Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Galleries in Helsinki: Kallio with a map

There are a lot of small and/or artist and/or curator run and/or avant garde galleries in Helsinki's Kallio area, nicely situated quite close to each other, all having a distinctive character. I'm a member in a curator group P14, and we ran one of them for the year 2017. We had a gallery on loan, so to say: we took care of Kallio Kunsthalle for a year, as its regular host had some time off.

As a part of our activities in gallery running life, we published a monthly map of the nearby galleries' exhibitions and other interesting spots in the Kallio area. Even though our year in the Kallio gallery business is over, the rest of the galleries still remain, and some new ones have emerged. Changing exhibitions omitted, the map is still useful for a contemporary art (and coffee) inclined visitor in Kallio. So, here you go:

• Original-ish PDF format map includes a variety of other interesting spots in the area at large as well.
• Google map version concentrates on the recommended route, with food and drink consumption possibilities in the close proximity of it.

Here's even a gif version, just in case


Strictly taken, not all the listed galleries are in the Kallio area, but too close and good to be missed. Which neighborhoods belong to Kallio officially, which are Kallio in spoken language and which are not part of Kallio at all, is a regular discussion in Kallio (in any meaning) bars and squares and internets, so that you know. Try claiming that your apartment, situated on the wrong side of bordering street of Kallio, is in Kallio, and you'll get your share of snarky comments – probably spiced up with a few words of old working class lingo, stadin slangi, just to show off.

In Helsinki, Instagram blooms with #galleriakierros (Gallery tour, it's a thing) photos during weekends, as veteran and aspiring culture professionals and lovers are having their leisurely stroll amongst the art hot spots of the city. For Kallio Gallery Walk the best day is Saturday, when all the galleries are open, at the approximately same times. The tour takes around four hours, depending on the program of the galleries and the amount of breaks. So, you should start pretty sharp at noon to do the whole tour without breaking sweat. You can cheat a little by using tram number nine for a few stops, see Gmaps version for that. Or rent a bike. Or skip a few galleries.


All the area's galleries are quite small and more or less underground, even literally. The emphasis is on the up and coming artists, though some established artists fit in quite nicely. If you're looking for a traditional lake scenery painting with a moose and maybe a swan, you probably won't find it here – unless you accept a lump of minced moose meat with a dirty brush stuck to it, commenting pollution of Baltic Sea with a dripping toilet seat, with soundtrack maybe by Astrid Swan, as such. Just a random, totally fictional example here.

Entrance to all the galleries is free of charge. The opening times are marked as they are right now and may change. Do check them from the galleries' websites!

Galleria Kuvitus

Recently opened Galleria Kuvitus is maintained by the Finnish Illustration Association. It's the only gallery in Finland, and one of few internationally, to focus on illustration art. It hosts 10 juried and curated exhibitions each year, exhibiting both published illustrations and illustrators' art projects. The space also houses the Association's office. 

Hämeentie 28
Mon–Tue 11–17
Wed 11–19
Thu–Fri 11–17
Sat 12–16

Kuvitus is possibly the most chic of the Kallio galleries


Finnish Comics Society’s gallery exhibits comics, comics based art and art done by comics authors, widely speaking. The artists are mostly Finnish or Finland based, but some international visitors are included in the cast. The premises include also the Society's office and a Turku Comic Book shop's store. And a reading nook. And workshops. And you name it. A comic fan may forget the rest of the tour after entering here.

Porthaninkatu 9
Mon–Fri 15–19
Sat 11–16

Damn those opening times!

On your way to Kalleria, you'll walk through Karhupuisto (Bear Park). This is a good place for a coffee break, since the park is surrounded with cozy cafés: Kulmakahvio/Bear park Café, Bergga and IPI. During the warmer summer days the super gay, but non-exclusive Bear Park Café operates from the kiosk in the park, with chairs and tables outside. A warmly recommended Kallio experience!


