Otus Opus is an interdisciplinary celebration of art and science – or rather a festival where one zooms from one art form to another, then into science and back again!
In the beginning there was music. Classical guitarist Petri Kumela asked composers from all over the world to compose miniature works about animals smaller than a cat. In the end there were dozens of these works and Kumela whisked Laura Ruohonen along to interpret these musical creatures as poems, and then he brought in Erika Kallasmaa to envision a visual form for them. The group worked in bursts over a period of three years with enviable freedom: they played, pondered, studied and read Japanese horror stories as they pleased. The end result is the Otus Opus, a unique textbook on strange creatures.
The creatures found in the Opus are based on freely translated truth. At times, Kallasmaa has let biological facts take the lead in her illustrations while at others she has veered away from them and even danced polka on and over the line separating fact from fiction. The facts of the creatures are there, of course, but they have been honourably harnessed to serve art. Besides, reality does not need much stretching: it is so bizarre already. The closer you look, the more magical things begin to appear! The spirit of a samurai on the back of a crab! A butterfly that stinks while a caterpillar and stops eating as an adult! The roaring storm that is the courtship song of the teeny tiny backswimmer! A crab that pees from its head!
At the exhibit, the boldest creatures from the book sneak and jump into the gallery space, turning it into an art installation of their own. The small is made large and two dimensions are joined by a third as critters, bugs and other creatures settle in.
”Just splash, simple as” are the words a friend once used to describe Kallasmaa’s style, and what an apt description it is. However, there’s a lot of work that goes into making a splash. Combining clumsiness with premeditation and finding the right level of simplification requires trial and error, and many iterations. Too much fluency and naturalistic accuracy can overpower the emotional punch, which is what Kallasmaa finds most important. She studies a lot, but sketches very little. If you don’t succeed in one go, then you simply try again!
In the words of Goethe: ”Beauty is a manifestation of secret natural laws, which otherwise would have been hidden from us forever.” Otus Opus dives into the codices of natural laws with a flurry and raises the smallest pearls up so that they, too, have their chance to shine!
The introduction to Kallasmaa’s exhibition is written by curator Mia Kivinen. The text series by guest writers is part of Galleria Kuvitus’ exhibitions development started in 2019.
The book Otus opus will be published later this spring by Otava.
Erika Kallasmaa (b. 1969 in Tampere) is an award-winning illustrator, artist and graphic designer. For Kallasmaa, work in the visual medium means exploring storytelling, thoughts, feelings and actions in a comprehensive manner. Kallasmaa’s work centres on children’s culture and she strives to express it in different contexts and on different scales: in books, playgrounds, performative arts and architecture. In 2013 Kallasmaa received the Finnish State Award for Illustrative Arts.