Welcome

Everything on this blog has something to do with my late father Simo Hannula’s (1932-2016) art and career. He was one of the most collected and exhibited printmaker and visual artist in Finland. All through his life he was infatuated with drawing and simple lines by which it is possible to express everything. More than anything he was drawer even though he worked lot with various media from painting to collage. I’m writing this blog as a fellow colleague, printmaker and visual artist, and also as a son. You are most welcome. I hope you’ll enjoy Simo Hannula’s art.

Pekka Hannula

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A Bone

On the 50s Simo’s style was based on drawing from nature and academic learning session around human body. And indeed he was a keen draughtsman, but after the school he had not yet made up his mind whether to concentrate on painting or to printmaking. Whether to paint or to draw and how to find his own personal style? Those were his question as a young artist.

Here are few examples of his 50s’ oils and prints.  First picture is one of those many studies he did of Linnanmäki Amusement Park, in where he was a regular visitor doing sketches and small oils like this. This oil sketch is done around 1959.

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The second oil is a Christmas present of 1958 to this his father-in-law, with whom he had a slightly complicated relationship right from the beginning. “Jouluna ukille” means “To Granpa at Christmas” (at that time my big sister was 1 year old). That is a very typical work he did after the art school and this one is sure something “good” rather than mediocre, because it had been selected for this purpose. He painted it somewhere near to his family’s home place at Liimattala 1957.

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Etching of 50s were also quite traditional ones depicting reality with bias and influence of Finnish art conceptions of that time. By The Sickbed is a picture (drypoint, 1954) of his father and mother. At The Marketplace (etching and aquatint, 1955) is a good quality example of his prints of 50s.

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But then the winds of informalism blew over Finland and affected strongly to my father and his style changed completely. The key work of this drastic change is a small size print of a bone. Even it is very modest one, it helped him to rethink everything and triggered in motion an extremely productive and intensive working period. My Mother had done a kettle of meat soup and father took couple of boiled and cleaned bones as his models. He sketched one and printed it, and got excited. He started to do a whole set of various still-life compositions of nature form curiosities. That opened to him a new direction to proceed.

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A Bone (Luu), small format etching and aquatint 1960.

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A Bone on The Dark Table (Luu tummalla pöydällä), small format etching and aquatint 1961.

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The Polypore Set Up (Kääpä-asetelma), etching, soft ground and aquatint 1961 and an ink sketch for it.

From these still-life structures it was only a small step to do moon landscape setups and to invent odd creatures who inhabit that scenery. At that time The Space Race between Soviet Union and United States was very intensive and Kennedy had set to US a goal to get a man in the moon. This had a strong influence on Simon topics as it is very evident on his prints. Even informalism was a short phenomenon in Finland, it did reverberate to Simo’s works still at late 60s, and every now and then after that. But anyway it was that blow of informalism and a hectic working period of 1960 to 1961 that made him choose a career as printmaker. 1961 is one of his most prolific years ever, even I was born then.

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The Arrivals to Evening (Iltaan ehtineet), etching, soft ground and aquatint 1961

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The Guards of The Moon (Kuunvartijat), etching, soft ground and aquatint 1961

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The Sunk City (Uponnut kaupunki), etching, soft ground and aquatint 1961

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Brought by The Night (Yön tuomat), etching 1967.

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The Night of Metamorphosis (Metamorfoosien yö), etching 1968

The Visions of Devastation

1960s was a turbulent decade with political tensions between “East” and “West.” The threat of nuclear disaster was real. There was The Bay of Pigs Invasion, Congo Crisis, Vietman War, Europe’s Crazy Year 1968 and Nuclear Weapon States tested actively their bombs. Television brought all this and much more into the living rooms. My father was keen newscast watcher and reader of newspapers. He followed actively what was happening all over the world. And he grew worried about the possibility that mankind might end up to destroy this planet because of pointless warmongering.

So he begun to do pictures of holocaust, visions of possible outcome, prints of the terminal state of human race. At first his etchings were kind of “situation after the bomb” images. Then at 70s his worrying produced nature conservation topics, but later “The War” came also back to his views. These works are completely different ones than his nature romanticism, like sunflower compositions. These are like warning signs whose purpose is functional: Don’t follow this road of madness, otherwise, this is what’s going to happen.

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Pro Humanitate (Pro humanitate), etching 1966

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Illuminated Arctic (Valaistu arktis), etching 1966

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The Totaliter (Totaliter), etching 1969

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This is a sketch for The Totaliter print. His preliminary drawings were quite often very small ones like this one – only 6x7cm. (Tussiluonnos edelliseen, koko on vain parin tulitikkulaatikon verran), ink 1969.

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House by house (Talo talolta), etching 1969

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The Dump Islands (Kaatosaaret), etching 1973

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The Requiem (Requiem), etching 1994

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Post Festum (Post festum), small size etching 1986

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Homo Ludens (Homo ludens), small size etching 1986

 

The Biggest Sunflowers Ever

Gardening was close to my father’s heart. It was part of his life style and had its place in the cycle of the year. At some point at the springtime art making ceased and he started to take care of his garden. I hardly ever saw him uprooting weeds but more often wheelbarrowing here and there refilling manure, compost, peat and soil to his bushes.