Kalleria is a somewhat curated gallery space, exhibiting mostly young and underground artists from the less refined side of contemporary art, and even outside of it. Anyone can ask to rent the space, so there is not an artistic policy as such and styles, themes and levels vary a great deal.

Kaarlenkatu 10
Opening times vary, but possibly Wed–Sun 12–17

Exhibition: By the Sea by Wiebke Pandikow

Pertin valinta

The underground punk band even in the scene of punk, Pertti Kurikan nimipäivät, has changed their art genre of choice and founded an outsider art gallery with a store to match. The gallery exhibits art by/about outsider artists. In the Sekotavarakauppa-store (that's a tricky wordplay to translate. General Distore?) there's a variety of books, music and household items with the weirdest and most wonderful decorations, mostly by the aforementioned artists. Good mood guaranteed!

Aleksis Kiven katu 48  
Wed–Fri 12–18
Sat 10–14     

Not your regular corner shop


Alkovi (Alcove) is a 24/7 display window gallery, watched from the street, presenting contemporary art exhibitions and projects especially in relation to the  location and the site. The connection the site of Kallio is fitting, since you might have to find your way to Alkovi through a long line of people, queuing for Hursti Charity food rations twice a week. The days of the Finnish welfare are way behind us, I'm afraid.

Helsinginkatu 19
Open 24/7

Alkovi, always available


Rupla (Ruble) is a café populated by young bohemians, with art exhibitions changing every three to four weeks. The style of the exhibitions is often traditionally provocative; expect to see some vulvas and politicians in campy and colourful situations, or a painting made by a bear. This is an excellent place for a lunch/brunch break, too.

Helsinginkatu 16
Mon–Fri 7:30–20
Sat–Sun 11–17

The brunch is worth a visit, too!
Exhibition: Tyhjiömatka (Vacuum Travel) by Jesse Avdeikov

Rõõm Helsinki

Rõõm (Estonian for Joy) Helsinki is a little cosy eco-lifestyle shop with a bonsai size gallery space. The artists exhibited are often connected with different areas of design and/or illustrate humans in their environment. The exhibitions change monthly.

Helsinginkatu 17
Tue–Fri 11–17
Sat 12–16

Rõõm's gallery corner is the tiniest!
Exhibition: Kevään eväsretki (Spring Outing) by Laura Havanto


Sorbus gallery is an artist-run space, organizing exhibitions and events from different areas of art: in addition to art exhibitions, there might be readings, concerts or a 24 hour dance performance in program. Or something else. Gallery's style is experimental and somewhat political. The name comes from Latin name of rowan tree, growing in the neighborhood. It was also the name of one of the cheapest wines in the official liquer store Alko, consumed by the most experienced drunkards of Finland.

Vaasankatu 15
Opening times vary

Sorbus (gallery, back) and sorbus (tree, front)

On that note, as you continue towards Free Space for Art, you'll pass first Piritori (actually Vaasanaukio, but Speed Square is the common name) with its ground painted huge balloons and meth heads in their daily chores, and then Kurvi crossing with addicts of more traditional substances, like alcohol. There are some really nice cafés too, though.

Free Space for Art

Vapaan taiteen tila is a forum for the students in Art University to organize their exhibitions, concerts, performances and other events, so there is a lot more happening than just exhibitions. Here the students can freely try out their weirdest ideas, so you might catch some future trends and exhibitions later mentioned in art history – or just really really awkward student art. Both are definitely worth a visit. The space is in an emergency shelter, which luckily is free from its original use, and the largest of spaces mentioned here. The website usually lists just the name of the event/artist, you'll have to do some googling to find out more about it. Or you can just go to see if there's something going on. It could be... anything.

