Espoo Museum of Modern Art

© Ari Karttunen / EMMA
© Ari Karttunen / EMMA

29.09.2010 - 09.01.2011

Juba Tuomola

Juba Tuomola’s Viivi and Wagner is Finland’s most popular comic strip which is followed daily by wide audiences of all ages and whose album sales total more than half a million. EMMA’s exhibition looks at the Viivi and Wagner cartoons from five different themes. The figure behind the themes is the curator, Heikki Jokinen. The exhibition is made up of a hundred cartoon strips as well as a number of Juba’s painting.

The pig is a big child

Crazy whims and strange ideas are Wagner’s trademark. Idleness is said to be the mother of all evil but where Wagner is concerned it leads to the strangest perceptions. A common factor tends to be the tremendous effort put into minimizing doing any sort of work, the brilliance of the ideas mainly in the mind of the character behind the idea as well as the somewhat unprejudiced attitude lying behind the whims and experiments.

The couple’s relationship

What is the relationship between a pig and a woman? Surprisingly complex and functional, at least on the basis of Viivi’s and Wagner’s day-to-day relationship. The reason for this is simple; despite the difference in the characters, they share a fundamental concern for one another.

Affection shows itself in many forms but above all it is evident in the here and now and in actions. The most beautiful sentence in the Finnish language is not “Rakastan sinua” – “I love you” but “Come and eat”, according to a satisfied Wagner at the dinner table.

The rumble of reality

Social realities occasionally make themselves felt in Vivi and Wagner’s life: trains are taken out of service, a New Liberal picks the currents out of the bun or Wagner decides to run for president. This is the versatile attraction of the cartoon; it does not live in a vacuum or merely gaze at its own navel.

Observations on the world are made on many different levels. They may relate to the non-existence of community service, the dangers of cheap wine and the inhumanity of working life. Wagner has success in the elections because he realises he must be a pig from the outset. In the entertainment business he succeeds by providing the poorest quality hash.

The alchemy of the subconscious

Reality exists in the form we accept. Viivi and Wagner have their own unexpected reality and its frontiers exist to be broken. Wagner becomes a meat stock cube, a tree grows inside him and at home there is a door into the subconscious.

Juba has created more than 3 600 Viivi and Wagner strips. To find ideas for this amazing number the artist has scraped the innermost depths of his brain. He has to confront and work on the peculiarities found there and in dreams.

Everyday philosophy

It is, however, strange that two characters with such different sets of values as Viivi and Wagner can live and get along together. Viivi’s views on vegetarianism. ecology and feminism have little impact on Wagner.

And yet they get along. The reason for this may lie in the similarities surprisingly hidden in their views of the world. Viivi’s environmental conservation ideology fits in alongside Wagner’s bewilderment in the face of major hypotheses.

Major ideas can be mastered, only the means differ. The outcome of Wagner’s world is in surprisingly similar human proportion to Viivi’s day-to-day ecological thinking.