ITE art is an art form full of laughter: it is often comical both in its style and content. ITE artists are ambitious and serious about art-making but create works funny enough to make any viewer laugh out loud. ITE art can feature (partly) unintentional humour, the logic of a caricature characteristic of many works and visual jokes.

ITE artists freely combine elements from various traditions and the iconography of popular culture. Since ITE art is not based on the command of high art practices but on folk aesthetics, ITE artists may choose means of expression, subjects and combinations that professional art avoids completely or only approaches with irony. This means that, on the one hand, works by ITE artists surprise us with their peculiar combinations but, on the other, are confusingly familiar.

The roots of Finnish ITE art are deep in rural culture where skills of hand, frugality and self-sufficiency are highly valued. Often it is an ITE artist’s aim to create something grand and valuable out of something cheap and useless. One of the most fascinating features of ITE art is the way artists meet the challenges posed to the expression by unusual materials. At first, works of contemporary folk art may seem raw and naïve, but considering the techniques used they reveal a great skill in execution. There is no point to expect concrete to be as delicate as plaster, and the tin of soup tins is not primarily meant to be used in sculpture.

In order to overcome the difficulties presented by material, technique and environment, ITE artists must occasionally make stylistic compromises. For example, some works simply cannot be made as delicate and fragile as the artist wants, and sometimes it is impossible to create the monumental piece that the subject deserves. It can be hard to work material with inadequate tools, so the process needs to be simplified and the focus must be on what is most essential. Eliminating anything extra also makes communicating the idea more efficient.

The untamed ”rawness” of ITE art communicates originality and strength of expression, the primal creativity that high art envies of the various forms of outsider art.

Minna Haveri, Doctor of Arts

The sculpture by Ensio Tuppurainen, “To be or not to be”. Photo: Veli Granö.