Artists’ Kalevala in Japan and Kerava

Artists’ Kalevala in Japan –project introduces Finnish folklore through modern art from a Japanese perspective. The aim of the project is to promote mutual cultural understanding and artistic cooperation between Finland and Japan, as well as to broaden the way we interpret mythology and folklore. The project is organized together with Kalevalaseura as a part of a larger Artists’ Kalevala -project.

The project began in 2016, when Japanese contemporary artists Kotobuki Shiriagari, Yuji Ohta, Ayumi Tanaka, Tomoko Konoike and Hideki Iinuma as well as the curator of the exhibition Kenji Kubota visited Finland to familiarize themselves with the Finnish national epic Kalevala, Finnish art and culture. The artist Yusuke Asai visited Finland later.

Each artist was commissioned to produce a new piece of art after the trip, based on their experiences of Finland and their interpretation of Kalevala. Their work reflect both Finnish mysticism and the Japanese way of thinking, and the story of Kalevala is told through many different mediums and genres. The exhibition brings together painting, photography, sculpting, video and installation art. Sculptor Hideki Iinuma for example depicts Kalevala’s strong female characters as modern versions, whereas Tomoko Konoike reflects on the raw human emotions and the violent nature of man in her multimedia work.

An exhibition based on the project, Universal Nature – Rediscovery of Kalevala by 6 Contemporary Japanese Artists, was organized in Sezon Art Gallery in Tokyo 6.8.-27.8.2017. In Finland the same works became part of the exhibition Echoes from the Past – Tokyo | Berlin | Kerava, which opened 26.1.2018 at Kerava art museum curated by Arja Elovirta. Besides Universal Nature, the exhibition includes works from the Artists Kalevala exhibition Do you remember produced by the Finnish institute in Germany.

The Echoes from the Past exhibition kicks off the Finnish institute’s 20th anniversary year and is open until 15.4.2018. Several events will be organized during the exhibition.

Personnel changes at the institute


PhD, M.Sc. Anna-Maria Wiljanen started as the director of the Finnish Institute in Japan on 1st of January 2018. Wiljanen completed her doctoral thesis in art history at the University of Helsinki in 2014. She has extensive networks and diverse experience from marketing and communications in both the field of culture and the world of business. Wiljanen has previously worked as the Executive Director of the UPM-Kymmene Cultural Foundation and Communications Manager and Development Manager at the Finnish National Gallery.

MA Suvi Laakso started as the new project manager of the institute on 15th of January 2018. Laakso has a diverse experience from the Finnish cultural and academic institutes. She has previously worked, for example, as a coordinator for the Finnish institute in Middle East.

The institute’s new interns are FM Ella Karman (started on 1st of February 2018) and FM Katja Sjöström (started on 5th of February 2018).

FIN/JPN LAB – seminar series

FIN/JPN LAB -mini seminar series continues in spring 2018


FIN/JPN LAB is the Finnish Institute in Japan`s seminar series which brings together Japanese and Finnish residency artists and art professionals. Started in 2016, the speakers of the seminars have featured artists in residency in Akiyoshidai International Art Village and Yokobo Art Space, and guests participating have included curators, art journalists and gallerists.

The seminar consists of artists’ presentations on their work and residence experiences in addition to panel discussions. The focus on the event is the discussion of the effectiveness of the residence and the role of residency when it comes to building a bridge between Finland and Japan on the field of art.

FIN/JPN LAB was first established on October 2016. Two first seminars focused on photography and its relationship with art and text with the title ‘Art photographs, text and tea’. The theme of the third seminar was artist residencies and the international collaboration closely related to them.