Alpo’s Savanna

Exotic animals in Kauhajoki

Alpo Koivumäki lived his whole life on the farm in Nummijärvi. At one time, grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles lived with him there, until Alpo was left alone to spend his retirement days. When he finally had time for himself, Alpo let the art be taken away. Very quickly, Alpo noticed that interest was focused on exotic animals. This is how the story of the Alpo’s Savanna began, where tropical animals and plants have been brought to the north.

Alpon Savanni

Alpo Koivumäki's ITE art project

Alpo Koivumäki was interested in drawing already as a child. However, the full-time farmer didn’t have time for art until 1990’s. Back then farming became unprofitable as Finland became a member of the European Union. Suddenly there was more than enough time, so the handy and industrious farmer let the art take over.

The first sculpture that Koivumäki made was a crane, representing domestic fauna. The idea of the metallic bird appeared as Koivumäki admired a picture of a crane taking flight. However, the artist’s imagination was focused on working with more exotic animals, and so the wanderers of the savanna started to materialize: elephants, lions, crocodiles, tropical birds, rhinoceroses and palm trees swaying above all of this.

The most important step in preparing the sculptures for Koivumäki was the careful calculation of the proportions. The proportion of the limbs to the body was particularly important, as it enabled authentic-looking poses. Working from images gave the artist certain freedom and flexibility to explore the movement and dynamics of the animal figures, while leaving room for imagination and humor as well. The original idea for a sculpture didn’t always work out as meant. For example, the material started to turn into a crocodile instead of a frog all of a sudden.

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Alpo worked natural movement into the animals

In his sculptures, Alpo Koivumäki insightfully observed animals that he had only seen in the pictures of magazines and books or nature documentary films. Often the animals are depicted in motion, performing their natural actions. The bull is about to attack his invisible opponent, the birds are spreading their wings, perhaps landing or taking off. The anatomical proportions of the animal sculptures and the authentic, lifelike poses make these art works particularly touching. The faces of the animal figures also have expressiveness, which gives each animal its own character. Here, through art, you can still feel the presence and vitality of the artist Alpo Koivumäki.

Often the animals are depicted in motion, performing their natural actions. The bull is about to attack his invisible opponent, the birds are spreading their wings, perhaps landing or taking off.

Alpo Koivumäki made ingenious use of all recycled scrap

Alpo Koivumäki’s material for his art was all kinds of scrap that visitors brought to him as raw material for the sculptures. Plastic could be used in many ways, and old car tires, metal cans and, for example, worn-out reflectors were practicable in Alpo’s art. Plastic garbage, feed bags, oil drums and other rough materials got a new life. Alpo Koivumäki combined all these recycled materials using different techniques, such as welding or melting, as well as treating their surfaces.

The shape of the material determined which animal or figure it would become. The artist’s trained eye could tell immediately when the right shaped piece emerged from the pile of scrap. For example, the rubber surface of a car tire resembled the skin of a walrus or a seal, as well as a feather pattern of a bird’s wings.

Alpon Savanni Kauhajoella

Visit Alpo’s Savanna

Supporters and friends were a great help to the artist who lives on the farm by himself, without a family. Today, the Friends of Alpo’s Savanna Association takes care of the sculpture park so that it can still be open to visitors.

If you haven’t visited yet, the Savanni built by Alpo Koivumäki is definitely worth a visit.

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