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Finnish artists get together to "stand up for wolves"

A group of painters hope a new exhibition will counter the wild animal’s image as a terroriser of dogs and children – not to mention of little piggies and grandmas. Proceeds from the show will go in part to the WWF.

Hannu Lukin öljymaalaus Susi! Susi! Susi!
Hannu Lukin and his fellow artists want to pay tribute to the much-maligned beasts. Image: Pekka Loukkola / Yle

A group of Finnish artists have got together to stand up for wolves, with a new exhibition in the northwest town of Oulu which they hope will counter the bad press they claim the wild animals get in the country.

Local artist Erkki Halvari says that despite only having once sighted the creature, while in Canada, he’s a friend of the much-maligned forest predator.

Halvari said the widespread talk in Finland of wolves as a problem which needs to be eliminated led him to get in touch with other like-minded artists. Together they created paintings for “100 Wolf Songs”, an exhibition which opened this weekend at the town’s Galleria Art Halvare.

Crying wolf?

Wolf hunting has been a controversial issue in Finland for many years. In 2012 the European Court of Justice ruled that Finland had been in breach of EU law which permits the hunting of wolves only in exceptional circumstances. However the court recognised that the country had also taken significant steps to improve the protection of the wild animals in recent years, and effectively allowed current hunting practices to continue.

Meanwhile farmers’ groups have called for more powers to hunt wolves which live too close to farmed or built-up areas, accusing the animals of attacking their livestock.

Fear of the wild creatures also appears to run high in many places. Last December stories of dogs being killed by wolves led a number of residents in the Kuopio region to claim that they had become too scared to let their children or dogs roam outside. In 2012 police in the eastern town of Pieksämäki advised parents against letting their children wait for the school bus alone, over fears of a wolf on the prowl.

Big bad humans

But the paintings by Halvari and his fellow artists - Hannu Lukin, Helena Junttila, Anssi Hanhela and Merja Aletta Ranttila - aim to redress the idea of wolves as something that needs to be controlled. That idea goes back even further than the animal’s image in fairytales as a big, bad terroriser of piggies and grandmas.

“Wolves are peaceful creatures and in my opinion all nature’s animals have the right to exist in peace. Wolves kill for food, not for fun as humans do,” Halvari says.

Some of the proceeds from any works sold will be donated to the charity WWF to help protect wild animals.

Halvari says he hopes the show will make people reflect on how nature controls us, not the other way round.

“In the west we imagine that we are above everything and that we can do whatever we want, whenever we want,” he muses.

”100 Wolf Songs” is on show at the Galleria Art Halvare in Oulu until November 8th.

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