pride of life-size lions there. He says that the big lion is Aslan, familiar to many from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.
Jalonen’s art goes deeper than the first impression it gives. There is a battle against the forces of evil in Narnia, led by Aslan, a deity. At the end of the story, the lion dies and is resurrected, very much like Jesus. The key works behind Jalonen’s philosophy can be found on top of the bookshelf: Noah’s Ark with its clay animals and the skilfully executed, suffering Job resting beside it – the only human figure that Jalonen has made.
Jalonen made a big decision a couple of years ago: he bought a forest plot and started making concrete animal sculptures there. The plot is flanked by mercilessly cut clearings, and there is very little left of the past idyll. One can, however, experience the undisturbed atmosphere of a primeval forest in the middle of the small plot. Jalonen is building a small piece of paradise for himself. He’s returning to a place that may never have existed.
Text: Veli Granö. Editor: Lauri Oino. Images: Veli Granö.