At the tourist information in Sodankylä is a seemingly obscure art gallery. In our quest to profile the land and people of the European Arctic, Mr. Andreas Alariesto is perhaps the embodiment of it all. He has authentically pictured a way of life recently gone. He had to learn the trade on his own. And, he was a handy man.
On our Diamonds of the Arctic Tour 2014, we had one key question that we asked people along the Santa’s Road. What is your favorite? Implying, what’s in it for you? At the tourist information in Sodankylä we were guided by Ms. Marika Välimaa. She said Alariesto nudges the very fabric of her heart and soul.
The work Alariesto did is nailing the old Saami way of life in everlasting models and illustrations. For Marika, the way her ancestors, grandparents, even to a degree her parents lived is evidenced by Alariesto. To him, the important thing was what people did. The pieces show what life was like before the modern era. How it must have been living in the lavvus, how close they were to the reindeer, and how minute details of today were a big thing back then. How life was before you could just drive to the store and get what you needed.
What life was before there were any stores. This line is transcending the gallery of Alariesto. In order to make his models he had to use only material he would find in the nature: Grass, stones, wood and other. He had to create the material that he would use in his art before the actual art was assembled. He even had to make the paint he used from scratch. There was no store he could go to and buy a brush.
Some of the technics is undoubtedly taken from know-how passed through the generations. But it is no surprise that Alariesto had to find many of the ways on his own. In a sparsely populated area, people were very much on their own. To be a handyman was mandatory for the people of the Arctic. If Alariesto could “cheat” by learning how to do many things from his parents, family members or others, this would not be the case for his artistic expression. He did art his own way. He taught himself how to create art.
To be a handyman was mandatory for the people of the Arctic
He was a renowned artist. He is the most famous naïve artist from Lapland and Finland. Alariesto was a guest of honor at President Independence Ball in 1979. He had exhibitions of his work in both Sweden and Germany.
He donated 65 of his art works to the municipality of Sodankylä. According to his wishes, these are displayed at the tourist information along with an exhibition that is changing every year.
Thus, our generation and the generations that follow can recollect how things were originally.