Public art at Oodi

Public works of art contribute to an interesting and beautiful urban environment. In addition to the smoothly flowing architecture, visitors can marvel at works of modern art at Central Library Oodi. Art does not only serve as decoration, as works of art can also make the gears in your head turn. The meanings of art live in dialogue with the environment and the audience. Come see the fascinating works of art at Oodi!

Spatial art and installations

Helsinki Art Museum HAM has produced two new public works for Oodi.

In the spiral staircase, visitors’ eyes are caught by Otto Karvonen’s installation Omistuskirjoitus (‘Dedication’), which has enabled the residents of the city to dedicate the new library to groups of people of their choosing. The piece is located in the library’s public staircase, which spirals around the entire building from street level all the way up to the top floor. The artist has designed the piece specifically for this space.

The other work ordered by the City of Helsinki for Oodi is Jani Ruscica’s Toivo on höyhenpukuinen (Hope is the thing with feathers). This video piece makes bird species that used to call Töölönlahti home fly inside Oodi.

Dedication

Otto Karvonen
Installation, 2018

Otto Karvonen’s work is a dedication to the visitors of the library – and to those who do not frequent the library. The piece features dedications collected through a public campaign in which anyone could suggest who the library should be dedicated to. The piece reminds us that the library genuinely belongs to everyone, regardless of people’s origin, age, wealth or any other factor. The library aims for basic human rights, such as the right to access information and freedom of speech, to apply equally to everyone. The words painted in the public staircase of Oodi were chosen by a panel assembled by the artist. The order of the words was generated randomly, and the piece is not meant to be read in any specific direction. Various connections and parallels may form between words close to one another, but that is up to the spectator.

See the list of words featured in the piece ›

Toivo on höyhenpukuinen
(Hope is the thing with feathers)

Jani Ruscica
Video art work, 2019

The work features a coal tit, song thrush, hazel grouse and common teal on their visit to Oodi. The featured species are known to have nested in the Töölönlahti area and moved a few kilometres north due to construction in the area. The animated birds will move around the architectural space within the library and offer visitors an out-of-the-ordinary, alternative experience. The work comprises nine short, 16–34-second videos that pop up on the information displays from time to time between notifications and event information. The delicate soundscape of the work consists of birdsong and noises made by the movements of the birds. The name of the work, Hope is the thing with feathers, is taken from the 1862 poem of the same name by Emily Dickinson. According to Ruscica, this choice of name refers to all the cultural content that Oodi serves. The artist is also interested in the different ways language and figures of speech resonate in time, even across hundreds of years.

Art from Helsinki residents’ own collections

A total of five sculptures from the collections of Helsinki Art Museum HAM are placed at Oodi. The pieces are made by the following artists: Emma Helle, Jouko Korkeasaari, Janne Martola and Joakim Sederholm. Ai Weiwei’s impressive wood sculpture Divina Proportion is still awaiting placement. The works may also be later accompanied by a video piece by Terike Haapoja.

Lähiörodeo (Suburban Rodeo)

Korkeasaari Jouko
1999 (sculpture, leather, gold paint, sequins and glitter)

In this piece by Jouko Korkeasaari, old cowboy boots have been spruced up with gold paint and decorations. The piece has a strong American feel and brings American dreams to the North.

See a full-size image of the piece ›

Tyttö Joka Muuttui Ruusupensaaksi (The Girl Who Turned into a Rose Bush)

Helle Emma
2018 (sculpture, glazed and gilded ceramics)

Emma Helle’s glazed ceramic sculptures exude lavish Baroque opulence. The subjects of the female figures were inspired by art history and modelled by the artist in her expressive style.

See a full-size image of the piece ›

Corail

Helle Emma
2018 (sculpture, glazed and gilded ceramics)

Emma Helle’s glazed ceramic sculptures exude lavish Baroque opulence. The subjects of the female figures were inspired by art history and modelled by the artist in her expressive style.

See a full-size image of the piece ›

Kristallikallo (Crystal Skull)

Martola Janne
2009 (sculpture, clay, ink, acrylic, plastic)

Janne Martola’s piece combines a skull and a human face. The artist is fascinated by the conflict between dreams, reality, information and stories. He refers to crystal skulls found in Mexico that are said to have magical powers, among other things. The piece can also be seen to allude to the skull covered with real diamonds by controversial contemporary artist Damien Hirst.

See a full-size image of the piece ›

Kajsa

Sederholm Joakim
2000 (sculpture, painted wood)

Joakim Sederholm’s endearing dog sculpture depicts his own dog Kajsa. The artist has favoured wood as the material of his works since the early days of his career.

See a full-size image of the piece ›

Art rugs as tellers of stories

Oodi features seven large art rugs to liven up the premises and tickle your imagination. The visuals of the rugs were created by Finnish designers Laura Merz, Aamu Song and Johan Olin, Marika Maijala, Piia Keto, Matti Pikkujämsä, Sakke Yrjölä and Jenni Rope. The rugs were handmade in North India with respect for centuries-old handcraft traditions. The art rugs depict Finnish literature classics from Minna Canth to Aleksis Kivi and from Mika Waltari to Tove Jansson. Six of the rugs are located in the Book Heaven on the third floor and one in the Playground Loru area on the first floor.

