Kirsi Kaulanen (b. 1969) has become famous in recent years as a creator of monuments. She has won several art contests, the most recent of which was the design contest for the memorial for president Mauno Koivisto in 2021. The aim is to have the winning work, Välittäjä (Mediator) revealed in the Finnish Parliament Annex park on the 100th anniversary of Koivisto’s birth on 25 November 2023. Award juries and committees have been fascinated by Kaulanen’s airy and light language of form and have seen something in it that brings new, topical expression into public art once more.
The main materials of Kaulanen’s sculptures are laser-cut, polished stainless steel and light. For her works, Kaulanen has had splinter-like, repeated organic shapes cut from steel whose origins are in vegetation. Most of the works float freely in the air, and the source of light is included in the work itself. In the artist’s own words: The materials I use reflect my emotional state. Steel and laser-cutting enable the combination of a monumental and lace-like forms. I seek to sculpt steel into something feminine, sensitive and immaterial. The reflective surface mirrors and lives along with the changes in light and the environment. Light brings new dimensions into the work; the sculptures extend into the space as drawings of light and shadow.
The key themes in Kaulanen’s art are related to nature. Many of the themes and forms characteristics of her works stem from the endangered plants in our country. For example, the monumental sculpture Gaia, unveiled at Musiikkitalo in Helsinki in 2011, includes silhouette-like shapes from 28 plants that are currently endangered in Finland. Kaulanen’s works in the Natural Forms exhibition also include references to these species. In the Pieni Andromeda (Little Andromeda) series of works Arcturus, Regulus and Antares (2022), for example, the roots of sand couch-grass turn into Andromeda, the spiral galaxy of northern skies and a cosmic allegory of the unity of man, nature and the universe. The name comes from the mythology of ancient Greece. Cassiopeia, queen of Ethiopia, bragged that her daughter Andromeda was more beautiful than the Nereids, daughters of the sea-god Poseidon. Poseidon’s lust for revenge eventually had to be quenched by sacrificing Andromeda. At last moment, the hero Perseus saved Andromeda who had been chained to a cliff on a shore for the sea monster Cetus, and they married. After the death of the heroic couple, the goddess Athena placed them both in the sky as stars to honour their memory. Kaulanen’s work is not the first interpretation of the myth in Finnish art. The marble sculpture Andromeda, completed in 1882, is one of the major works of sculptor Johannes Takanen (1849–1885).
Kaulanen displayed her works for the first time in an exhibition at Mältinranta Artcenter in 1993 in the Kankaanpää Art School thesis exhibition. After that she has held numerous solo exhibitions, a.o. at Galleria Sculptor, Aine Art Museum and Oulu Art Museum and she has participated in countless group exhibitions. Kirsi Kaulanen has been awarded in numerous art contests. She won the first prize in the following contests: for the work Valtiopäivätriptyykki (The Diet of Finland triptych, with Ylva Holländer), which was erected in 2009 in honour of the Finnish Parliament’s 200th anniversary in the August Eklöf park in Porvoo; for the work Gaia in the art contest of the Helsinki Music Centre in 2010; Invitational art contest of the Hirvensalo School in Turku in 2013, for the work Elämänlähde (Well of Life) in the invitational art contest for a three-dimensional art work to the Tampere University Hospital’s new central hall; for the work Mare mare in the art contest for a public art work to Kalasatama’s Loviseholm Park in Helsinki in 2016, for the work Pikkuapollo (The Clouded Apollo, Parnasius Mnemosyne) in the art contest for a sculpture to be placed in the park in front of Kankaanpää sports center in 2019; for the work Kaltio, which is placed in the entrance hall of the Pohjola OP company in 2019; for the work De Geer in the invitational art contest of the Hietalahti round about in Vaasa in 2021 and also in the same year for the work Välittäjä (Mediator) in the art competition for a memorial of President Mauno Koivisto. Numerous other works by Kaulanen have been erected around Finland and one work by her was erected in the Lake Vyrnwy sculpture park in Wales in 2004.
About the artist
Studies and Prizes
Artwork: Kirsi Kaulanen, Arcturus, (2022), polished stainless steel
Photo of Artwork: Vesa Aaltonen
Photo of artist: Mimosa Kaitala