Aulis Harmaala

9 – 31 March 2018

The Optimist – 52 paintings and wooden sculptures

“Oh Pangloss!” cried Candide. “This is one abomination you could not have anticipated, and I fear it has finally done for me: I am giving up on your Optimism after all.” — “What is Optimism?” asked Cacambo — “Alas!” said Candide, “it is the mania for insisting that all is well when all is by no means well.”

In his novella The Optimist, Voltaire (1694-1778), a thinker of the Enlightenment, describes the main character Candide witnessing agony and suffering as he travels around the world. Aulis Harmaala takes the position of Candide with his pictures and brings them into the present time. He suggests the same role to the spectator. The points of view are empathy, humour and resilience.

The exhibition consists of 52 paintings and a few wooden sculptures. Wooden spectacles with the symbols from playing cards represent instruments for the viewer. The standard card deck consists of 52 cards and the jokers. The artist considers the installation of paintings as a game in which the spectator continues the Candide’s story. The paintings reflect present opinions and truths. The number of paintings is large since Candide experiences the chaos in the global scope. The novella is available for the public in the exhibition.

Harmaala sees Voltaire’s Candide as a bystander, who tries to believe in humanity. Candide wonders whether people have always killed each other, whether they have always been liars and traitors. Harmaala compares Candide’s optimism to a Facebook observer his his/her bubble. The number of bystanders is already rising to billions, and nothing in the nature of man seems to change. Timothy Snyder, a writer who is familiar with the history of German Third Reich, encourages to learn out of history, since we have not become cleverer. Voltaire’s Candide is an objection to shallow optimism. Could we say that this kind of shallow optimism exists in neglecting the facts that the growth of prosperity is unequal, money for education has been decreasing and the growth of nationalism takes place in our society?

Aulis Harmaala graduated from Kankaanpää Art School 1994 and gained the master’s degree from Aalto University, Helsinki in 2011. His present works are installations in which sculptures, paintings, photographs, ready-made artefacts, and participatory elements form the core. In many of his works, the means of expression diverge directly into the instruments of conversation and communication. Harmaala considers that art is acts of inspecting, thinking, discussing, and influencing. Harmaala has not exhibited with paintings since 1994.