"This blog is not necessarily for lovers of art, it includes a variety of topics and whatever. I'm a painter who likes to know what's really going on in the world today. So you might find anything from Shamrocks to Salmiakki mentioned here on my blog. There will of course be some boring, factual and informational posts, but I'll keep them to a minimum, I promise!

And I might get a bit nostalgic now and then.

So you have been warned!"

- Alan Hogan

Monday, January 31, 2011

Moomin and a groovin' on a sunny afternoon!

Most of you reading this blog may recognise the well-known character featured in the video above. His name is Moomintroll from the Moomin books and cartoons. The Moomins were created in the mid-1940's by Tove Jansson, a Finnish novelist and painter. Since then it has become a worldwide phenomenon.
Personally I never understood the attraction of the Moomins when I was young. Growing up as a child in Ireland, like many other Irish children I spent a lot of time reading comics, books and looking at the television. Back then in the 1970's Irish television consisted of two national channels and three British channels. Most of the cartoons shown were from the US or the UK. So we had a huge selection to choose from. I can remember cartoons such as Battle of the Planets, Scooby Doo, Hong Kong Phooey, Wacky Races and Spiderman from the US. And then we had the likes of Mr.Benn, Captain Pugwash and the Mr.Men from the UK. The Moomins cartoon may have been shown occasionally but I never noticed. Any cartoons about a small white hippo-like creature didn't stand a chance against the all-action american cartoons. Not on my television anyway! We also had a few european cartoons which I thought were a bit strange. They mainly came from old countries like Czechoslovakia and East Germany. I later found out that some of them may have contained some East German propaganda! 

While I ignored anything to do with the Moomins when I was young, I have educated myself a little on the characters and their creator since moving to Finland. I reckon that small white hippo-troll might be a good creation for kids after all. There's no shortage of colourful characters and imagination there, that's for sure!   

Last summer I discovered one place connected to Tove Janssons famous little characters. It was Moominworld of course, a small Moomin theme park based on an island at the town of Naantali or Nådendal in Swedish. While it costs to enter the Moomin park enclosure itself, anyone can simply walk over the bridge walkway and on to the island. There's a nice little Moomin cafe there to sit and enjoy a coffee and the sun. And after that it's only a short walk into the nice Naantali marina. Here there more cafes and restaurants, including a great little boardwalk along the marina where you can find some bars with cool outdoor seating areas. A nice place to enjoy a cold beer and hear the radio playing 'Groovin' on a sunny afternoon'.

Naantali Marina, Finland

Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to hang around all these nice places as I had to get back to the Naantali Spa Hotel were I was staying with my better half, courtesy of a nice little gift token given to us by some Finnish friends. Such was the irresistable pull of a hot jacuzzi and a few beers in the residents bar. We just couldn't help ourselves, you know??? :)

Next time I go back to Naantali, I will try to stay somewhere closer to the town centre. Here's a little video clip I made from the photos of my stay in Naantali.  

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- Alan 


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Strongbow's Awakening!

When I lived back in Ireland one of my favourite places to visit was the National Art Gallery. I often found myself walking around the streets of Dublin city on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, when suddenly it would start to rain. This was usually the opportunity I took to visit the gallery. It's warm, relaxing and after ten minutes inside I usually forgot about the world outside. It's always been an oasis of calm in the very hectic city that is Dublin. It's a fine complex consisting of four interconnected buildings, the Dargan, Milltown, Beit and Millenium Wings. The oldest of the four, the Dargan Wing was formerly opened in 1864. The newest, the Millenium Wing which was opened in 2002 has a very modern contemporary look to it. You may ask how have they managed to fuse such an old building with such a new one. Well, it's cleverly done and the buildings cannot be truly seen next to each other from outside as both facades face out onto two different streets, Merrion Square and Clare Street.

I always remember the first time I arrived at the old gallery back in the eighties. As I walked in I was stopped by the vision of the biggest painting I had ever seen. I said to myself “Wow!”. And honestly that's all I could think to say. Since then, everytime I go back to the gallery I always try to see it. The painting is called 'The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife' by Daniel Maclise.

'The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife' by Daniel Maclise, 1854

The painting shows the marriage of Norman invader Richard de Clare, also known as Strongbow, to Aoife, daughter of Dermot McMurrough, the King of Leinster. This marriage was considered a major event in Ireland's history as it symbolised the start of 800 years of British rule. Sized at a huge 10ft x 16ft (that's over 3 x 5 meters I think), it was painted in 1854. I wanted to make this blogpost in recognition of this fine painting and it's Cork-born artist, Daniel Maclise. Today January 25th is the artist's birthday, so 'Happy Birthday Mr. Maclise wherever you are!' and thanks for a wonderful painting. I was recently saddened yet delighted after reading a news article about this painting. Firstly, I found out that the painting is being removed soon from the gallery walls for two years. Then I saw that this was due to a planned restoration. So that news cheered me up a bit. Apparently a US bank is sponsoring it's restoration, which can be read about here. That's good news indeed, especially since I can't see much help coming from the Irish banks at the moment!

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You can receive my blogposts direct to your email or facebook profile by pressing the follow button at NetworkedBlogs  and you are welcome to visit my art page on Facebook by clicking the 'Like' button under my signature below.

- Alan


Monday, January 17, 2011

2D or not 2D? that is the question!

Last summer I had a quick look at the work of Finnish artist Pauno Pohjolainen in the Turku Art Museum. The painter transformed from being a traditional artist at an early stage of his career to making more 3-dimensional work in the way of painted sculptures and textured forms such as chipped wooden surfaces. The artist still prefers to be called a painter though. 

Pauno Pohjolainen: 
Pyhä Yrjö surmaa lohikäärmeen, yksityiskohta, 

Born in Kuopio, Finland in 1949 Pauno Pohjolainen held his first solo exhibition in Kuopio Art Museum in 1981. His art is visually pleasing and consists of many natural textures and colours. Some of his work extends to interior and exterior building facades.

Pauno Pohjolainen, the Virgin Mary, 1996, Kuopio Art Museum Collection

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Friday, January 7, 2011

Songs for the Snow

With the early arrival of snow to Finland last November, I've had the ongoing job of clearing snow at my humble residence. Constant shovelling has proved to be good exercise for me and my Finnish snow experience came in handy this Christmas when I visited my parents home in Ireland. I was a very surprised with the amount of snow that fell over there this Christmas. It wasn't easy to help with the clearup given the lack of proper snow shovels, but you make do with what you have.
And while the snow quickly melted away in Ireland I could then only think of spring, sunshine and good times ahead.

Unfortunately I'll have to wait a bit longer for spring to reach Finland as I was greeted with a snow storm on my return to Helsinki airport. Time to get the snow shovels out again!

To make the shovelling go a little easier I find it helps to listen to some tunes on my mp3 player. 
Here's my Top 5 Snow shovelling songs at the moment. Maybe you might know another, please add it in the comment box below!

Guru Josh - Infinity
........because there's no sign of the snow ever ending!  :(

John Lennon - Clean-up Time
.....because it has to be done!

No. 3
Death in Vegas - Aisha
.... great tune for building some rhythm to your shovelling.

No. 4
Snow Patrol - Take Back the City
.... and hope to overcome the elements.

No. 5 
The Seven Dwarfs - Hi! Ho!
..... simply to get outside the door to the freezing cold. Get past this step and the jobs half-done!

Happy Shovelling!!

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The Art Garage, Finland

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