Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Out of jackets and shirts

'Sometimes Life is Beautiful'; men's jacket and shirts.

Textile enthusiast as I am, some time ago I made the 45-min drive to Helsinki for the sole purpose of seeing some pieces of art created out of second-hand garments. Well, there were some errands to run but they could have waited unlike the exhibition of the Finnish artist Kaarina Kaikkonen that was closing soon at the Galerie Forsblom.

'Night Hawkmoth'; men's jacket and a hook.
'As a Birch I was Calm'; a series of seven works out of men's shirts.
During her 30-year career, Kaikkonen has grown into one of brightest stars in the Finnish art world. Her impressive and thought-provoking site-specific works installed outdoors or in other large public places most often using hundreds of recycled pieces of clothing have brought her wide international acclaim.

'Whereabouts'; men's jackets.

Probably the most beloved of her works has been the ‘Way’, a powerful installation of 3000 men’s jackets on the stairs to the Helsinki Cathedral she made in 2000 (photo here).

'Time for the Last Waltz'; men's shirts.

The latest one of Kaikkonen’s public projects, a couple of dozen long colourful ‘clothes lines’ with all kinds of shirts hanging on them, was installed in the hall of the CentroCentro exhibition space at the Palacio de Cibeles, the current city hall of Madrid, in connection with the ARCO Madrid International Contemporary Art Fair in February. The work entitled ‘Touching the Sky’ will stay there until August (some photos here).

Six works of the 'Time to Sprout' series of seven sculptures each made of a men's jacket and shirts.

Last October when we spent a few days in Arezzo in Tuscany (I must post about that one day) we had no idea two clothing installations by Kaarina Kaikkonen had been adorning the old town centre there through the summer. She was one of the 40 female artists invited to the first ICASTICA international art exhibition held in Arezzo where she was awarded the first prize (photo here).

The seventh piece of the 'Time to Sprout' series,
The sculptures and installations on show at the Helsinki exhibition were naturally more modest. Nevertheless, to me most of them were similarly multi-dimensional and philosophical as Kaikkonen’s monumental environmental art projects.

'Special Personality'; pressed jacket in frames.
There were sprouting garments, flowering garments, framed garments and packed garments, each one relating to the spectrum of human life in one way or another. There were also a few pieces with clothes of a little girl. By the look of it, the artist (born in 1952) is grandmother now. 

'Don't Leave me'; a girl's dress rotating on air.

'Snow White'.

I felt she was saying it is time for us all to grow, even if it were difficult and painful. I felt this exhibition expressed, in addition to her respect for those that have already gone, her hope in the coming generations. Out of our jackets and shirts could sprout something more reasonable and just, something more humane. I do hope so.

Apologies for the quality of the photos. When away from home, I am still at the mercy of my point-and-shoot camera.

Detail of 'Hope', made of a men's jacket, shirts and a dress.


  1. What fascinating work. I had not come across the artist before so thank you for sharing! (That little floating dress..so poignant....)

    1. She was at the Brighton Festival last year but that may have been her only installation in the UK, so far. http://fabrica.org.uk/exhibitions/the-blue-route/