Looking for REIDAR

First premiere
 17 April 2018, Kittilä

Text Janne Rosenvall

Director Johanna “Jose” Salo

Choreography Atte Herd, Helmi Järvensivu, Laura Kallas-Herd, Anni Pilhjärta

Performers Henri Haakana, Atte Herd, Laura Kallas-Herd, Anni Pilhjärta, Valtteri Valo, Ulla Väätäinen
Sound, light and projection design Antti Lindholm
Costume design Elina Vasko
Graphic design Ulla Ollila/Kuohu Design 

Looking for REIDAR is inspired by the life of Lappish artist, Reidar Särestöniemi (1925-1981). Särestöniemi lived and worked most of his life in the small village of Kaukonen, located by the river Ounasjoki in Kittilä, Finnish Lapland. He is known for large, bright-colored oil paintings inspired by the arctic nature.

Reidar Särestöniemi was the youngest of seven children. As a child, Reidar enjoyed spending time with animals absorbed in his own, rich inner world. He was more interested in library books and painting with watercolors than studying in school.

After participating in the Finnish Continuation War at the age of seventeen, Särestöniemi put all his efforts and energy in his all-round studies. He studied art at Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki and at the famous Repin Institute in the city of Leningrad in Soviet Union. His studies also took him to travel in Europe, and later on in his life Särestöniemi travelled all around the world (often just to escape the dark and cold winter of the north).

Särestöniemi’s artistic breakthrough came with his first solo exhibition in Helsinki in 1959. However, his commercial success, knack for publicity and colorful personality made some of his colleagues and the art elite condemn him and his work. The public, media and even politicians still were interested in Särestöniemi, and his atelier in Kittilä had up to 4000 visitors a year.

In New Year’s Eve 1977, Särestöniemi suffered a tragic blow when his home atelier was destroyed in a fire. A new, impressive atelier was built the next year, but it did not compensate for all the art, photos, books and other objects lost in the fire.

Särestöniemi loved nature and used his public status to talk about environmental issues. He was especially passionate about defending the river Ounasjoki, which was protected by special legislation a couple of years after his death.

The myths and opinions about Reidar Särestöniemi continue to live on, and researchers, journalists and interested citizens alike compete over who knew the real Reidar. Looking for REIDAR is a jagged collage, not intended as a biography or a memorial. Instead, it flashes impressions of Reidar balancing between a romantic depiction of an artist and a conscious brand.

The performance combines means of dance theatre, drama and object theatre, and it includes spoken Finnish.