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Väinö Oja, Sculpture garden

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About the Artist/Site

Around 2000, Väinö Oja, a retired driver of earth moving equipment, began carving sculptures that he displayed in the wooded area around his summer house in Paimio, Finland.

Like so many Finnish Do-It-Yourselfers who carve chainsaw bear to adorn the entry ramp of their homes, Oja also used a chainsaw, but instead created a large collection of wooden sculptures in which two themes are particularly prominent: bears (unsurprisingly) and women, which is more unusual.  

Oja was a fast and prolific worker and within some ten years he had created a major sculpture garden. It did not go unnoticed in the field of Finnish ITE art (the local term for self-taught art), and to Oja’s own surprise, he became an esteemed example of this genre of contemporary Finnish art. His works were included in exhibitions both in Finland and abroad (including Budapest in 2004, Rotterdam and Moscow in 2011, and Amsterdam in 2018). 

Oja’s sculptures range in scale, from small – for such subjects as birds, sheep, and other small animals – to life-size – for his focus on bears and women. For the smaller works, Oja often departs from the form he already sees present in the raw material, doing what so many sculptors say they do: freeing the subject from its casing.

Although Oja’s portrayals of bears in general fit in with their customary representations in Finland, the manner in which he creates the bear’s wavy coat is unusual, and has come to be recognized as a distinctive characteristic of his work. Too, in his representations of women, Oja also displays his own specific signature: their faces are painted white, thus enabling him to emphasize their beauty through such details as bright red lips and long eyelashes.

Following the chainsaw carving phase, he coats the wooden sculptures with a mixture of tar and oil to protect them from the effects of the weather.

In 2007 the community of Paimio recognized the merits of its citizen Väinö Oja by rewarding him with the city’s honorary medal.

In 2018, when Sophie Lepetit visited and shot the attached series of photos, Oja, in his late eighties, was still actively engaged in creating sculptures.

~Henk van Es

 

Map and site information

Not Exact Address
Paimio, Finland
Latitude/Longitude: 60.456876 / 22.687026

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