FROM PAINTER TO SCULPTOR
The sauna appeared in Palmu at the Haus an der Redouten exhibition in Bonn in 1992 already as a three-dimensional installation - albeit without a floor and roof.
Palmu started doing three-dimensional works almost immediately after coming to Germany. Nowadays, wooden reliefs and sculptures are also larger than before, outdoor sculptures are even 3-5 meters high. One of the central subjects of the reliefs is the "class-bending tree", a semicircle or wheel-shaped piece against which a straight tree is bent step by step with the help of supports coming out of the arch into classes, a rim, etc.
In this theme, a straight line and a circle meet violently. At the same time, it is associated with a great amount of folklore, craftsmanship and know-how, as well as history. These works can also be associated with the theme of human humiliation, submission to greater forces and nature, Resignation and peace beyond understanding: Paavo Ruotsalainen on the last boom.
The opposition of materiality and spirituality - and the coming together - seem to be a thematic node of Juhani Palmu's recent years. "Intangible" themes such as a classification tree, a door, a window and a gate, on the one hand, are realized as massive reliefs and sculptures - on the other hand, in extreme cases, they have taken on an almost ethereal painterly form.
The Palmu exhibition organized by the Fulda City Museum in the Kleinsassen art center featured e.g. a series of blue paintings and textile sculptures in which these themes loomed only as highly abstracted forms and figures - the colorism consisted of deep chords of blue tones - refracting at most a little purple.
At its deepest, Palmu's main themes even reach interdisciplinary. Juha Mannerkorvi's poems Ovet and Kylväjä have been very personally and concretely important to Palmu. There is also a background related to this, that when Yrjö Jyrinkoski used to visit Visavuori, he was sometimes accompanied by Lippe Suomalainen's friends Meri Louhos and Juhani Palmu. In this case, Palmu remembers asking Yrjö to recite Mannerkorven Ovet more than once. For a man serving a sentence for refusing to take up arms, that text had a thunderous message.
Doors and windows had already entered Palmu's works in the 1970s. At that time, he depicted all kinds of doors and windows in his paintings, and their symbolic meaning always interested him. For example, the doors and gates of gray stone churches or the entrance gates of the village of Kalliala and, for example, the bent doors became very familiar to the Finnish public from Palmu's works even before the beginning of the 80s. In the works of recent years, the gates and doors have become independent, and they have been joined by familiar form elements arising from the tradition of agrarian culture. This symbolic language is repeated in Palmu's abstract paintings just as well as in his large wooden sculptures.
"Through my own life, I have learned the symbolic meaning of the door. Its value has increased all the time. After the end of my disarmament sentence in 1967, I was facing life. I understood that the door represented an opportunity. If you didn't open it, you didn't know what was behind it. This was very important. If I would stay behind the door to where I was already, I would never know what new place I could step into."
"When I was an advertising man, I had moderate opportunities. But art opened up completely different vistas. The whole world opened up, and my own development story can be mirrored in the symbolic doors," says Palmu quietly.
In his sculpture production, this door theme is a central motif. The idea for the sculptures came from within itself. Palmu finds words when describing the process: "The realizations came... they seemed to emerge from the subconscious at an unexpected moment and were real. And when I was able to immediately write them down in the notes, that I knew what they were, and when they... then in just a second they turned into sculptures in my mind. "
"I very quickly made large sketches of them so that I would know how they would become tangible. And suddenly: what would they look like in relief, what would they look like in wood or metal? Everything came at the same time. I wanted to include my own symbolic language in the new works."
"Lately, I have cut wooden beams into more cracks and tied ropes around them. From the ropes, you get sieve-like structures and tight bonds for feelings of uncertainty and norm-binding. The cross beams in the doors embody, for example, fears and compulsions, and the cracks and cracks I worked into the wood age, time and experience. The design language came from our national agrarian roots, from a world of experiences I'm very familiar with."
Juhani Palmu, an artist colleague from Bonn, heard about the Austrian master carpenter Richard Kepplinger, who has a good carpentry workshop on the outskirts of Cologne. They went to show him the sketches of the first sculptures and tell him what the goal was.
Kepplinger took over the task and since then has been Palmu's help when working on all reliefs or sculptures. Based on Palmu's drawings, Kepplinger has designed the structural solutions for large works, made strength calculations for the structures and sawed the trees to the requested dimensions. After that, Palmu worked on the wooden surfaces of the sculptures with complex processing to his liking, while Kepplinger installed their fastening pins on the pieces. The cooperation has worked seamlessly, and one of its results was, for example, in the winter of 1991–92, the beautiful sets for Seinäjoki's city theater for the play Uiises kiusaust.