The entry is opposite of Vilhonvuorenkuja 16
Opening times vary as Hell

Free Space for Art – underground in so many ways
On your way to Make Your Mark Gallery, you'll pass the
lovely pink buildings of Vilhonvuorenkuja and one of the
steepest hills in Helsinki road map

Make Your Mark Gallery

Helsinki is a graffiti city, in a Nordic scale at least. There's even a book about it, dating back from 1998, Helsinki Graffiti by Anne Isomursu and Tuomas Jääskeläinen, the latter being one of the first graffiti artists in Helsinki. It's the most stolen book from the libraries, I've heard, which is quite fitting. Ever since the eighties and nineties' hysteric anti-graffitism a lot has changed and nowadays there are a bunch of sites for so called legal graffitis. One of them is at Suvilahti area, on your way to Make Your Mark Gallery. The area is quite impressive in it's abandoned/gentrified glory, so take your time walking through it.

Some of the graffitis of Suvilahti and an abandoned gas holder.
No idea how that works. Or what it is, actually.

Make Your Mark is a gallery curated by two graffiti artists, working since the 80's. Exhibitions of graffiti, photography and visual arts change monthly. Whatever the genre, the works exhibited usually have a strong connection to graffiti. There's also a graffiti equipment store in the gallery space, and an outdated train line map on the floor.

Kaasutehtaankatu 1, building no 6
Tu–Fri 12–19
Sat 11–16
Sun 12–16

If you get inspired by the art, remedies are close.
Exhibition: Red Shades by Mason.


Kohta is a privately initiated kunsthalle in Helsinki. It has a strong tendency towards minimalistic and conceptual art – at the inaugural exhibition there was just a stump of tree on display. Well, that's not all there is to it, but gives an idea. You won't find naivist art with chubby pandas, flaming with colours here. The emphasis is on the concept, even though visuality does play a part.  Kohta is the only gallery in Kallio area that looks like a real gallery where professionals work and it even has a desk. The name translates both as soon and a spot. The latter as in place, not as in pimple.

Teurastamo inner yard, Työpajankatu 2 B, building 7
Wed–Fri 12–18
Sat–Sun 12–16

Kohta even has an understated, stylish bench. And a visitor.
Exhibition: Works on Paper by Simryn Gill.

The Teurastamo (Slaughterhouse) area is, as the name tells, a former area of slaughterhouses. There are some meat markets left, even if the slaughtering happens elsewhere these days. Also, there are a lot of wholesale markets, but the most interesting thing (for me, at least) are the restaurants and bars popping up to the abandoned industry halls. They are all quite near to Kohta, so this is a good place to be hungry. At least you should have a scoop of ice cream in Jädelino, great vegan options available, too!


Another trendy hip tip for an eager gallery visitor is of course Töölö – that's where we, P14, are residing this year, at Gallery Oksasenkatu 11. Welcome!

Oksasenkatu 11
Opening times vary, most often:
Wed–Fri 14–18
Sat–Sun 12–16

Part of our group at the opening of Ida Palojärvi's
exhibition Light Misunderstandings


• The Culture Trip: A street art tour in Helsinki
• Visit Finland: 9 Galeries d'art à explorer à Helsinki (en français)
• Helsinki Side Quest: Niche galleries for more than just fine art

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Light Art in Unna, Bonus Art Nearby

Unna, Germany, July 6th 2016, and several other cities and dates

For a light art enthusiast, a visit to Centre for International Light Art in Unna is like Himalaya for mountain climbers, just not dangerous at all and really easy to get to. Light art is usually quite approachable, so I strongly recommend the place for all art minded people – and those too, who have heard about art but haven't dared to try it yet. It's a good destination for professionals and beginners alike. Even for kids. Professional and beginner kids.

Unna is a nice small town, easily reachable, surrounded by other culturally inclined cities like Düsseldorf, Wuppertal, Essen, Münster and Cologne. In Unna, there really isn't much to see in addition to Light Art Centre. I know, I asked, and was offered a straightforward answer: Nothing. So, it's a good chance to include some nearby art to your one day itinerary.

