ALVAR GULLICHSENPaintings 7.1.2012 – 29.1.2012

The song of the universe, 2011
acrylic on canvas
172 x 255 cm



Art is creating an identity Big enough for everyone to share

-Frank Stella

In the long view, the most fascinating thing about Art, beyond the current discourse, might well be the uniqueness of a creative Artist´s vision - and more specifically, the way in which she/he expresses their most important insights along their path of artistic development to help us, their fellow travellers, to find our way, wisely, as we navigate through the brief moment that is now.

One possible measure of creativity is the number of metamorphoses an artist can achieve in their lifetime. Recently, we have had many unique opportunities - many of them at this very gallery - for witnessing large-scale exhibitions by some of Finland´s most notable artist, remarkable for their truly impressive depth and energy. Strong turns that have taken us by surprise. "Slå dem med häpnad", take them by surprise, was the phrase used by Alvar Aalto and Maire Gullichsen´s set to describe the task of all cultural activity: the idea being to show those, who do not yet understand what fantastic things are happening in the modern art field, in Finland alone…

And here we now have Alvar Gullichsen (b. 1961), introducing a collection of visionary images, which, yet again, take us by surprise. The first time he treated us to this experience also represented his own artistic breakthrough, a riotous vision about Pärre Bonk and his Business World - rest in peace. The business did well for a long time, offering ample opportunities for metamorphosis, before the frontman´s interest waned. *)

From the enterprise´s demise emerged a new vision - an entirely different one this time, the result of an encounter with African culture during a long stay at Villa Karo in Benin. I can still recall the powerful - POWERFUL for its unexpectedness and sheer might - and disorienting experience that was Gullichsen´s 2003 exhibition, so highly charged were the small images bursting with a dark jungle language, positively teeming with life. Captivating - but by no means easy to follow. As is often the case with other similar visions (such as the symbolism of C G Jung), the images contained shapes, symbols and structures that seem utterly universal.

What had begun as a highly personal act of creative playfulness had transformed into something serious, deeply meaningful visions of another world. "What has gone on here", I wondered, as I often do when something or someone seemingly "familiar" unexpectedly gives expression to a new and unfamiliar facet of existence…

What had in fact gone on was that the artist had expanded and deepened his understanding and experience of life, by exploring cultures other than our own modern, western, Eurocentric civilisation, turning his attention to alternative world views that first entered the mainstream thanks to the hippie movement, including the psychedelic subculture, the school of transpersonal psychology and the new popularity of world music. New experiences generated by mind-altering chemicals and other techniques for expanding one´s inner horizons became a matter of required knowledge for followers of alternative cultures and lifestyles across Europe and the US. The trend continued to gather momentum with the publication of Carlos Castaneda´s cult books recording the teachings of a Mexican shaman and was legitimatised through Aldous Huxley´s Doors of Perception. Finland came into direct contact with this parallel world through an exhibition of Pablo Amaringo´s paintings depicting his experiences while under the influence of ayahuasca.

The powerful visual idiom of the patterns and symbols found on the dress and fabrics worn by indigenous peoples made them an object of fascination for modern artists. Folklore builds on deep insights, after all.

Alvar G grew up in a cultural circle where modern art was an integral part of communication and his very milieu itself. The forms and rhythms of Léger and pop art were very much present in Bonk´s visions too, intermingling with influences drawn from the world of Robert Crumbs and others.

The artist is now returning for a third outing with a new collection of paintings and we are presented with a synthesis of modernism and shamanism, a distillation of his creative efforts thus far complemented by a number of current trends. Gullichsen´s new works also betray his two sources of creative inspiration: music and architecture. "Architecture is frozen music", as Steiner once said, or was it perhaps Kandinsky.

Gullichsen´s vision warrants careful study. The collection he presents us with is unabashed in its lucidity and completeness. Much of art and non-material symbolic representations in general contain "obvious" statements, which reveal their actual meaning "when the time is ripe", i.e. when the receiver is ready for it. The creative idiom acts almost as an item of protective clothing - offering safety from ignorance and hostile interpretation. The symbolic language is re-created to shield us from the frightening forces and insights we might encounter on the path to personal development to which the creative artist stands witness.

The artist´s current vision is perhaps given its starkest expression in the immense "Världsalltets sång" (The Song of the Universe). Here, the entirety of space itself vibrates with the sound of a universal, intergalactic song, a continuation of Vasarely´s mighty vision. It also calls to mind Birger Carlstedt´s visionary design for the Chat Doré café, if you happen to recall…

Already, the painting appears to have established itself as a classic of our time - it will be re-visited many times over when a new chapter is written into the book that somewhat pompously might be called the spiritual development of our country…

But what is development? Where do all these metamorphoses, which Art so ceaselessly manifests, lead us? The answer perhaps is simply: home to one´s own song in the universe…

It seems important to explore Alvar Gullichsen´s experiences and the insights he has gathered along his own path. We look forward to more:

Keep the Issues Alive! As The Fugs so enthusiastically chanted in the jungle that was the 1960s New York City.

J.O. Mallander

*) Bonk will be making an appearance at the Art Factory in Porvoo in summer 2012 (ed.).


In his first private Galleria Heino exhibition, Alvar Gullichsen is showing a series of new paintings featuring abstract geometric compositions and patterns.

Alvar Gullichsen graduated from the painting programme of the Finnish Academy of Fine Art in 1988, spending an additional year studying sculpture. He emerged into public consciousness in the 1980s and 1990s with his fictional Bonk Business Inc and cartoon-like works. Gullichsen´s best known work is the Posankka fibreglass sculpture in Turku. In the late 1990s, Gullichsen joined the ROR collective, contributing to their UTOPIA exhibition. A sponsored stay at the Finnish-African Cultural Centre Villa Karo in Benin, West Africa, proved a turning point for Gullichsen´s creative process, resulting in an extensive series of expressive landscape-like paintings, progressing towards a non-figurative form of expression, drawing on indigenous cultures, modernism and architecture.

With financial support from the Sigurd Frosterus Foundation. Assistant curator Klaus Nyqvist.

  • art_helsinki_11/ALVAR-GULLICHSEN_PAST-2011

    Past, 2011
    acrylic on canvas
    100 x 100 cm

  • art_helsinki_11/ALVAR-GULLICHSEN_PRESENT-2011_iso

    Present, 2011
    acrylic on canvas
    100 x 116 cm

  • art_helsinki_11/ALVAR-GULLICHSEN_FUTURE-2011

    Future, 2011
    acrylic on canvas
    100 x 116 cm

  • gullichsen2/Alvar_Gullichsen_Maailmankaikkeuden_laulu_2011

    The song of the universe, 2011
    acrylic on canvas
    172 x 255 cm

  • gullichsen2/Alvar_Gullichsen_Composition_2011

    Composition, 2011
    gouache and acrylic on paper, mounted on canvas
    62 x 60,5 cm

  • gullichsen2/Alvar_Gullichsen_Viittauksia_2011

    Viittauksia, 2011
    acrylic on canvas
    120 x 120 cm

  • gullichsen2/Alvar_Gullichsen_Mandala_2011

    Mandala, 2011
    acrylic on canvas
    120 x 120 cm

  • gullichsen2/Alvar_Gullichsen_Sighting_2011

    Sighting, 2011
    acrylic on canvas
    50 x 50 cm

  • gullichsen2/Alvar_Gullichsen_Neo-archaic_2011

    Neo-archaic, 2011
    acrylic on canvas
    100 x 70 cm

  • gullichsen2/Alvar_Gullichsen_This_too--2011

    This too, 2011
    acrylic on canvas
    120 x 160 cm