In a Finnish park, some statues possess a grin with real teeth and a sound emanating from the throat.
Parikkala is a sculpture park in Koitsanlahti, southern Finland. It holds nearly 500 statues of Veijo Rönkkönen, a paper mill worker. Most of them are human figures. They are nuns, men in traditional Finnish clothes, children and women waving. All are expressed with every level of emotion, through moments of fun, sports and even pain. Their gaze reveals a range of emotional states, from enthusiasm to indefinitely, from weakness to aggression.
However, there are many works that possess strange shapes like children holding up into the air, adults laughing with real human teeth. Others have built-in speakers, constantly muttering incomprehensible mumbles. Most of them are covered with green moss or have flowers that grow from various parts of the body.
Rönkkönen’s cast represents different cultures, religions, and rituals. However, Rönkkönen seldom left his home, so all his ideas were taken from books. More than half of his work is on postures of yoga, balancing with one arm or leg naked.
Rönkkönen used to practice yoga in the 1960s. Therefore, besides reflecting his passion for the outside world, the works are said to have similarities with their makers, expressing his inner life. Born in 1944 in rural Parikkala, about a 5-minute drive from the Russian border, Rönkkönen started working at the factory at the age of 16. While still alive, he was a hermit, who just hung around at his factory and farm.
After Rönkkönen’s death in 2010, it was known that he was a mysterious artist with a huge treasure of statues. According to local stories, Rönkkönen’s sculpture garden began with a bag of cement and apple seedlings, which he bought with his first salary.
Nine years after his death, the place remains intact and attracts about 25,000 visitors each year. Most visitors come here curious because of the gloomy atmosphere and the character community that Rönkkönen has worked hard for half a century.
While alive, Rönkkönen welcomed people to visit his garden, but refused to promote them to the outside world. Today, his garden and properties were acquired by a Dutch businessman – Reino Uusitalo. They intend to refurbish the works as needed and provide additional guided tours in the garden.