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AK Dolven – The Finnish Untuned Bell

Permanent installation with eight benches in memory of Helene Schjerfbeck

On 19 May, the townsfolk of Tammisaaren, Finland, gathered to hear the inaugurating knell of Norwegian artist AK Dolven’s Untuned Bell. Created as a permanent monument to celebrated Finnish painter Helene Schjerfbeck (1862-1946), the piece is set into the park where the artist was often to befound painting, and which she referred to as ‘her studio’.

Dolven sourced a 200-year old English church bell from a foundry in Whitechapel, as a reference to Schjerfbeck’s enduring sadness over a failed engagement to an Englishman during her time in St Ives. The bell stands by the sea, with a smooth oak pull mounted on one of the pillars, whichrequires the ringer to use their whole bodyweight to make it chime.

The monument is at once startlingly large (its pillars are 20m high and extend deep into the earth) and yet easy to miss, with its subtle site amid the tall trees that at one time sheltered the artist herself. The patinated copper bell is, depending on where you see it from, either camouflaged by the tree canopy or framed by the ever-changing canvas of the sky.

The landscape has been scattered with oak benches, placed with the help of young Norwegian architect Trude Mardal and the local community. Produced by mastercraftsman Kari Virtanen, who chose each of the oaks individually, the benches have a breathtaking simplicity and material presence. The seats are grouped together, for conversations, romantically sized just for two, or singly, because as Dolven says: ‘Sometimes you need to be alone.’

Hearing the bell ring for the first time was a profoundly moving experience. Now, each time the bell peals, randomly, our thoughts, wherever we are, are drawn to Schjerfbeck. The installation is a conceptually strong, ephemeral, yet profoundly physical monument: a living, aural, engaging work.

AK Dolven - The Finnish Untuned Bell

Where: Tammisaaren, Finland

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