Woman with a bun
© Kuvasto 2016. Photo: © Bank of Finland
A SHAKE OF HER BUN
Arvo Siikamäki’s (b. 1943) early works, in the 1960s, hit spot on with the rising contemporary art trends. However, Siikamäki did not merely follow in the path of these trendsetters, rather his sculptures created the images applied by society in actively defining what art may or may not be.
Protests against the Vietnam War were staged around the world and Finland was not immune. Siikamäki highlighted the starkness of war in his works through images such as those of gas masks. He mainly concentrated on depicting the harsh reality of warfare using images of his father’s own war experiences. The clash of the ideologies held by children born in a period of peace with those who had experienced war, forged the profile of culture, art and politics of the 1960s.
Anguish blazes through many of Siikamäki’s works and art series, even in the approach to their presentation. In Italian sculptor Giacomo Manzu’s acclaimed sculptures of cardinals dressed in their finery, cloaked figures feel as if they are turning in towards each other. However, Siikamäki’s figures are not swathed in elaborate religious robes, instead they are a reminder of the violence of society today. Behind the emptiness of their expressions and the visored helmets we can see something of Henry Moore’s war-time sculptures and drawings. With some notable exceptions, Siikamäki does not tackle matters directly from the religious perspective, but rather through the agonies of secular angst, being an outsider and not belonging.
The lines of Siikamäki’s works are gracefully uncluttered, and their surfaces are cut with robust furrows. These are at once both folds and wounds. The softer side of Siikamäki’s oeuvres’ showing sensual female forms have been somewhat contentious. “Captive movement” (1980), a work showing the crouching figure of a woman was meant to be placed in the courtyard of the Middle Finland regional administration buildings, in Jyväskylä. The timetable for its installation was delayed as President Kekkonen was due to visit and it was felt that they didn’t want to show Siikamäki’s work to the Head of State.
“Woman with a bun” is typical of Siikamäki’s bronze busts. It is a beautiful, if anonymous, sculpture in which the three basic forms of the bust combine with the integrally sculpted base. The work is, in effect, a representation of a sculpted bust. It refers to both the historic, malleable form and at the same time to the key features of the form it represents. The bun plays an important part, providing the sculpture with rhythm and movement. The same kind of solution is repeated in Siikamäki’s works representing an Indian woman’s head and hairpiece.