Veikko Hirvimäki

On Kalevala Day 28 February 2012, the Kalevala Society granted the Akseli Gallen-Kallela award to sculptor Veikko Hirvimäki.

Photo Reijo Piispanen

Photo Reijo Piispanen

Veikko Hirvimäki (b. 1941) has had a 50 year career as an artist, both as painter and sculptor. His first exhibition was in 1960. Hirvimäki left painting in 1980. After that, he became known for his many public sculptures and several unique miniature sculptures. His works are often based on nature, its cycles and the changing of the seasons. Hirvimäki’s favourite materials are stone and wood. Hirvimäki has created several monumental-size sculptures, the most famous of which is Royal Idea, the memorial to Mika Waltari, unveiled in 1985 and located in front of restaurant Elite in Helsinki. There was much public debate about the memorial, drawing particular criticism because the work was not representative.

Hirvimäki continued to create large-scale sculptures, but left his homeland for Switzerland. At the same time, he became interested in miniature sculptures and wood as a material. His series of miniature sculptures, called Memorials, is considered his most interesting work. The first part of this series, including ten works, was displayed in Geneva in 1997. These works range from a few centimetres to 30 centimetres, and were made of wood, pieces of fungus, birch bark, copper wire, grass, beeswax, pinecones or sackcloth. The works represent animals and people, but most of them simultaneously look like tools, vehicles, toys, snares and instruments. They are like magic items, talismans. His works also feature everyday objects: baskets, cases, backpacks, churns, pitchforks, boats, sleighs and skis. Hirvimäki’s tools include the chisel, awl, screwdriver, drill and pick. He mixes his colours from finely chopped bark.

Veikko Hirvimäki is an intensely ecological artist. Having lived abroad for a long time, Hirvimäki has also clearly acknowledged his Finnish roots, which is reflected in his work. The figures and phenomena in his works are connected to the Finnish folk tradition: legends, beliefs and fairytales. They bring to life the spirits of the forest and animals, of elves and other supernatural creatures. He takes his public into a world of magic, spells, shamans and good and evil spirits.

The paintings and sculptures of Veikko Hirvimäki can be found in many public spaces and collections, such as schools, hospitals, activity and service houses, swimming halls, city halls, theatres, museums, public squares, parks and plazas. During his career as an artist, Veikko Hirvimäki has done all that a recipient of the Akseli Gallen-Kallela Award must do: he has expanded, renewed and boldly criticised the expressive language of the visual arts. The award comes as a thank you from the Kalevala Society to Hirvimäki for his long career as an artist and for his art, which often combines an ecological theme and mythical subjects.