Saturday, March 10, 2012

Erik Enroth (exhibition)

Exhibition Erik Enroth 11.2. – 6.5.2012, Sara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere. Paintings, watercolours, drawings. Viewed on 10 March, 2012.

The official presentation: "This year (2012) will mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Sara Hildén Art Foundation. In 1962, Sara Hildén donated the works of art that she owned to the foundation that was named after her. The core of the collection was composed of the early works (from the period 1945–1963) of the painter Erik Enroth (1917–1975). The gala year thus opens with an extensive retrospective exhibition of Erik Enroth's work, which will be on display from 11 February to 6 May 2012. The Sara Hildén Art Museum has previously held exhibitions of his work, in 1980 and 1985. In addition, the painter's early works were shown in a small exhibition in 1991. The collection of the Sara Hildén Foundation comprises about 4600 works, in addition to which it received as a legacy about 3600 works belonging to the art collection of the graphic artist Pentti Kaskipuro. The foundation's collection contains 537 works by Erik Enroth. In connection with the exhibition, the Sara Hildén Art Museum will publish a catalogue dealing extensively with Enroth's oeuvre with contributions by Ulla Vihanta, Otso Kantokorpi, Jyrki Siukonen and Tomi Moisio."

"Finland’s postwar efforts to get the country back on its feet inspired Erik Enroth to paint workers and factories. These depictions emphasize the rigour of the work and the physical efforts of the workers. Erik Enroth married Sara Hildén in 1949. He had a studio in the Commerce building on Central Square, and he used local motifs such as factory scenes and cityscapes in his works. Enroth made several ink drawings of the factory halls on the Tampella site and the workers in them. He used these drawings as sketches for his paintings. Among the other local Tampere subjects that he used were scenes from the Pyynikki district, Tampella Power Station and the Old Church on Central Square."

"Erik Enroth's idiom has been described as expressionist and cubist. Motifs that were close to him, such as depictions of factories and workers, urban scenes, landscapes, portraits, still lifes and, scenes from the circus and sporting events are recurrent themes in his oeuvre. Enroth was an extremely productive artist, and he was capable of spending several years on a single work. He travelled a lot, including trips to Spain and the United States. In Spain, Enroth was captivated not only by the mountain scenery but also by the local culture, and he was inspired to paint flamenco dancers, bullfights and Spanish harvesters."

"In his still life paintings, Enroth repeatedly used the motif of the ox skull; sometimes it is bloody and brutal, while in other paintings it has worn to a delicate pale yellow. Enroth was fascinated by death as the antithesis of the carnal and vigorous nature of life. The numerous paintings that Enroth made with a circus motif in the 1940s and 1950s constitute a particularly interesting group in his oeuvre. In his paintings of the circus milieu, Enroth emphasizes the dark side of the entertainment world, the harlequin worn out by hard work."

The Sara Hildén collection was important for me during my student days in Tampere in the 1970s. I started to frequent it when it was still situated in provisory circumstances at the Hatanpään kartano (Hatanpää Manor), and it was a great event when the Sara Hildén Art Museum was opened in 1979 in a beautiful location by the Näsijärvi Lake next to the Näsinneula scenic tower. The building itself, designed by the Pekka Ilveskoski company, a work of art in its own right, was perfect for the permanent exhibition of the Sara Hildén collection.

There it was possible to examine the Sara Hildén's collection of Picasso, Bonnard, Léger, Klee, Miró, de Chirico, Giacometti, Dubuffet, Vasarely, Segal, and Christo. Prominently displayed were Henry Moore's Reclining Mother and Child and Edward Kienholz's The Tadpole Piano Pool with Woman Affixed Also. I now realize that the Hildén collection and the permanent exhibition were a great pedagogic opportunity to experience masterpieces of 20th century art (even large-sized works) first-hand. The mise-en-scène and the lighting arrangement of the museum were excellent.

The artist best represented in the Sara Hildén collection was of course Erik Enroth, who had been Hildén's husband. I saw the first Erik Enroth exhibition at the Sara Hildén Art Museum in 1980, and now I saw the current exhibition. Many of the works I remembered, but there are also many new discoveries. There is a special section on Enroth's work in the intelligence department of the military forces during WWII. But the main sections are of Enroth's bold, vigorous, virile works of the physical world of factories, working men, sportsmen, circus people, acrobats, and dancers, and landscapes of strong colours, including even Monument Valley famous from John Ford's Westerns. Enroth travelled a lot, reported on the modern art scene of the 1950s in the US, published collections of poems, and designed book cover art for instance for Lauri Viita's Betonimylläri [The Concrete Mixer]. Enroth is often close to Expressionism, and he is often influenced by Picasso, but I like best his almost abstract work when he lets himself be led by pure colour.

I like the way the paintings have been hung and the lighting design at the museum. A few paintings have been covered with glass which I now find irritating. I'm watching everything in a new way now trying to adjust to the digital transition in cinemas. I appreciate the naked surface of the oil paintings more.

I had been looking forward to see something else from the Sara Hildén permanent collection, too, but all the main spaces have been dedicated to Erik Enroth. In the café there is a pleasant collection of design and small size art (Rut Bryk, Birger Kaipiainen, Hannu Väisänen), and the museum is surrounded by a sculpture park, impressive even in the middle of the snow and partly covered by it (Harry Kivijärvi, Kimmo Pyykkö, Hannu Siren, etc) - and the welcome exhibit is Rauni Liukko's life-size installation sculpture Ruuhkaratikka / Rush Hour Tram.

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