The Olavi Lanu sculpture park is located within Kariniemi park, in the midst of nature. As the artist had planned, his works blend into the scenery. This is especially so in summertime, when the lush greenery of the trees and shrubs covers the sculptures. In winter, the snow-covered sculptures blend into and become part of the surrounding landscape.
Lanu’s themes are his pairs of humanoid figures embracing or kissing, or natural forms such as rocks, willows, and twisted trees. The sculptures have gradually developed a coat of moss, which despite their great size makes them blend in very well with their surroundings. The original versions of many of the sculptures were created at the artist’s summer residence in Punkaharju. The sculptures were then cast in concrete in a gravel pit in Renkomäki. Lanu was helped in the laborious and physically demanding casting work by students from Lahti Art Institute. Although each piece is an artwork in its own right, the park’s sculptures also form a coherent whole.
The works have been placed in the forest as natural elements, making them parts of nature than one can simply come across in wandering through the forest. The grey colour and soft and simplified forms of the sculptures help them to merge with their surroundings. Some have become covered with moss, which was indeed the artist’s intention. As environmental art, they meet in their own distinctive way the traditional criteria for public artworks: they remind us of who we are, where we have come here from, and where we belong. The sculptures of Kariniemi forest grove are a popular attraction due to their positivity, inspired details, and warm humour and sensitivity.
The sculptures by Lanu to be found in Kariniemi forest are marked on the map with letters.
A / Paju (Willow), 1991
This piece, made for the Venice Biennale, was sculpted from natural materials in their actual size. The surface of the concrete nicely replicates the surface structure of the pines.
B / Keko (Pile), 1989
The original work was made with an actual anthill for a summer house in the forest in Punkaharju. Another version of it was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in the 1970s.
C / Kanto (Stump), 1989
The inspiration for this work was a tree growing on rock. Lanu made the first version in Kaitasuo in Punkaharju, from natural materials.
D / Läpi harmaan kiven, 1992
The name is a pun: its literal meaning is “through grey stone”, but it is also a Finnish saying, meaning roughly “mind over matter.” The original was made by joining two figures in natural stone. The horizontal parts were the most difficult to cast.
E / Harmaa tammikuu (Grey January), 1989
The working model for this piece was made by freezing water on top of a fibreglass mould. Flowing water shaped the contours of the sculpture.
F / Rankakasa (Logpile), 1990
This sculpture was cast from a fibreglass form that was shaped around logs. If you examine the work closely you can see the saw marks from the logs.
G / Kaari (Arc), 1991
The inspiration for this sculpture was a bent pinetree in Saimaa that had grown into the shape of an arch.
H / Kaksi kiveä (Two stones), 1990
A fibreglass version of this work was entered in the Venice Biennale in 1978. In the Kariniemi version, however, the hands are placed on the torso to avoid them getting broken off.
I / Iso kivi (Large rock), 1990
This work was made specifically for Kariniemi. The models were Lanu’s students from the costume design department of Lahti Art Institute. This is the heaviest sculpture in the park, weighing 37 tonnes.
J / Tuki (Support), 1991
The original version of this work was made in Punkaharju, with Lanu’s first wife as the stone supporting structure. The rock was originally larger than the figures, whereas in the Kariniemi version they are almost the same size.
K / Kierteinen puu (Spiralling tree), 1992
The inspiration for this sculpture was a silver willow in the yard of a neighbour of Lanu’s. Several people stood in as models for the new branches, including a neighbouring boy and students from Lahti Art Institute.
L / Hellä kivi (Gentle Stone), 1992
A fibreglass version of this work is on display in an art centre in Louisiana in the United States. It was created as an entry for a sculpture competition.
M / Kolme figuuria (Three figures), 1994
Humanoid figures in stone.
N / Natura morte (Still life), 1989
O / Kivellä (In stone), 1994