Kari Vehosalo

Ars Fennica 2017

The puncta of life and death

Kari Vehosalo stages a performative spectacle fusing life and death in an excruciating dance. With extreme photographic and philosophical precision, he weaves together beauty, psychopathology and the history of western trauma culture. On his canvases, modern iconography is epitomized by Jayne Mansfield, whose sex-oozing physique hurls itself at the viewer with the irresistible force of an automobile speeding towards a head-on collision. The blown-out image of Mansfeld’s car wreck is like a comic-book allusion to the celebrity cult. The complicity of sex and death forms an overarching theme in pop culture all the way from James Dean to Princess Diana. Another recognizable protagonist appearing in his paintings is Ted Kaczynski, mathematical prodigy, anarchist and father of performative terrorism. Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber, terrorized the United States for nearly 20 years from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s as a protest against the takeover of society by modern technology. Kaczynski lived as a recluse until his capture. Vehosalo’s interpretations of solitude, silence and the gaze are a salient testament to western psychopathology, charting its hidden depths throughout the 1900s. Vehosalo’s oeuvre is informed by a tradition cross-fertilizing semiotics and psycho-cultural theory. The grey tonal scale interprets human gestures with infinite precision, a hint of humanity shining through the intense drama in fleeting reminders, painful jabs and passing pangs.

Atte Oksanen

Translated by Silja Kudel

Kari Vehosalo, Three figures on a stage
Three Figures On A Stage, 2017
Oil on canvas, 157 x 195 cm
Kari Vehosalo & Matti Vainio: Baroque Of Violence
Kari Vehosalo & Matti Vainio:
Baroque Of Violence (The Auto-Erotic Decapitation Of Jayne Mansfield), 2017
Linear painting on top panel by Matti Vainio, oil on canvas, 474 x 190 cm
Kari Vehosalo, Unabomber Home 1
Unabomber Home, 2017/2015
Plaster, wood, inbuilt sound system
Kari Vehosalo, Unabomber Home 2
Unabomber Home, 2017
Oil on canvas, 150 x 190 cm

Photos: Erno Enkenberg



2008-2010 Aalto University, University of Art and Design, Helsinki (PALLAS – fine arts) 2008-2010 University of Helsinki, (studies in semiotics and philosophy)
2004-2008 Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Institute of fine Arts

Solo exhibitions

2018 Galerie Anhava, Helsinki
2015 Terrible Nature, Turku Art Museum, STUDIO 2014 We hope you are OK, Galerie Anhava, Helsinki 2011 Baroque of Violence, Gallery Aarni, Espoo
2010 Hirtettyjen Tanssiaiset, tm•Gallery, Helsinki
2009 P U R K U, Artcenter Mältinranta, studio, Tampere 2007 Anthropic principle, Taidepanimo, Lahti

Selected group exhibitions

Ars Fennica 2017, KIASMA, Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki

Hypnosis, Hobusepea Gallery, Tallinn, Estonia
From Heino With Love, HAM – Helsinki Art Museum
Draw now!, Rovaniemi Art Museum

Women’s Weapons: Lipstick & Tears, Sara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere
Draw now!, Lahti Art Museum
New and Newest, Rovaniemi Art Museum
Shift in the shadows, Amos Anderson Art Museum, Helsinki Aineenvaihdunta, Gallery Kone, Hämeenlinna

Summer Exhibition, Sara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere Vieraantuminen (Alienation), Hyvinkää Art Museum, Hyvinkää Traum{a}, Galerie TOOLBOX, Berlin, Germany

Helmiä, Sara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere Drawing in the Flesh, Vantaa Art Museum

Reality bites, KIASMA, Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki Figuration Y ?, Galerie Favardin & de Verneuil, Paris, France Rajantaju, Purnu Art Centre, Orivesi
Alumni, Gallery Oyoy, Lahti

EMERGING, Galerie Anhava, Helsinki
Montano’s Malady, Galerie Favardin & de Verneuil, Paris, France

AHNE, Helsinki, Suvilahti
Virtually Real, Helsinki Art Museum, Meilahti Pain, Kerava Art Museum
epäyhtälö, Gallery Rantakasarmi, Helsinki

AUKEAMA, Kaapelitehdas, Helsinki AUKEAMA, Lahti Art Museum
New Painting, Lahti Art Museum 2007 Liukas saippua, Taidepanimo, Lahti
Liukas saippua, Köysiratagallery, Turku Valintoja, Sibeliustalo, Verstas, Lahti
The Art of Bassware, Sanomatalo, Helsinki Amerikka, Artcenter Ihana, Heinola

Toinen kierros, Taidepanimo, Lahti Toivonpäivä, Rautatieasema, Helsinki

VSK diplomawork exhibition, Turku

Works in collections

Private collections in Europe
Amos Anderson Art Museum
Finnish Art Society
HAM – Helsinki Art Museum
Heino Collection, Finland
KIASMA, Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki Lahti Art Museum
Lahti University of Applied Sciences
Saastamoinen Foundation Art Collection / EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art Sara Hildén Art Museum
Wihuri Foundation / Rovaniemi Art Museum


Art Counsil of Finland
Finnish Cultural Foundation
Finnish Cultural Foundation, 1 year working grant
Art Counsil of Finland
Art Council of Finland, 1 year working grant
Arts Council of Finland, 1 year working grant
Paulo Foundation
Art Counsil of Helsinki
Aalto university
Finnish Cultural Foundation, 1 year working grant
Finnish Art Council
Art Council of Helsinki
Auno ja Mauri Riutu foundation


With my intense encounters with the shortlisted artists for the 2017 Ars Fennica prize – Maija Blåfield, Pekka and Teija Isorättyä, Perttu Saksa, Kari Vehosalo and Camilla Vuorenmaa – still fresh in my mind, I must emphasize the impressively high quality of their artistic projects and the installations and displays at the Kiasma Museum. Making the decision to give the award to one particular artist was not easy, especially considering the power of the exhibition as a whole and the interplay of the artists’ works in it.

Present in the work of all the artists are urgent actual conditions confronting us all with the question of identity, both mentally and physically, and ethical questions laying bare the conditions in which we all live. These confront us in carefully drafted portraits of humans and animals, radical personal exposures and ecological reflections.

Out of this group of artists and their projects I would like to highlight and award this year’s Ars Fennica prize to Kari Vehosalo.

While visiting his studio and seeing his installation in the Ars Fennica exhibition at Kiasma, the profound and striking experience was for me the ghostly rendering of things as we know them. Images, the history of thinking, the history of metaphor and symbol and the function of language all merge into a theatricality of disruption; in Vehosalo’s work, human desires in their many forms of cultural expression have become dysfunctional and are reconfigured.

The body, projections on realities, mythologies and meaning all break down, crash together and become questionable.

The medium of painting is simultaneously fetishized and dissolved through the artist’s precise choice of technique and homogenizing color. The simultaneous use of various artistic techniques from painting, photography and sculpture reverses carefully drafted handiwork into a non-painterly and deeply polluted experience. Everything is “readable” – but it is exactly this misleading perfection of Vehosalo’s paintings, objects and installation that culminates with equal force in physical and mental violence…

Images and materials decompose meaning, the production of images turns into a disconcerting, unsettling, infected and sterile appearance – and our aesthetic, as well as philosophical certainties, bounce off disingenuous beauty.

Beatrix Ruf