Used items of clothing convey an uncannily powerful sense of presence in the work of Kaarina Kaikkonen (b. 1952) The discarded clothing is highly personal and intimate, yet highly familiar and universal, holding memories and reminding us of time’s passage. Twisting playfully in mid-air, the interwoven clothing in her latest sculptures is a metaphorical depiction of life’s arc and time’s linearity. The works in her new exhibition mirror life’s vicissitudes with their varying body language and color schemes, yet even when at their most melancholy they always convey a ray of hope: joy and sunshine sprout forth from the unravelling sleeves of castoff jumpers.
Kaikkonen’s installations are a commentary on the importance of community. They portray how basic human needs such as the desire for human closeness endure from generation to generation, no matter how social reality changes over time. The works are based on the artist’s personal experiences: many of the disused items of apparel are personal souvenirs from her own life. Men’s neckties taking the form of a sprouting plant enfold a white dress that resembles a frock worn by the artist when she was two years old.
In addition to sculptures, the exhibition also features drawings by Kaikkonen, who originally started out as a painter. Universal spiral patterns and birds symbolizing people are among the recurring elements in her oeuvre. By drawing, the artist reconnects with her inner child: for Kaikkonen, drawing is a form of work disguised as play.
Kaikkonen is one of Finland’s most internationally renowned sculptors and installation artists. Her work is found in the Malmö Art Museum, Rome’s MAXXI Art Museum, the KUNSTEN Museum of Modern Art Aalborg and Helsinki’s Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art. She is the recipient of the Finnish National Visual Arts Prize in 1989 and the Finland Art Prize of 2001. In 2013 she was bestowed the title of Order of the Lion of Finland, First Class.