We celebrate the Finnish Culture Day on February 28th. In honor of the festivities, there will be a presentation of visual artist Hannu Väisänen's collaboration with Mattocenter. The passionately carried out collaboration draws inspiration from the national epic Kalevala that is based on Finland’s folk poetry.

Kalevala Day is celebrated on February 28 to celebrate the folk poems written by Elias Lönnrot in the 19th century, which portray the entire spectrum of life. The first version of the Finnish national epic, Kalevala, was completed in 1835, while the new version was completed in 1849. The artist Hannu Väisänen, born in 1951, illustrated the new version, which was published in 1999.

Väisänen is a highly respected visual artist from Finland who has a unique approach to the Kalevala epic, as he imagines the contents of the book as melodious words that create songs. Väisänen has been working with the world of Kalevala throughout his entire life, and he approaches mythical events through reciting and singing. He has interpreted spells, prayers, condolences, and good wishes from Kalevala in various mediums of art.

In the summer of 2023, the artist Väisänen drew inspiration from the ancient spells and poems of the Kalevala to create a collection of art rugs. He transferred his abstract interpretation onto the surface of the rugs, that resulted in four exclusive specimens. These rugs were presented to the public as part of the Lemminkäinen's Heart exhibition.

After a year of meticulous conceptualization and planning we are proud to present the end result of this collaboration. The final result consists of four rugs, each a unique handcrafted piece of art, that was created according to the artist's sketches and incorporated centuries-old handiwork traditions. Mattocenter is thrilled with the result, and on Kalevala’s Day, we dive into the discussions and thoughts of the artist Väisänen during the collaboration process.

Otsonen, metsän omena I and Otsonen, metsän omena II, photo Otto Virtanen

Artist Hannu Väisänen, do you have a particular philosophy that guides your work?

”It moves towards joy and must return to joy.”, Väisänen answers confidently. Väisänen truly believes that creative work originates from joy.

Artist Hannu Väisänen, What if the joy disappears?

”Joy can be sustained through curiosity. It is an important life-directing value for me, a supporting force and a way of looking at the world.”, Väisänen says.

Artist Hannu Väisänen, let’s get back to the collaboration. A carpet is almost always a utilitarian object. Can it be art?

One can approach a carpet as if it were a work of art. From one's perspective, the whole artistic approach in this medium is quite different from, for example, a painting. In the process of creating, new rules and principles must be applied. Using a carpet as your medium is greatly different and more challenging from using techniques like oil painting or filling a canvas from an artistic and practical point of view., says Väisänen.

In addition to the artist's sketching work, the character of an art carpet is a combination of several aspects such as the materials used, the meticulously selected color mixtures that adorn the patterns, as well as the individual craftsmanship of the carpet weaver. Together all of the above-mentioned aspects have an impact on the final result creating a harmonious piece of art. Driven by a distinct vision and a process that includes many variables, the work moves towards a certain goal in which the outcome can never be fully predicted as it is often in the field of textile art.

Väisänen does not consider an art carpet solely as a piece to be hung on the wall but encourages the utilization of its potential on the floor as well. Viewing it horizontally from different angles brings the different elements to life in a new way and when light clings to the silky surface of the art carpet, it continues to evoke wonders in the beholder.

Otsonen, metsän omena I, photo Otto Virtanen

Artist Hannu Väisänen, How do you manage working between France and Finland?

Flawlessly. Working from the French countryside frees one’s mind to more possibilites, and while working on the Kalevala collection, for example, I was able to harness two very different perspectives.”, says Väisänen.

French literature, theatre, visual arts, and music are influenced by a variety of cultures and traditions, making them truly multinational. The French mindset tends to be more open-minded and spontaneous compared to the Finnish way of seeing things. In France, people cherish the diversity of traditions and have a remarkable ability in tolerating differences, which is a significant part of their culture.

In the process of creating my work, being Finnish and the national identity were not the defining elements, but rather present elements. This allowed me to explore the meaning of what’s seen as a "taboo" and alsoexploring sensual themes that are present in the Kalevala, but are often overshadowed by controversies and revenge., explains Väisänen.

What about cultural differences? Do they sometimes create conflicts or do they solely contribute in enhancing your art?

I find the distance and the differences it brings a great asset. If I were an artist working mainly in Finland, I probably wouldn't feel a great desire to deal with Kalevala in my art in the first place., answered Väisänen.

Väisänen finds the French culture and way of life a constant source of inspiration that offers a valuable perspective to his work. He believes that many French artists step out of their comfort zone, which gives way to a desire in expanding their knowledge and understanding of painting. Väisänen is attracted to the open-mindedness and creativity of French artists who are able to create new styles.

Maitoloitsu, photo Otto Virtanen

Väisänen is a passionate lover of Finnish folk poetry. His relationship with the visual arts, literature, and performing arts is highly multidimensional.

Väisänen, a Finnish artist, shared that he has a deep love for Kalevala, an epic poem that details Finnish mythology and folklore. He mentioned that the Kalevala has become a significant part of his work over the years, even though he never actively decides to work on subjects related to it. Väisänen added that ever since he studied at the Finnish Academy of Arts, Kalevala has always been present in his life, and it continues to inspire him in his current work.

The exhibition Lemminkäinen's Heart is unlikely to be artist Väisänen's final take on the Kalevala. We are left with a curious interest for Väisänen’s next approach.

By: Kaisla Koskiniemi

Photos: Otto Virtanen

Inquaries: info@mattocenter.fi

Explore more Hannu Väisänen x Mattocenter

Lemminkäinen's Heart WWW: Hannu Väisänen at Laukko Manor