Päiviö Pyöttiälä – self-taught surrealist

Ars Nova
2.12.2016−26.2.2017
Päiviö Pyöttiälä, Ikkunat sivilisaatioon, 1970. Öljy kankaalle, 140,5 x 101 cm. Turun taidemuseo. Kuva Turun taidemuseon kuva-arkisto
Päiviö Pyöttiälä, Ikkunat sivilisaatioon, 1970. Öljy kankaalle, 140,5 x 101 cm. Turun taidemuseo. Kuva Turun taidemuseon kuva-arkisto

Päiviö Pyöttiälä (1924−2006) was a self-taught artist. He was born into a railway worker's family in Hamina and grew up in Kotka. During the late 1970s Pyöttiälä moved to Paimio, in Turku Region.
Pyöttiälä held his first solo exhibition in Kotka in the early 1960s. He rose into national awareness by the end of the same decade, when he took part in Artists' Association of Finland's annual exhibition.
Pyöttiälä received Kymi County's art prize in 1997 and the state art pension in 1982. The artist continued to paint daily until his death.

This exhibition, produced by Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova, is Päiviö Pyöttiälä's first retrospective museum exhibition. Works have been gathered from the collections of museum, public institutions and private individuals for use in the exhibition. From the artist's ample output, over 50 works have been chosen from the late 1940s to the year 2004.

Artistic Idols of the Diligent Artist

As an artist starting out, Pyöttiälä received support from Sam Vanni, Unto Koistinen and Unto Pusala at the courses organized by the Kotka Art Association during the 1950s.
In addition to industrious practice and painting, Päiviö Pyöttiälä evolved conscious of art history and the changes happening in art. He considered museums his best teachers and frequently visited Europe's central art museums, familiarizing himself with the works of the artists he admired. Pyöttiälä's role models were especially the Italian Giorgio de Chirico, the leading figure of surrealistic visual art René Magritte, and the Belgian Paul Delvaux.

Original Surrealist

Pyöttiälä found his own style of expression early and remained faithful to it throughout his life. Strong perspective, bright light and stark shadows, in addition to partial framing of the depicted elements outside the picture, are all characteristic features of his style. In his paintings, Pyöttiälä used plentifully a certain warm hue of gray that later developed into a concept of its own: “Pyöttiälä's gray”.

At their most typical, Pyöttiälä's paintings are surrealistic and desolate, melancholic harbour and railway landscapes, and humoristic and perspective depictions of the surrounding society and goings-on of the world.
Pyöttiälä painted the disappearing time and, on the other hand, timelessness. His recurring subjects contain strong symbolism. Railway tracks carry the viewer towards the unknown and a decommissioned locomotive is a romantic echo from past times. Mysterious stagnation and gloominess mingle in the paintings.

To symbolize the passing of time and the birth of new, Pyöttiälä often employed sprouting potatoes. Potato crates waiting in the harbour on strike tell simultaneously of despair and hope. Elsewhere, flowers growing through decayed board fences depict the continuity of life. Prostitutes and muscular athletes embodied to Pyöttiälä superficiality and the severity of the world. The works convey the empathy the artist felt towards nature and humankind.

A view from the exhibition Päiviö Pyöttiälä – self-taught surrealist in Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova. Photo Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova / Jari Nieminen.
A view from the exhibition Päiviö Pyöttiälä – self-taught surrealist in Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova. Photo Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova / Jari Nieminen.
Päiviö Pyöttiälä:  Iisakki Virtanen's Cottage , 1975-76, oil on canvas, 135 x 201,5 cm. Lappeenranta Art Museum, photo Tuomas Nokelainen
Päiviö Pyöttiälä, Locomotive, 2000-2004, oil and tempera on canvas, 100 x 135 cm, Finnish National Gallery, Ateneum Art Museum. Photo: Finnish National Gallery, Hannu Pakarinen.
Pyöttiälä, Päiviö,  Self‐Portrait from the Dachshund Years, 1978,  oil on canvas , 131 x 100 cm. Lappeenranta Art Museum, photo Tuomas Nokelainen