Kaarina Kaikkonen studied at the Academy of Fine Arts between 1978 and 1983. She has become one of the leading artists of Finnish art thanks to her work in sculpture and installations using clothing. She has designed an installation of 2000 pre-owned shirts, donated mostly by individual museum visitors of the Didrichsen Art Museum. The installation was on display in the Didrichsen Sculpture Park in 2015. Her research is primarily distinguished by using old clothes, which are bearers of stories and anonymous memory.
The Queen of the Night is an installation made by the artist entirely with women’s shoes cut in different shapes and applied to the walls in order to form almost natural elements and the second, a series of sculptural works realised with second-hand men’s clothes whose material consistency recalls a strong human presence.
In both cases, the boundaries between sculpture and installation give space to forms and images that redefine the environment and the objects according to new visual models.
In 2015 the Sara Zanin Gallery in Finland, presented Kaikkonen’s solo show Emptiness. Kaikkonen’s alphabet is composed of fragments of everyday stories and existence, which, like minute pieces of a large mosaic, form a universally recognisable language.
She uses everyday discarded clothes and objects that bear the traces of their previous lives, silent witnesses of a story. Shirts, shoes, jackets and cutlery become monuments to past existences and trustees of traditional social, ethical and political values in communication with the environment in which they return to life.
The clothes are a sensitive film that separate and, at the same time, relate the human being to the surrounding environment, propagating the individual’s identity in society. Using it as raw material is a way for Kaarina Kaikkonen to involve people’s lives in her work and lend them a universal dimension.
Each of the works has its origins in Kaikkonen’s artistic sensibility and capacity to listen to the place, its story and social life. Through the involvement and participation of the local inhabitants, called to donate their old clothes or to collaborate in the installation of the works, the artist activates relational dynamics in order to restore the traditional cohesion between the individuals and their social surroundings.
The single sculpture becomes an installation invading the architectonical space or natural landscape and is the outcome of the aesthetic and ethical bond between art, life, geography and human history. The aesthetic form, with its modular structure, in which each element is connected to the other, creates a metaphorical social tissue, in which the individuals are bound together in a community with its particular place, story and culture.
Conceived specifically for the former factory of Max Mara fashion company, now housing the Collezione Maramotti, the large installation Are We Still Going On? by Kaarina Kaikkonen follows and accompanies the compositional structure of the building, an interesting example of brutalist and organicist architecture from the 1950’s.
Find out more about her work below.
Also published on Medium.