© Kuvasto 2016. Photo: © Bank of Finland
FROM RED TO BLUE
A hare appears in Risto Suomi’s (b. 1951) paintings and lithographs so often that it has become his alter ego. The hare prefers to move about at night and, as here in “Drummer boy”, it is accompanied by the full moon. Atypically, the background to this lithograph is red. Usually Suomi surrounds his hare in the blue shades of evening and night.
The mythology surrounding hares is a rich one. Everywhere hares are associated with various stages of the moon and have acquired the moon’s magical qualities. In Ancient Greece the hare represented romantic love and fertility, the qualities of Aphrodite. The Celts believed that this sprightly animal, so good at hiding in the ground, kept company with the spirits and the Anglo-Saxons connected the hare to the goddess Eostre or Ostara (compare this with the word ‘Easter’). To the African the hare is a swindler and who, when this belief was taken to America by slaves, the hare became the inspiration for many trickster tales.
Risto Suomi is clear about the beliefs and tales that relate to hares, but the ones in his paintings wander beneath the moon very much on their own business. The works are romantic, melancholic, whimsical even and are always shot through with a strong sense of innocence. The drummer boy is playing in the moonlight, and it doesn’t feel as if he’s drumming up a military march. Rather the image is a declaration of the coming spring and the moon’s handing over to the sun. The artist himself said that he chose a red background simply for its effectiveness. Blue, however has not been abandoned and appears in the drummer boy’s uniform.