► Erkki Pirtola (1950–2016) was a bohemian influencer and tireless advocate of marginal art. He was also a talented artist himself, as well as a mystic and a prominent Finnish thinker. He saw enormous potential for social change in art and was a great believer in the Beuysian theory of “social sculpture” – the idea that everyone is an artist and that life is a social sculpture that all humanity helps to shape. He translated this theory into practice through the Ö collective, his self-founded art school and the Suomen Aino exhibition he curated in Kangasniemi.
Pirtola critiqued the art education system and the art establishment for failing to support true artistic talent, asserting that artists too easily submitted to academic hierarchies and a system of mutual competition. Outsider art – or its Finnish variant, ITE art – was the only domain in which true creativity could flourish, but it was condemned to perpetually occupy the fringe. Social sculpture could never thrive under such conditions.
“My art is a powerful declaration … it wakes up fossilized consciousness and frozen senses with its powerful colour sensibility.”
– Erkki Pirtola