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Raimo Saarinen: Made-up past, 2020. You may not use this photo for commercial purposes. © Photo: Sonja Hyytiäinen / HAM

Made-up past

© Artist

Englantilaisaukio 1, Helsinki

Entitled Keksitty menneisyys (‘Made-up past’) and displayed at Englantilaisaukio square in Kalasatama, the new temporary work by artist Raimo Saarinen consists of sculpture-like ruins taken over by vegetation. The seemingly time-worn structures are made of plastered and painted lightweight concrete blocks. The work combines modern building materials with the passage of time.

The work features a number of plant species from different continents. One of the ruins features grasses from dry habitats, while others are overgrown with wetland horsetails and irises. Similar to Raimo Saarinen’s previous works, Keksitty menneisyys combines plant species from near and far. The range of features species, which, according to Saarinen, were “instinctively and intuitively” selected, includes gray willow, a South American tree species called monkey puzzle, and staghorn sumac, which hails from the northeastern parts of North America. The plants live and change in accordance with the growth season, adding the temporal dimensions of growth, bloom and wilting to the work. In this way, it is not only the architecture, but also the vegetation of the work that experiences the present, the future and the past.

According to Saarinen, the form and bright colours of the work were inspired by Mexico, where Saarinen was setting up an exhibition when he started planning Keksitty menneisyys. While exploring the area and cultural history of Kalasatama, Saarinen encountered the same colour palette in the bright, peeling paint jobs of boats. “I am fascinated by how visual solutions in an urban environment can be the result of small coincidences. The colour palette of a given area’s architecture can be the result of an individual decision, and then people just keep using the same colour palette, all the way to making it tradition and part of the culture.”

Made-up past is a temporary work by its nature and it belongs to the collections of the HAM Helsinki Art Museum.

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