It was not just subsistence gardening focused on berries and horse beans but had also artistic goals. On the southern side of the house there was a perfect warm place to grow sunflowers. He planted them as early as it was possible, because sunflowers needed all short Finnish summer to achieve their full bloom. He gave them daily attention by watering them with urine enriched water, fertilizing and constructing racks to support their vertical growth. And sunflowers responded to his care and did their best and became enormous by the end of the summer.

Then Simo beheaded the most biggest and beautiful ones and replaced them gently on the shelf by his atelier window. It was full of all kind of samples and curiosities of nature. The leftovers of this project ended up to his compost.

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The Flower Suns (Kukka-auringot), etching 1968

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The Solar Flowers (Aurinkokukat), a small format etching 1968

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The Sunflower Summer (Auringonkukkakesä), etching 1979

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The Admirers of Sunflowers  (Auringonkukkien ihalijat), etching 1979

wp-1491469944275.jpgA Song for Sunflowers (Laulu auringonkukille), etching 1984

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The Evening Paper (Iltalehti), etching 1981

A Whole Orchestra of Buffoons

One of my father’s theme relates to the fanciful figures. He started to draw those odd creatures at turn of the 60s and the starting point of this interest is connected to Linnanmäki Amusement Park which was founded in Helsinki a decade earlier. Simo was excited about this lively new area and did many drawing and painting excursions there, particularly around 1960.

At the same time informalism stranded to Finland affecting to artists shortly but strongly, including to my father. So he started passionately to produce new etching-softgrounds with all informalistic flavors. And right from this fresh start those transfigurated amusement park characters popped up into his prints. For some reason he kept on producing a whole orchestra of them during his life. It seems that inventing of those little critters was somehow rewarding. At 70s his buffoons moved towards plant and animal kingdoms and later got bold sexual attributes.

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The Bold Jesters under The Sky (Julkeat ivailijat taivasalla), etching, soft ground, 1961

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The Happy Tricksters on The Tightrope (Iloiset veijarit nuoralla), etching, soft ground, 1961

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The Mystical Watchers (Mystiset katselijat), etching, 1970

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The Fearless Scarecrows (Pelottomat pelätit), etching 1973

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The Atmosphere Dance (Ilmapiiritanssi), litography 1971

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The Animalia (Animalia), etching 1989

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The Mutation March (Mutaatiomarssi), etching 1989

Who is flirting with whom

Simo was fond of female beauty and had an eye for women. This personality trait of his became very obvious during the last years of his life. Even when he got into the nursing home he was at first very capable of telling nice compliments to female personnel and visitors. But he had a dementia which reduced his abilities and selfhood and he became bedridden. Gradually all words, sentences and even the meaning of normal conversation abandoned him.

I remember one afternoon few years ago when I was sitting beside of his bed and we were quietly watching television. There was an old black and white Finnish movie on the screen. Suddenly my father revived, got electrified and stretched out his arm a finger pointing to television. He had a very big smile on his face and with wide opened eyes he said: “It is Ester Toivonen, the most beautiful woman in Europe!”

Yes, It was. Miss Europe 1934. This incident came back to me when I was scanning through his 70s’ prints and I saw this etching titled The City Venus. But who is there actually flirting with whom? Is it Simo or Venus with beholder or Venus with the men in the picture or with Simo? I’m not sure. My mother hated this work and when they were divorsing at the beginning of 80s she tried to destroy all the prints of this work. A woman on the left is a bit like her.

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The City Venus (Kaupunkivenus), etching 1976

 

Kennedy In Memoriam and other 60s’ stuff

My father wasn’t very active in politics or keen commentator of incidents that happened all over the world on turbulent decade of 1960s. His viewpoint on things was on more general ground, but he made few exceptions to this. J. F. Kennedy’s murder set him to do couple of melancholy prints to commemorate Kennedy and also to Dag Hammarskjöld who had died few years earlier in a plane crash. On these 1964 works he combines soft ground to etching and there is still a touch of informalism on his technique. My father was very much influenced by informalism in the beginning of 60s.

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In Memoriam J.F Kennedy, etching and soft ground, 1964

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In Memoriam Dag Hammarskjöld, etching and soft ground, 1964

Third work relates not any more to informalism but to the year 1968 and the invasion of Soviet tanks to Czechoslovakia. He was moved by those events and made an etching titled “Kammioidut” to give his support to Czechs. The Finnish title is combining the words chamber (or cage) and the idea of being detained. The Caged Ones is probably a good translation here, even there is no human beings at the stage. My personal opinion is that this print is one of his best works ever. It is just so masterfully executed, technique is controlled and everything well on balance.

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The Caged Ones (Kammioidut), etching, 1968