Mar 6, 2017

Heikki Willamo's Mythical Voyage

In the caves of the mind
Salo Art Museum is holding an exhibition of Heikki Willamo's nature photography from Feb 4th to May 5th this year. The exhibition is titled "A Mythical Voyage," and in addition to the photographs includes a soundscape made especially for the exhibition by musician Kie Von Herzen and the short nature film Eläimen kuva (The Animal Image) by Perttu Saksa. 

Willamo is a well-known Finnish nature photographer, and the exhibition celebrates his long career and his deep relationship with nature. We were lucky enough to visit the museum when the artist himself was present and doing a special introduction tour of the exhibit. He told us he was inspired by the ancient cave paintings of South-Western Europe, Finland, and Norway, which made him think about the way our ancestors related to nature and how we relate to it today. He wanted to do pieces that continued the tradition of imaging nature, that would place him as one link in the chain beginning from Ancient Man and continuing into the future.

 In the photographs the Icelandic horse stands in for the wild horse, for example, but the mythical quality comes right through. All the photographs are in black and white, which adds to the effect, especially with the blurry photographs alluding to the ancient Finnish belief of metsänpeitto, a way of getting lost into the magical woods so that only a shaman can save you. Ordinary mortals could pass right by and only see a rock or a tree stump, leaving you wandering the woods for all time.

As a writer, I found the images intriguing. They aren't just nature photographs: they tell a story. I also liked the strange and enthralling mood of the exhibition, especially the smoky, slightly distorted images in the metsänpeitto room. If you're writing about Finnish mythology, this exhibition will inspire you for sure. You can almost hear the ancient shamanic rhyming spells in the background. 

Dare you step into metsänpeitto, lose yourself in the woods?

Regrettably it looks like the museum website is only available in Finnish, but if you're in the neighbourhood, do check the exhibition out; the powerful images speak for themselves. Not in Finland? You can see some of the pieces on Willamo's website.

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