‘Sauna: Divine Comedy’: Finn-Canadian artist inspired by notion of fusing sauna, Dante

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette Onni Nordman stands near his piece “Ferry Cross the River No. 1 (Emigrant)” which he donated to the Finish American Cultural Center.  

HANCOCK — “I let the painting lead me…it can show me where it wants to go, and where it wants to go is a place that I could not have predicted,” said artist Onni Nordman. “That’s the game for me.”

Nordman’s series “Sauna: Divine Comedy” is the latest to be hosted at the Finnish American Cultural Center. After the Thursday reception, the works will be on display until Feb. 17.

A Finnish-Canadian artist, Nordman has been painting for around 40 years. Bold colors and intricate textures characterize the still-evolving graphic style he developed 10 years ago.

“I have struggled for many years, because painting is a struggle,” Nordman said. Stuck in the struggling artistic state of pushing

“colored mud around with a hairy stick on a piece of cloth.” 

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette Nordman speaks on his creative process and inspiration at the Finnish American Cultural Center reception.

“It was a struggle for so long, and then one day I noticed that I was painting with a new fluency,” he explained.

Now Nordman describes his paintings as more unconscious and instinctive. Working with oil and canvas he must let each layer dry before moving on to the next one.

He lets the work lead him from layer to layer in unexpected directions. 

“I just go at it with only a notion of where it’s going.” 

Nordman’s “Sauna: Divine Comedy” series draws the literary classic to Finnish tradition.

“The sauna is built on three levels as is the commedia. So you have inferno, you have purgatory and you have paradise,” Nordman said.  

“All art comes from other art,” he explained. 

“You copy other painters for so long until you have chewed up and digested your influences so well that you have your own voice now and nobody knows where it came from,” Nordman said. 

His goal is to reach the point of artistic success, where the next generation of artists begin to copy him. 

While in Hancock Nordman has been working with Finlandia art students.

More of his work is viewable online at onninordman.com.