A touch of magic – however, hidden behind a thin veil of colours, there is also an anguish that emerges from the unconscious. Reality becomes contaminated with a fairy tale.
In the world of novels, we find poetics in the work of authors like Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Italo Calvino. However, magical realism first arose in painting, and this began in Italy. An exhibition on the other side of Europe, far from the Mediterranean peninsula, in Helsinki, Finland offers a wonderful reminder of this movement. Here, in the historic “Ateneum” museum until August 19th, you can visit the exhibition “Fantastico! Italian art from 1920s to 1930s”. It is a collection of works that could hardly be seen elsewhere – at least until it “migrates” to the Folkwang Museum in Essen, Germany, next fall.
Some names: Felice Casorati, Antonio Donghi, Ubaldo Oppi, and Carlo Levi. Perhaps they will not be among the best known Italian artists of the last century, but their importance is undeniable, as well as their influence on what came later, starting with the metaphysical painting of Giorgio De Chirico. We find ourselves in the 1920s: Italian art is recovering from that extraordinary drunkenness called futurism. We return to the past, to well-defined figures, but at the same time we open a door to mystery. A “banal” portrait for the wife, like that of Oppi, becomes a gash over a dreamlike world, with an unreal Venice in the background. The “Masks” of Cesare Sofianopulo, which the Finnish organization has chosen as its cover, reveal a beautiful époque climate, citing, on the one hand, the portraiture of the Roman and medieval world, yet with a rather disturbing addition: the evil sneer of the joker in the forefront.
This is a journey through a series of artists to be discovered, precisely because they have been unjustly forgotten, buried by the innovation that saw no obstacles in the twentieth century avant-gardes, yet quite modern and close to contemporary taste. For Finland, which boasts an ancient institute of Italian culture, it is also an opportunity to offer works that have never been seen outside the borders of Italy. Since its construction, the Ateneum has been the “home” of Finnish art: completed in the 1880s, it was bitterly criticized at the time for excessive cost and pomp and was dubbed “the palace of millions of marks”. This summer, the Helsinki museum had also organized a section dedicated to the great classics of Finnish painting.
However, in general, the Scandinavian capital offers a lot in the summertime, with long days and a great deal of cultural initiatives – these are the months that even the locals enjoy more, accompanied by the sound of music and often late into the night. The symbol of the city is the cathedral that is located in the main square, but the most interesting church is undoubtedly the Temppeliaukion Kirkko, excavated in the 1960s between rock walls, and where many classical music concerts are held. The Suomenlinna is also worth seeing – the fortress built on six islands by the Swedes, a UNESCO world heritage site. If you get tired of the city, just travel a few kilometres to the north to end up within the borders of the Nuuksio national park, where you can see the typical environment and nature of Finland, among coniferous woods and wooden houses built on the shore of the lake.
This city calls out to young people from all over the country, and Helsinki also offers a lively nightlife, including hipster clubs (the Siltanen: located in the Kallio district), ethnic restaurants, discos in medieval castles (the Kaarle XII) and street-art bars, with lots of skateboards whizzing by (We Got Beef).