December 18, 2020

Lasse Martikainen, Veistospuisto / Sculpture park

sculpture of an Unicorn
this picture and the next six courtesy of Minna Tuuva

The sculpture of an unicorn in above picture is part of a sculpture park in the small village of Koli that belongs to the municipality of Lieska in North Karelia, Finland.  First opened in spring 2019, it can be said that this opening marks the entrance of a new generation of non-professional artists in the field of Finnish art environments.

Life and works

Lasse Martikainen, the non-professional artist who founded this site, was born in 1987. His father, Ilmari Martikainen, owned since 1971 a garden center in Koli.

In his youth Martikainen was already engaged in creative activities, such as making sculptures. He also made nature trips with his father and after his primary education he went to study at a horticultural academy.

After his studies, for a number of years Martikainen was an entrepreneur in the field of horticulture, also working with and from his father's garden center.

sculpture of a couple wearing masks

The village of Koli is located in the Koli National Park, a nature reserve of 3000 ha, which was designated an official national nature reserve in 1991. In an election for the most beloved national landscape organized by the Finnish daily Iltalethi, this nature reserve came out as number 1. The area is therefore a popular tourist destination.

In 2016, when Martikainen was still 29 years old, he decided to give shape to the creative feelings that lay dormant in him, by starting a new project involving a combination of a sculpture park and the garden center. 

Since the field of about one hectare behind the greenhouses of the Koli Garden Center was no longer needed for flower cultivation, this area could be transformed into a sculpture park in such a way, that it could also become a tourist attraction, like adding a toilet and a kiosk to buy a consumption.

the fountain in the garden

It would take a number of years to transform the space behind the greenhouses into an art environment.

In part, the project involved making a new layout of this area and the construction of a pond with a fountain, as in the photo above, made from leaf-shaped aluminum elements.

The other part involved creating new sculptures to situate these in the garden and to give it the appearance of an art environment.

sculpture of a Minotaurus

The sculptures would be made from various types of material, such as stone, fiberglass, bronze or recycled materials. preferably taking into account the colors of the plants. 

In keeping with the fairly large size of the garden, Martikainen particularly wanted to make life-size sculptures, sometimes of considerable height, like the Unicorn, pictured in the top photo of this article.

This Unicorn, a creature from classical times, a symbol of purity and grace, only to be captured by a virgin, was welded together from aluminum remains. A photo of the creation in the making in 2017 is available on p. 11 of a publication by Pikes-Uliset

The Minotaurus, as in above photo, comes from Greek mythology and is a creature with the body of a man and the head and tail of a bull. The sculpture is made of bronze and is 1.5 meters tall

sculpture of Catwoman, frontside

Then there is a sculpture of Catwoman, a lady with the ears and tail of a cat, who appeared in American comic books and caused furore in films and TV series about Batman.

sculpture of Catwoman, backside

To conclude this overview that gives an impression of the sculptures in Martikainen's park, here is a photo of a sculpture of a worm.

sculpture of a worm

This creation was made from old heating pipes used in the greenhouse and from discarded gutters of the garden center's buildings.

A forest path lined with small sculptures

A series of 36 small-sized bronze sculptures has been set up along a path in a small wooded plot, adjacent to the large garden. Some photos of this series are available on Instagram

The site can be visited

Contrary to what is usually the case with art environments, a starting point in the design of this sculpture park was that it would attract visitors. The park was opened for the first time in the spring of 2019 and became a valued tourist site in its first year.

In 2020, despite the Covid pandemie, the number of visitors doubled.

The garden can be visited in the summer months. For opening times see the website.

* Website of  Koli Sculpture Park
* Facebook page
* More pictures of the site on Instagram
* Video (1'02") of the site on Vimeo

Lasse Martikainen
Sculpture park
Martikkalantie 13
83960 Lieksa, North Karelia, Finland
visitors welcome (entrance fee), see the park's website

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