Ulla Rantanen


oil • 153 x 119 cm




It is amazing how rarely cars are shown in Finnish art. On a small scale this form of transport was pictured in the age of mechanical romanticism of the 1920s and 30s. Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s poster “Bil Bol” (1907) is probably the best-known Finnish car poster. The visual principals of art have been surprisingly strict, although sparsely populated Finland has not even been able to avoid the invasion of the car into its countryside.

Ulla Rantanen’s (b. 1938) painting “Balcony” is from the mid-1960s, when the lure of the dollar’s status was still strong. The female figure at the front of the balcony appears to be waving at a passing car. The featureless face of the man leaning on the balcony railing is turned towards the woman. A third figure, another woman, is hiding in the shadows on the right, as if spying on the scene.  The viewer is easily drawn into imagining the third person’s story, but the artistic structure is the most significant part of the painting. Horizontal and vertical blocks create three separate spaces, two rooms inside and a third outside. The diagonal line on the right edge links the room in front to the room’s outside space. The car is thereby visually linked to what is happening inside the room. “Balcony” can be viewed as an abstract setting typical of its time, in which the figures are merely elements, rather than being part of the narrative.

In her earliest exhibitions, Ulla Rantanen already demonstrates her superb drawing skills. Her charcoal figures virtually enflame each other, goaded on by their closely spaced rushing lines. The power and the rhythm behind these figures is transferred to her lithographs as much as to her paintings. Rantanen belongs to those artists who have brought about a renaissance in Finnish art and is part of the international Novemberist Group. Their first group exhibition was held in 1964. Only two of the Group were women artists, Ulla Rantanen and fellow Finn Laila Pullinen.

Subjects from nature form the central themes in Ulla Rantanen’s works, in addition to human figures. The Bank of Finland’s collection contains two other distinguished paintings by Rantanen, “Fissure in rock II” (1983) and “Flat stones” (1985). They are fine uncluttered and arranged views of winter. Beside this almost abstract style come her handsome African figures of recent decades, with their startling presence. olevaa.

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