VEIJO RÖNKKÖNEN (1942-2010) built remarkable ITE* park in Koitsanlahti, Parikkala, close to the Russian border in Finland. He worked on the site of some half a hectare for nearly 50 years. His hard work resulted in about 560 concrete statues and a magnificent garden. The young Veijo Rönkkönen was known to be very guarded. Art making was his way of communicating with the outside world; he did not dare to venture out into the world but instead invited the world to come and see him.
Many pieces are barely disguised self-portraits of the artist. Rönkkönen’s Yoga Park consists of 255figures in various yoga positions, each reminiscent of the artist. He once said that the park was a monument for the memory of his young body.
Rönkkönen worked on various and changing themes for years and some of his groups of sculptures include dozens of individual works. Exotic subjects, animals, plant sculptures and people from alien cultures give the site an unreal ambience. A row of grotesque, caricature figures flank the driveway and form a distorted mirror-image of the public walking in the garden. The park with its visitors becomes a carnival where a weird or surprising work of art is a natural part of the whole. Even the human figures were made to fit in with the floral splendour of the garden, but there are also numerous profound studies of man.
Veijo Rönkkönen did not want to think about the park’s future. If anyone asked, he would say he wanted to bury the entire park in sand and leave it in a thousand year’s silence, like the Chinese Terracotta Army. He was accustomed to the idea that there was nothing that could be done to prevent the park from falling into disrepair. Even though he hoped that the park would be important to other people, he was too modest to even imagine that anyone would be interested in maintaining it. The artist did not realise the importance of his work, although he did receive recognition in his lifetime.
The news of the recluse artist’s death came as a surprise to his family. It was wonderfully rare that they did not think about the financial benefit but realised that the inheritance obliged them to secure the park’s and the works’ future. The new owner, Reino Uusitalo, is an entrepreneur who has found ITE art. He is collaborating with the ITE association to maintaining the sculpture park.
In 2007 Veijo Rönkkönen received the Suomi Award from the Minister for Culture for his achievements in art.
* ITE = Itse tehty elämä = Self-made life
Text and photos: Veli Granö
Published in www.itenet.fi/en
PARIKKALA SCULPTURE PARK
Kuutostie 611, FI-59130 Koitsanlahti, Finland
Parikkala Sculpture Park is located in Finland, Southern Karelia, along the Highway 6, near the Russian border.
The main capital of Finland, Helsinki is 300 kilometers southwest of Parikkala. The nearest towns are Imatra and Lappeenranta south of the park and westwards is Savonlinna.
HOW TO GET TO THE PARK?
Parikkala Sculpture Park is located in Parikkala’s Koitsanlahti, along the Highway 6. It is about 50 kilometers north of Imatra. Parikkala city centre is about 8 kilometers away. Parking place is nearby and there is a direct passage to the Park.
Trains from Helsinki to Joensuu stops in Parikkala. There is no local traffic to the Koitsanlahti so taxi is the only option from the railway station to the Park. Long-distance traffic’s bus stop is about 2 kilometers to the Imatra’s direction.
WHEN I CAN VISIT?
Parikkala Sculpture Park is always open and you can pay a visit at anytime, around the clock. Notice that walking in the park is on one’s own responsibility.
HOW MUCH IS THE ENTRANCE FEE?
Park does not receive public funding for the maintenance cost. Gardening and repairing of the statues are made by the help of voluntary entrance fees and the product sales. By paying the entrance fee you support the maintenance of the Park. Entrance fee can be paid:
- Cash collection poles (recommended 2-5 € / person)
- By credit card at park’s boutique. Boutique is open in June, July and August as well as during events.
BUS GROUPS, 2 € / person to collection poles or 30 € / group (collection poles or boutique).
HOW CAN I CONTACT?
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