April 15, 2021

Niko Nordström, Puuveistokset pisteviivat ympäri kaupunkia / Wooden sculptures dotted around the city

sculpture of a toucan
this image and the next three
from the municipal website about the sculptures

Created by an employee of the municipality of Kauniainen, a city of some 10,000 inhabitants in the south of Finland, dozens of wooden sculptures decorate the city's public space.

In the field of art environments such a number of identical sculptures (in this case in terms of basic material and method of processing) can be referred to as a scattered art environment, a description that refers to the totality of related creations located in a rather extensive territory near the artist's living place.
 sculpture of a sfinx

Life and works

Born into a family living in Kauniainen, Niko Nordström in 2005 became an employee of the municipal maintenance company, an organization that takes care of such activities as clearing snow, but also keeping in order the parks and landscaping, as well as the trees and woodlands in the municipality.

In that job he also had to work with a circular saw and in the process he became familiar with various sawing techniques. 

In Finland making creations with the circular saw is a much practiced activity, even by people without an artistic training, and so Nordström set to work, making his first sawn-out wooden creation in 2009, which became a gift for one of his friends.

Although Nordström in his spare time liked to be active in running and cycling, he apparently enjoyed making wooden sculptures so much that he wanted to add another activity to the use of his free time, namely making sculptures of trees that had to be cut down by the municipal organization he worked for. 

sculpture of a falcon

The local authorities thought it was a good idea and agreed. 

In Kauniainen the municipal maintenance company only cuts down trees that are in poor condition. It is known that leaving parts of felled trees behind is useful for nature, but doing so sometimes comes up against a lack of understanding from local residents, who think these left parts just form a mess. The remains of a tree in the form of a sculpture, on the other hand, are appreciated positively by a large majority of residents.

With these kinds of considerations in the background, in 2010 Nordström's project started. It was successful, both in terms of the number of sculptures made, some eighty sculptures in ten years, and in terms of the outspoken positive appreciation of the residents.

In terms of theme, the sculptures depict various animals, as the images in this post show. But there are also other subjects, for example if a well-known building has stood in the area or if there is a memory of a famous person. 

Nordström also asks his colleagues for suggestions on the subject of a new sculpture. And if no idea has arisen within six months, then the agreement is that the stump will be removed.

In 2014 Nordström received the Environmental Performance of the Year award for his creations and in December 2020 the city published a webpage with a series of photos of the sculptures and a map of the city with indications of the spots where they are located (see documentation).

sculpture of a turtle

To situate Nordström's artwork in the context of other scattered art environments, here are some references to comparable sites.

Very similar is Dmitry Tanchev from Aleksin, Russia, who transformed trees in a forest near his hometown into sculptures.This also applies to Valery Gavrilov who decorated the Foresters Park in Yekaterinburg, Russia, with a series of wooden sculptures. And then, Pierre Rapeau from the Dordogne area in France, who decorated parts of trees with frescoes, also had a forest as his field of work.

Working with shells, Danielle Aubin, France, decorated houses and walls with mosaic in the district where she lived and in the 19th century, François Michaud, also from France, made granite sculptures, which were set up in various locations in his village.

* Webpage (in English) by the municipality of Kauniainen with a serie of pictures and a map of the city with the locations of the sculptures 
* Article (May 2018) in local newspaper Kaunis Grani
* Article (February 2020) in newspaper Ilta-Sanomat

*Video by Yle Areena TV

Niko Nordström
Wooden sculptures dotted around the city
Kauniainen,  Uusimaa, region Southern Finland
sculptures can be seen from the street

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