KALERVO PALSA - Drawings and watercolours

02.12.2006 - 11.02.2007

Perverse sexual fantasies and morbid obsession are central to the oeuvre of the Finnish artist Kalervo Palsa (1947-1987). Drawn in an absolutely unique hand, bizarre, Freudian fantasies about male sexuality alternate with expressive self-portraits. Other works contain blackly comic commentaries on life and references to death. The work of this controversial artist was to be seen for the first time in The Netherlands In De Hallen Haarlem. This unique exhibition presented an extensive selection of his drawings and watercolours from the collection of Kiasma, the museum for contemporary art in Helsinki, including a number of his famous self-portraits.

Kalervo Palsa's drawings are in diverse styles, and radiate an unbelievable, vital energy. Despite their explicit violent or sexual imagery they often bear witness to an extraordinary poetic imagination. Palsa chose to lead an isolated life in Lapland, under extremely simple circumstances, far away from ‘the society’ that barely accepted him because of his aberrant views about life. Because of this isolation and his naïve style his work is generally discussed in the context of 'outsider art'. This exhibition reveals that Palsa’s work connects with recent developments in contemporary art in a striking way, where full expression is once again being given to personal anxieties, death wishes and apocalyptic visions. Palsa’s fascination with the darkest side of the human psyche resulted in exceptionally imaginative images in which literary and art-historical references (to Strindberg, Dürer and Van Gogh, among others) mix with influences from comics culture. 

A special edition of Wormhole appeared simultaneously with the Kalervo Palsa exhibition. Wormhole is a comic journal with cartoon strips made by artists coming from other artistic disciplines (such as the visual arts and music), published by Ronald Cornelissen.

Photography: Gert Jan van Rooij