Düsseldorf has a wonderful metro line with art included from the beginning of the planning of the stations. A refreshing metro trip break on your way to Unna is highly recommended. Münster, on the other hand hosts an acclaimed art festival every ten years. Unfortunately, the next one is nine years away, but save the date, it's definitely worth it. Some of the art works from festivals past are permanently retained in Münster, so there's a lot to see even between festivals. In Cologne, there's a superb Sculpture park and a lot of small galleries to visit.

Düsseldorf metro station – no commercials, just art
Detail of Hito Steyerl's piece in Skulptur Projekte Münster 2017.
Says all I want to say about the festival.
Sou Fujimoto's magrittesque work in Skulpturenpark Köln

The Light Art Centre's permanent collection has an all stars cast, including works from James Turrell, Olafur Eliasson, Christian Boltanski, Keith Sonnier and Brigitte Kowanz. The works are skillfully curated to the Centre's premises, a former brewery with some of the old walls and constructions still visible. With light art it's pretty hard to hide the surrounding space, and here it has been included instead. Especially in Keith Sonnier's piece the space plays an integral part. There's also temporal exhibitions on display, presenting themed group exhibitions, new names and known masters of light art.

Joseph Kosuth's work welcomes the visitors
with a text by Heinrich Heine
Mischa Kuball shatters the writing and
stops the speed with his mirror balls
Keith Sonnier's neon are boldly colourful and one with space
François Morellet is known for his elegant, space defining neon works

At the time of my visit there was a temporal exhibition called Switch on display, by the students of Hochschule für Bildende Künste Saarbrücken. Very promising students.

Maria Elena Schmidt (detail)
Ingo Wendt
Daniel Hausig
Nicole Fleisch

The visit to the exhibitions is by guided tour only. There are three tours daily from Tuesday to Friday and six on weekends and holidays. You cannot reserve a ticket for the tour, just show up and hope there are places left. Usually there are. The tour takes about an hour and a half and at the time of writing costs 10 euros.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Spots for Staring in London

London, UK, April 29th to May 2nd 2018 and several previous dates

After Mexico, I firmly decided to stop traveling for a while, since my finances had a near death experience. Then a friend from London duly noticed that we hadn't seen for ages and I immediately started browsing for tickets. Which were on sale. Oh, well.

Hooray! I'm in London! Said my wallet never!

So, what to do in London? Whatever you like, it's all there. Personally, I like to observe. I'm not as talented as Kim Jong Un, but I admit that a lot of my travel activities include some looking, staring even. Here's some of the places I use for specific staring purposes in London.

Staring at People: Old Compton & Frith / Dean street corners and Golden Square

Old Compton Street is optimal for people watching: not too much traffic, narrow enough street to see everything, lots of leisurely people to watch, including good amount of eccentrics to keep it interesting and even better amount of cafés with purpose built people watching tables and terraces, especially at the corners of Frith and Dean streets.

People watching at the terrace of Balans Soho Society.
Also recommended for the food.

Another good place for people watching, especially lunch time is Golden Square, also in Soho. You can pick lunch or coffee from the nearby cafes and sit on one of the benches for consuming it. Nordic Bakery is a good choice, even though they serve their laskiaispulla with jam and not with marzipan as is right. The marzipan/jam question is one that divides the Finnish nation, so that you know. Some are ok with both, though. Sluts.

Quick and slow lunches at Golden Square

Other writings on people watching in London: Londonist's list of cafés and bars, Foursquare recommendations

Staring at Shoes: Selfridges Shoe Galleries

The visit to Selfridges department store at Oxford street a couple a years ago was a pettymys (disappointment in Finnish). But even when bad, the Selfridge's shoe department is an experience. And when it's good, it's ecstatic, even though I'll never have the means or calf muscles to wear most of the shoes there. Yes, you have the boring nude heels, too, but the main attraction are the flashiest, most colorful and imaginative shoes of top and upcoming designers. The further you go, the more interesting shoes you'll find. The decoration is equally flashy and changes according to season. I mean, come on, who wouldn't love a two meter tall mirror ball shoe?

