Secret of Paradise - Exhibition to celebrate 50 years of Birger Kaipiainen's Paratiisi series

Location Design Lab Gallery - Iittala & Arabia Design Centre, 8th floor
Ticket price Free admission

13.6.-1.9.19 | In recent years, ceramics have gained ground around the world in the field of modern art. The works of the internationally awarded ceramic artist, Professor Birger Kaipiainen, who worked at Arabia's art department, have been trailblazers in this area already for decades. What is the secret of Paratiisi that finds expression in Kaipiainen's unique works and in Arabia's 50-year-old classic series? 15 artists contemplate this at the Secret of Paradise Exhibition held at the Iittala & Arabia Design Centre from 13 June until 1 September 2019. 

Birger Kaipiainen, who initially studied decorative painting and later ceramics, was one of the first artists in Arabia's art department when he started there in 1937. The exceptional expression of the artist, who focused on unique ceramic pieces, became decorative in 1969, when Paratiisi, an Arabia classic, was created.

The tradition of the art department, which was founded in 1930s for the purpose of creating art and studying the secrets of ceramics, is continued by Arabia Art Department Society. A door opens from the art department's corridor to the morning sun; this is where Kaipiainen worked, in the art department's largest studio, which was inherited by Professor Heljä Liukko-Sundström.

I observed him drawing the first Paratiisi subjects on ceramics, and the joy when trial firings were successful. The green, blue, yellow and white colour scheme created a paradise-like atmosphere, and continue to do so! I vividly remember the day when Timo Sarpaneva, his friend, came to visit and brought what were probably the first kiwi fruits in Finland, to the master for inspiration. In 1960s, these strange fruit were not yet imported to Finland”.

- Professor Heljä Liukko-Sundström

Perhaps at times, Kaipiainen escaped the morning light of the studio to night-time discussions. The night theme is also repeated in his portfolio, such as in Kiurujen yö (Night of the larks). Pekka Paikkari remembers his encounters with Kaipiainen: 

”Birger Kaipiainen came to the opening of my first exhibition in 1985. The next day, I received an invite to visit him, and we discussed art and ceramics throughout the night. In the morning, we saw from Birger's window how ice started moving and floated toward the Baltic Sea. The surrealistic atmosphere and the discussions deepened my understanding of Kaipiainen's art and its significance. The entire portfolio of Kaipiainen seems to be shrouded in secrecy. The Paratiisi ornament, designed for industrial production, is also an essential part of his art.” 

- Pekka Paikkari

This summer, the world of paradise is explored at the Iittala & Arabia Design Centre's Secret of Paradise exhibition. 

In addition to Heljä Liukko-Sundström and Pekka Paikkari, the exhibition is participated by Professor Heikki Orvola, Jasmin Anoschkin, Emma Helle, Fujiwo Ishimoto, Inka Kivalo, Matti Pikkujämsä, Heini Riitahuhta, Kristina Riska, Johanna Rytkölä, Markku Salo, Kim Simonsson, Marianne HuotariTommi Toija and Kati Tuominen-Niittylä. Hanni Koroma is responsible for the architecture of the exhibition. The artists have brought interpretations of paradise to the exhibition and reveal their own secrets in relation to Paratiisi.

”Paradise may be an illusion where the mind escapes when something unbearable is about to happen, and as such it may be the most beautiful creation of humankind.”

- Emma Helle