Night Lights

This winter, the sea off of Helsinki never froze over completely. Yet spring feels as unreachable as ever; yesterday the rain turned into unpleasant wet snow. Regardless of the weather, the nights are dwindling. As much as I love light, I am feel the need to say good bye to the long winter nights, which are full of a particular magic of their own.

One particularly special night walk, at the beginning of February, was haunted by this beautiful full moon.
Full Moon Near Kaivopuisto

It was just as thrilling to see this rabbit, who was alternating between languid movements and utter, enviable, stillness.

There is also the joy of discovery in the city, when all of the warmth and creativity of urban life is juxtaposed with the dark, dull, winter. One of the most exciting and effecting things I have seen this winter was a show by Flis Holland at Sinne Galleria in Helsinki, which you can read about here.

2015 Flis Holland Sinne Before 2

Composed of tiny, impossibly lifelike models that are gazed at through jewlers lenses suspended on from the gallery ceiling, they are both charming, lovely and ultimately disturbing. One echoed the space of the gallery itself, creating a sort of delicious other-worldly confusion.

The other focused on a home, and unsettling questions arise as the viewer moves through the circle of three dimensional images. What has happened? It blends the adorable with discomfort. We revolved around the piece several times. Still it sticks with me, the mystery, the echo of it.

There was also the thrill of having to participate and actually interact with the pieces. To stand outside the rings was easy; to stand inside was a bit daring as the gallery became crowded. It felt like becoming part of the work.

I loved it.

There is also the strolling through dark streets— and here in the winter in Helsinki they are almost always dark— looking at things shining out of lit windows. Or encountering naughty door knobs…

This door know is a favorite, from the door to Helsinki Contemporary, a ripe fruit whose curves are almost too much for a single hand.

Concerts are also particularly wonderful in long dark nights. On Friday the 13th, in celebration of Valentine’s day, at the end of the Musica Nova festival, where Pedro Carneiro was performing “Shing Kham” (2011, 2013) By Peter Leiberson. I was really this close:

2015 Musiikkitalo Concert Percussion

Of course I was thrilled to be so near so many percussion instruments all at once. I also thoroughly enjoyed the piece by Reinbert de Leeuw, “Der nächtliche Wanderer” (2013), which included performers placed in different levels of the Musiikkitalo hall, and unless I am mistaken, a recording of a dog barking.

All of these things come alive at night, reasons to give thanks the overwhelming winter darkness as we shoot out of it into spring.

Fall Illumination at Hippolyte

Just as I was getting ill, I wrote a long, depressing and whiny post that– to everyone’s benefit– I did not share. Now that I am recovering and starting to feeling human again, I am suddenly noticing all that is enjoyable in life. Just yesterday I went for an evening walk along the water and as I turned back towards the city the beautiful lights and calm streets were a balm to my soul. The darkness creates a new cityscape, where windows and candles glow. After those long busy days, the empty streets and long sunsets seem like a fine treat, and dark nights invite restorative sleep and dreaming…

This is also the season when the artistic life of Helsinki takes off. People have mostly returned from the forest and concerts and exhibitions are back in full swing. This means that there are a lot of beautiful things tucked away inside. Before I completely succumbed to the virus that had recently run through Helsinki, I was lucky to have an evening with two extraordinarily lovely ladies out on the town. Among other places, we ended up at Kukka Paavilainen’s art opening at Gallery Hippolyte in a courtyard off of Yrjönkatu.

There are many wondrous things in courtyards off of Yrjönkatu, and this was yet another delight. The space was new to me, and I was completely enchanted. The gallery is in a former cinema, with the grandeur and ornate details of that era remaining. The ceilings were high and provided a perfect space for Kukka’s large canvases. The show was gorgeous, and so was artist. Definitely worth a visit and an incentive to explore the heart of Helsinki’s Gallery district. It is on until the 26th of October.

Also on only through the end of this week: the world premier of Frida y Diego an opera by Kalevi Aho with a libretto in Spanish by Maritza Núñez. It focuses on the life of the legendary artist Frida Kahlo and the production is being put on by the Sibelius Academy. The last performance will be on the 24th. This sounds so exciting. I just brought a visiting artist back to Valkokangas, Kukka Paavilainen‘s exhibit at Hippolyte and very much enjoyed my second visit. I just really enjoy being with her work in that space.

Hippolyta was also a brave woman, a queen of the Amazons who according to legend married and of course whose life ended in tragedy. She also appears in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, and that is what the name recalls most quickly to me. When I was 12 I played Hippolyta in a school production. I was thrilled to be chosen but then to self-conscious to play it well, thus missing my first big break in show business. That aside, there is a definite theme of talented women and art here that could lead to a spectacular evening this weekend…

The days are darker but they are full of treasures!


Shadows of the light sculpture inside the Musiikkitalo

Shadows of the light sculpture inside the Musikki Talo

Musiikkitalo (literally: music building or music house) is one of my favorite places in Helsinki. Not only does it have a wonderful, innovative, and ambitious calendar of events, it has wonderful leadership. Recently I had the opportunity to hear the director Katja Leppäkoski speak and she talked about how they were seeking to make the Musiikkitalo inclusive and open to many sorts of people and interests. I love that it is open to everyone, with free wifi and more generous hours than most Helsinki cafes. It is a beautiful space in which to work. Many of the performances also have discounted tickets for students and people without work (about EUR 7.50– cheaper than a trip to the cinema). And the acoustics, even behind the orchestra, are magnificent; they were designed by Yasuhisa Toyota.

They also get amazing artists in, like Julia Lezhneva who is performing this coming Sunday. I would go if I could! Worth a try, even if baroque isn’t your thing. And if you’re not broke– these tickets are pricier.