Outi Heiskanen

The arts academician Outi Heiskanen (born 1937) is one of the most famous Finnish artists. Heiskanen is a virtuoso printmaker, but also an experimenter who questions the rules and breaks boundaries. Heiskanen is also known as a pioneer of performance art and land and environmental art. The exhibition is curated by an expert on Heiskanen’s art and her long-time friend, Tuula Karjalainen PhD, together with the chief curator at the Ateneum, Sointu Fritze.

  • 8.10.2021–9.1.2022
3rd floor
Tickets: with a museum ticket
Outi Heiskanen: G (1984). Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, Skop collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Pirje Mykkänen.

a retrospective of the arts academician

Outi Heiskanen’s retrospective exhibition brings together different facets of her diverse and multidisciplinary art. The exhibition, featuring more than 300 works, presents prints, drawings, paintings and installations, as well as recordings of performances from a period of more than fifty years. The exhibition also features a whole gallery’s worth of joint works by Outi Heiskanen and the artist Janne Laine.

Shedding light on the course of the prolific artist’s life is a rich selection of photographs and moving images, created, for example, by Sakari Viika, Jorma Puranen, Tarja Stranden and Georg Grotenfelt.

Outi Heiskanen’s most important mentor, the graphic artist Pentti Kaskipuro (Mestari K; ‘Master K’), has stated:

“Outi is the yeast that makes the dough rise, whatever the context. Her artistic expression is completely untouchable: she relies on tradition, yet she is completely original and open-minded.”

Nature and the mysteries of being human

The mythical world created by Outi Heiskanen is full of stories about the mysteries of being human and our relationship with nature. In her characters, the boundary between man and animal can be blurred when the focus is on our basic instincts and the cycle of life. Her works, created using various techniques, intertwine womanhood, motherhood, eroticism and death. The works are characterised by her undeniable virtuosity and a desire to experiment, which is sometimes even anarchistic in its flouting of the rules.

Community and close friendships have played a key role in Outi Heiskanen’s art since the 1970s. The performances by the Record Singers and Bellini-akatemia (‘Bellini Academy’), which were formed around Heiskanen, were legendary.

One of the most memorable performances was Kluuvin ruhje (‘Kluuvi fracture’), which was seen at the closing event of the Ateneum Art Museum before its renovation in 1984. Siirrettävä Tuonela (‘Movable Tuonela’), which was created by Heiskanen and her artist friends in 1983, spread around the park of the Meilahti Art Museum, constituting one of the first exhibitions of environmental art in Finland.

The opening of the exhibition coincides with the publication of the biography Outi Heiskanen – Taiteilija kuin shamaani (‘Outi Heiskanen – Artist and shaman’), written by Tuula Karjalainen (Siltala 2021). Available in Finnish.

Buy the book from our webshop

Outi Heiskanen – materials for schools

This information package offers a few activities that can be combined with a visit to the exhibition at
the Ateneum or with an online distance-learning tour, which can be booked separately. The purpose
of the activities is to promote the joy of discovery and to feed the imagination, both when exploring
the works in the exhibition and when making art oneself.

Artworks at the exhibition