My previous reports on Selfridge's Shoe Galleries (in Finnish): Kummat kengät: May 2016, September 2013

Sophia Webster's trademark butterflies
As soon as these shoes found out their prices, they fainted.

Staring at Windows: also Selfridges

These guys sure know what to do with a display window! They're practically pieces of art, I'd say. The lighting is usually an important part of the composition, so you should see them nighttime. Also, way less people then, Oxford street becomes your own private art gallery.

Staring at Art: Rothko Room in Tate Modern

There are a lot of options to see art in London, but this is an exceptionally good place to stare at it. Dim lights (demanded by the artist), benches at an optimal distance, meditative abstract art requiring some staring to really get something out of it.

The so called Seagram series, originating from the 50´s,  was originally intended to the Four Seasons hotel's restaurant in New York's Seagram building, but the artist Mark Rothko (1903–1970) withdrew from the commission after finishing the paintings, possibly realizing that the luxurious restaurant was way too shallow environment for them. For me, the weirder part is why he accepted the commission in the first place, being quite a leftist person and the restaurant being everything but. My favorite version of available explanations is that with his paintings, he wanted to ruin the appetite of the rich diners. A visual revenge, so to speak.

Anyhow, by the end of the 60's, he decided to present the series to Tate, with strict terms that the series must always be exhibited together, in a certain kind of room, in a dim lighting. The cargo containing the paintings reached London the same day as did the news about Mr. Rothko's suicide.

More on the Rothko Room: Darren Lyons in Abroadblogs

Staring at Tombstones: Highgate Cemetery

Ok, this a short term staring only, since the West Cemetery of Highgate Cemetery is to be visited in a guided group. As we were starting the tour, the guide reminded us to keep the pace and not be the one everyone else had to wait for. I was so sure that I wouldn't be one of the stupid tourists the guide referred to, but there were just too many beautiful, slanted tombstones and I obviously had to take picture of every single one of them. I could use them in a book cover! Or a birthday card!

More info on Highgate: Highgate's Lost Girls by Spamosphere, BBC on tombstone tourism

Staring at Scenery: Sky Garden

Sky Garden is a combined bar/restaurant area and a 360° lookout spot near Monument. The garden is an area of plants and bushes, but the main thing is the view here.

The entrance is free, and you can either book a visit beforehand (if you're quick to reserve tickets) or you can just walk in during certain times. Well, not just walk in. As I saw the lines ten minutes before the 18:15 walk in time's start, I was about to turn around and climb on a ladder instead or something. Luckily, my company insisted we stay and the queue turned out to move quite swiftly. The view is fantastic for staring and after visiting, you can tell your friends that you've seen most of the sights of London.

For properly staring, not just looking, you should be among the first visitors at 18:15 and rush to Sky Pod Bar's plastic sofas right in front of the first window you'll see. Obviously, via the bar counter, since these are customer seats. Yes, it's a horrible sacrifice to drink a glass of bubbly just for the view. You can wander around for the whole 360° later, first things first.

Other people tell about Sky Garden: Tuula's Life (in Finnish), Charlotte Brown, My Baba

Staring at City: Buses

Obviously, you need to go to the upper deck for this, preferably to the first row. Wobbling through City's narrow streets between high, distinguished buildings is an experience, and other parts of London, too, are well observed from the high angle the bus provides. Mind the rush hours, though, or you'll end up staring at St. Paul's for half an hour as I did. I'd recommend east to west direction in the early afternoon, since the light is at its best angle at that time. If it has been raining, as it often has, all the better!

Yea. There it is. Still.
And oh, do you know that you can pay for the trip with your regular contactless card now? The good'ol Oyster card is becoming obsolete, which sucks since I have three.

Watching the fleeting buildings is like
a slow, cubistic Monty Python animation.

