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Two new public artworks completed in Helsinki’s Sompasaari neighbourhood


Kirsi Kaulanen: Mare mare. © HAM/Kirsi Halkola

Two new public artworks have been completed in Helsinki’s Sompasaari neighbourhood next to Kalasatama: in Loviseholm park, artist Kirsi Kaulanen’s Mare mare and at the square in the Aallonhalkoja street, artist duo Maija Luutonen and Olli Keränen’s Pica pica. Both works were awarded a prize in an art contest organised by the City of Helsinki in 2016, and now that the neighbourhood’s development is almost complete, the works have finally found their places. The sculptures will be unveiled at 14:30 on Wednesday, 20 September, in an open event that will take the audience from one work to the other, starting at Loviseholm park and ending at the square in Aallonhalkoja street. Deputy mayor of Helsinki, Anni Sinnemäki, will unveil the works. The artists will be present at the event.

Kirsi Kaulanen: Mare mare 

Kirsi Kaulanen’s work Mare mare (‘Sea, sea’ in English) in Loviseholm park creates a sculptural space that passers-by can enter. The work consists of stainless steel elements, which have been laser-cut into spiral shapes that resemble plants and their roots, with acrylic glass-covered light elements at the top.

The inside of the sculpture is an imaginary submarine or subterranean space. The sculpture’s rootlike elements rise as high as three metres, with the above-ground parts of the steel plants growing on the elements. According to Kaulanen, the space can also be seen as “a symbol of a submarine, subterranean and subconscious space or state in which knowledge, skills, imagination, play and creativity can come together and generate new thoughts and ideas.” 

The artist sees her work as a maritime garden; it is a state of mind and a place for the mind to expand. The sculpture is a bed for the silhouettes of endangered plants growing on the shores of the Baltic Sea – fen violets, golden docks and yellow bedstraws – and for forms that resemble the roots of brookweeds and sand pinks. “The plants remind us that life is vulnerable and precious. The bubbles illuminated from inside shine in the colours of the sea; they are a mysterious and unexplainable element of the sculpture, perhaps remotely related to sea stars,” Kaulanen says. 

Kirsi Kaulanen (b. 1969) is a sculptor based in Porvoo. Her works are characterised by a dialogue between natural elements and nature, as well as people and other species. They feature the play of light and shadows combined with sharply lined steel forms and an idiom that occasionally resembles machinery. Kaulanen has created several public artworks for Helsinki; for example, Iso tyttö (2003) in Annantalo and the double sculpture Viileä mätäs and Vaaleanpunainen luonto in Haartman Hospital (2005). She is currently working on the Mauno Koivisto memorial Välittäjä (The Mediator), to be unveiled in November 2023. 

Olli Keränen ja Maija Luutonen: Pica Pica. Aallonhalkojanaukio, Sompasaari, Helsinki. Kuva: © HAM/Kirsi Halkola

Maija Luutonen and Olli Keränen: Pica pica 

Maija Luutonen and Olli Keränen’s Pica pica consists of coins that have been spread and set in the paving stones of the Aallonhalkoja street square. The coins have been spread in a fan shape, as if they had rolled down the square. Some of the coins are in clusters, and some stand out individually. 

The work’s central idea is to make visible the city’s strata and the passage of time. The coins seem accidental in the same way as pug marks or sole patterns left in wet asphalt over the course of years. 

Pica pica’s coins are not current currency – that is obvious. The sizes and colours of the coins, cast in steel and bronze, are exceptional. The coins feature six different motifs. The images, texts and numbers refer to not only the past but also the future: the oldest money and the newest technologies in the world. Some of the figures on the coins seem to have worn unrecognisable by extended use; some of the coins propose future moneys. The work also refers to the temptation to pick up shiny items: Pica pica is the Latin for magpie. 

Artist Maija Luutonen (b. 1978) is known for her acrylic paintings on paper in which she exploits the living texture of the materials. Luutonen’s paintings create spatial ensembles. She also works with other materials, including textiles, natural materials and light, as, for example, in her work Puuska (2020) in the Lauttasaari daycare centre. Her works are often abstract and display recognisable forms from calligraphy and of slips of paper suddenly flying off. Olli Keränen (b. 1979) works in the interface between sculpture and moving image. His works combine handicraft with the mechanically produced. They are somehow familiar and, at the same time, novel and unfamiliar: in a spatial context, the materials’ archetypal forms create new meanings when things are, after all, not what they initially looked like. 

The art contest and financing of the works was made possible by the City of Helsinki’s percentage financing principle. In the Kalasatama area, Helsinki has piloted the principle in regional development. So far, the city has placed six permanent and four temporary artworks in the Kalasatama/Sompasaari neighbourhood and organised several cultural events in the area. The artworks have been added to the City of Helsinki’s art collection administered by HAM.