Read all stories of Oodi art rugs ›

Tove Jansson

Laura Merz

“Tove Jansson’s colourful life and visual and literal heritage that speaks to all Finns was a very inspiring starting point for my design work. I illustrate children’s books, so Jansson was almost too predictable a choice as the theme author of my work. It is obvious that the artist’s masterful illustrations and exciting stories have left an impression on me ever since I was a child. However, what inspired me the most was Tove Jansson’s philosophy of life: an open-minded and empathetic worldview that is conveyed through her stories and way of life. I wanted my work to feature a world where eccentric, slightly peculiar yet warm and friendly characters are having an adventure in a setting inspired by Tove.”

See a full-size image of the art rug ›

Aleksis Kivi’s Death Cabin

Company: Aamu Song ja Johan Olin

“The artwork is based on Aleksis Kivi’s death cabin in Tuusula, Southern Finland. We wanted to use the cabin to bring up the zeitgeist and the living conditions in which our national author spent the last years of his life. The death cabin is displayed on the rug in its actual size. The furniture of the cabin is captured in the artwork in its entirety. The image also features the host family, i.e. Aleksis Kivi’s brother with his wife and four children. Walking on the rug gives you a glimpse into Finland in the 19th century.”

See a full-size image of the art rug ›

Fairy Tale Rug

Marika Maijala

“For the Oodi library, I wanted to design a forest green rug on which both young and older visitors to the library could stay, read and imagine stories of their own. For the artwork, I went to the Pasila Library to borrow a collection of Finnish fairytales and let those stories get mixed up in my head. Generally speaking, my favourite part of illustrating is the creation of characters, which is why I picked some of my favourite characters from the stories for the rug: a gluttonous giant girl, a boy who grew a horn on his head after eating a magical apple, children who turned into birds and a girl who wore iron boots. The cavalcade of characters in the stories, much like in the library, is varied and not just a bunch of princesses and peasants.”

See a full-size image of the art rug ›

Minna Canth

Piia Keto

“I wanted my art rug to represent Minna Canth, whose important work for equality has left a great impression on me. I went to the library to borrow at least half a shelf metre of her works, the contents of which I proceeded to devour while lying in bed. Sometimes I would cry and be distraught, other times I would laugh. After immersing myself in Minna Canth’s time, I noticed that certain themes kept coming up repeatedly. This was women’s role in handicraft. I grabbed the end of this thread and contacted the Craft Museum of Finland in Tampere. They provided me with a ribbon pattern that was most likely woven by her contemporaries. In my rug, the other end of the ribbon turns into a fire-breathing dragon. “Let not all women do handicraft work,” Minna Canth wrote in her letter in 1884. In my thoughts, the dragon with a fiery tongue is Minna Canth herself, not mincing words and saying what she deems necessary. There is no doubt that Minna Canth was a courageous and strong woman. However, I wanted to use the colours I chose to emphasise that all of us can be strong. Changing the world can start from a single thought, a single person, and you can be that person.”

See a full-size image of the art rug ›

Pentti Saarikoski

Matti Pikkujämsä

Matti Pikkujämsä’s rug depicts the Finnish poet, author and translator Pentti Saarikoski (1937–1983).

See a full-size image of the art rug ›

Northern Pike of Death

Sakke Yrjölä

“My piece Tuonen hauki was inspired by the rhymes describing the northern pike in Kalevala and the mythical powers associated with it. The northern pike was considered a mythical spirit creature by the prehistoric people of Finland. In our mythologies, this ‘dog of the waters’ has been associated with death. The northern pike was believed to be able to go between the world of the living and the world of the dead by entering the underworld through the bottom of the lake. I was also inspired by Akseli Gallén-Kallela’s Kalevala-themed paintings and frescos. In terms of style, my work is a deliberate combination of national romanticism and symbolism, updated to fit our time. In the poems, the monster pike is faced in battle and killed. Nowadays, there is no need to prove your masculinity by shedding blood and beheading mythical creatures. Now, I just want to focus on honouring the impressive apex predator of our waters and marvel at its beauty. I understand that large predators play a highly important role in preserving the diversity of nature in its ecological niches. Even though the northern pike has been an important source of food and is one of our most delicious species of fish, large specimens should not be killed.”

See a full-size image of the art rug ›

Mika Waltari

Jenni Rope

“For the theme of the rug, I chose Mika Waltari and his early travel book Yksinäisen miehen juna (‘Lonely Man’s Train’) from 1929. Like other members of the Tulenkantajat (‘The Flame Bearers’) literary group, Waltari was fascinated by eastern exoticism, and the destination of the journey of the book was Istanbul. I would like to travel to Istanbul myself, but I ended up researching the theme through the internet. I started by studying historic Turkish painted tiles and their decorative patterns. I fell in love with ‘blue star’ tile patterns from the 13th century Seljuk era and started to paint new versions of it. Eventually, the paintings began to form round forms resembling train tracks, and at the end of the process, not much of the influence of the original pattern was left visible. In the book, Waltari did not find the eastern world of his dreams in Istanbul – in fact, he was slightly disappointed with the neatness and western look of the city. In the final rug, the theme of travel is given the greatest emphasis. Children using the first floor lobby area can use the train tracks on the rug to travel to the cities of their dreams.”

See a full-size image of the art rug ›

Oodi’s architecture

Oodi has three floors, each with its own atmosphere: the active bottom floor, the more closed middle floor that facilitates activities and learning, and the well-lit and open top floor. The facade of the energy-efficient building is made entirely of wood, creating a soft, lively and natural impression.

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