“Shirts are a symbol of myself”
Kaarina Kaikkonen is one of Finland’s leading artists with a wide experience in sculpture and installation art.
Her work is created with second-hand apparel, using mostly mens’ clothing to create installations and artworks designed to link the public with the clothes, in a bid to strengthen our relationship with the past.
From an early age, Kaarina felt a deep connection with clothes as they were her strongest connection to her father. He passed away when she was ten but his wardrobe remained a source of comfort for Kaarina, often using them as a start point for her artwork.
For her, clothing has a very emotive quality; it helps her to conjure up personal stories and childhood memories. In a video interview on her website, Kaarina describes the shirt as “the closest thing to the heart. That’s why I use shirts in my work”.
“Clothes are a form of memory for the body and they carry stories within them”
Having studied at Academy of Fine Arts between 1978 and 1983, she began her creativity with apparel in the 80s, firstly setting up “washing-line” inspired scenes around Finland. Recreating wholesome and everyday scenes for the public to view as art, Kaarina’s large-scale installations have lined many streets across the world.
Kaarina is passionate about reusing and recycling textiles for artwork, as she fundamentally believes you do not need new materials to evoke new ideas. Often using nature as her starting point for her work, especially water, she emphasises the need for partnership with nature when creating art. Using only second-hand clothing helps Kaarina to push her concepts without harm to the environment, a part of her art she is deeply passionate about.
Her affinity for second-hand clothing stretches beyond the environmental need: she loves that they are a part of our personalities, of our way of being and our memory. Using donations from people local to the installation itself, Kaarina feels a deep connection to space she creates her artwork around.
“Clothes are the perfect symbol for human beings”
One of her most high profile installations entitled “Are we still going on?” was exhibited at Collezione Maramotti in Reggio Emilia, Italy and consisted of hundreds of shirts resembling the interior hull of a ship.
She sites Finland as her main source of inspiration for the piece, as her childhood was filled with days spent in water on the lakes, playing in her family’s summer cottage. Arranging the shirts in colour order, Kaarina wanted to convey all the colours of Finland (most importantly snow and water).
Boats are a powerful vessel for her concept as she describes them as a symbol for life, much like the way she sees clothing. One of her strongest memories of her late father is fishing with him in the summer so it’s no surprise that she uses the boat imagery frequently in her work.
We love seeing the personal story through Kaarina’s textile artworks and admire her approach to second-hand clothing.
You can follow Kaarina’s work on her Instagram. We’d love to hear what you think!