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FOKUS: Ilona Harima
01.11.2011 - 20.05.2012


In connection with its collection display, Ateneum Art Museum is presenting a special FOKUS exhibition of the art of Ilona Harima (1911-1986). Today almost forgotten, the artist Ilona Harima attracted a lot of attention with her first exhibition in 1934, which displayed unique art that was heavily influenced by Eastern cultures and religions. Ateneum's new FOKUS exhibition presents Harima's paintings and drawings from various collections, as well as letters, documents and photographs from the artist's archive. A special online publication on the works of Ilona Harima will be published at the same time together with the Central Art Archives. 2011 marked the hundredth anniversary of the birth of the artist.

Ilona Harima held few exhibitions between 1934 and 1960, and her artistic output differs from the general trends of the time. From a young age Harima had been attracted to Eastern art and cultures, and these stimuli can be seen in the themes and techniques of her art. She was particularly fascinated by Indian and Tibetan images. In addition, Harima was interested in esoteric religions and occultism. Her art reflects her own philosophy of life, which emphasised not only pantheism and theosophy, but also Hinduism and Buddhism.

The main subjects of Harima's art are people, but she also created landscape drawings and images of animals. Her subjects are often enlightened or divine characters, such as children, young girls and angels, who are generally surrounded by animals or imaginary plants. Her art also contains a lot of symbolism in the form of flames, the sun, rays of light, eyes staring out of the emptiness, lotus flowers, water-related metaphors and celestial bodies. Her topics and techniques often create a strong fairy-tale element in her paintings.

Especially in her early output, contours and drawings played a strong role also in her paintings. Indeed, she was a highly skilled and expressive drawer, which can be seen in her many pencil drawings.

The archive material and some of the art works in this exhibition are part of a collection that was donated to the Central Art Archives. A special online publication "Valaistumisen tiellä" ("On the Road to Enlightenment") can be read or downloaded free of charge from the website www.fng.fi/harima (English summary http://www.fng.fi/harima_en).

Only a small selection of works in Ateneum Art Museum's collections can be displayed at any one time. The FOKUS series presents smaller thematic exhibitions that focus on a particular work of art, artist or subject. The FOKUS exhibition of the art of Ilona Harima is presented by Ateneum in co-operation with the Central Art Archives, and it has been compiled by researcher Helena Hätönen and project manager Erkki Anttonen.