The rain may make the scenery very gerhardrichter

Friday, 6 April 2018

Blue, Bluer, Superblue, Hammerfest

Hammerfest, Norway, January 2015
A flashback from a trip done previously

Hammerfest is a small town in the North of Norway, until recently the most northern town of the world. The town is on the coast, by a fjord, surrounded by mountains. In summer it's said to be lively, but in the middle of winter it slumbers cosily. We spent a couple of weeks in Hammerfest January 2015. We being a contemporary dance group and me being its lighting designer, planning a new performance in the residency of Dansearena Nord.

Welcome to Hammerfest!

My original plan for January was to go to Thailand hammocking, but one should be careful for what one wishes for, since one might get the very opposite.

It's not simple to get to Hammerfest, especially in winter: Our route proceeded from Helsinki to Copenhagen, from Copenhagen to Oslo, from Oslo to Tromsø and from Tromsø to Hammerfest, planes getting smaller and clientele less posh every leg.

This is not Thailand

It was a good trip, though. We got some work done, met some nice people, took turns in having a stomach flu and I even had some time to see the sights. If you really curb your speed, you might end up using one whole afternoon to see them. My list of recommendations is as follows, but most of all I loved the hues of blue, colouring the scenery all julianonderdonk.

I have no idea what this is

Hammerfest Church

Burning churches was a fad in Norway some time ago, so architect Harald Magnus was clever in advance in choosing concrete as the main material for the church, completed in 1961. There are triangles everywhere in the construction, also in the colourful glass painting by Jardar Lunde. Oh my Gordiskknute, that's one confusing altarpiece! I'm not quite sure if Christ is dying, ascending or being captured by aliens. Anyhow, it's a groovy piece of art

Museum of Reconstruction

Gjenreisningsmuseet tells a sordid story of Hammerfest during and after World War II. Shortly put: before the war Hammerfest existed, after the war it did not. As the German army retrieved, it was scorched-earth policy all the way. There were two options for people in demolished Hammerfest, to be forcibly evacuated to southern cities or to hide in the woods and caves, waiting for the Allied Forces to arrive – which took way longer than expected. Quite an experience, even after seventy years. Luckily, there's a museum cafe with ultimate comfort food: warm waffles. You'll need them.

There wasn't a sudden summer day in January,
the photo is from Wikimedia Commons, by Manxruler,
since I failed to take one

The Ultimate Blueness

At the time of our visit, sun didn't rise above the horizon at all. Still, there was some daylight, like for fifteen minutes per day. After that it started getting blue. And bluer. And then, even bluer. Then, it got Klein International Blue. Then, Klein International Bluer. Just when I thought it possibly couldn't get bluer than THIS, it got bluer. And then some. And then, it was dark. You could suggest that this blueness happens elsewhere, too, but hello, I'm a tourist and experienced it here so I won't listen.

It did get even bluer, but my camera refused to believe.
The scenery might have affected the lighting design
of the piece we were working on

The Arctic Culture Center 

Check their website, the Center might have something of your interest in the program: concerts, plays, dance, movies, you name it, mostly during evenings. The building is worth seeing in its own right, too, with a scenic window facing the bay, and a café, should it be open. The building is somewhat a landmark of the town, lighted blue during the dark.

Arctic Culture Centre, this is where we worked

Nissen Mall

A small shopping mall slightly resembling an offshore oil rig, Nissen includes an almost hipster café and a shoe store called Eurosko. Among the usual shoes, you can find some pretty cool traditional and traditional-ish shoes here.

Pieces of information
• More about traveling in Hammerfest area in the Northern Norway webpage, including Hammerfest Church and Gjenreisningsmuseet
• Other people exploring Hammerfest: Vagabond Baker
• Fresh after the trip, I wrote about it to Kummat kengät blog from shoe perspective, in Finnish.
Arctic Culture Center's website, in Norwegian
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