“Life is like a gnarled pine tree with all its bumps. But without bumps there would be no life.” Airi Kuronen wrote this towards the end of her life. The talented artist created a complete fantasy world in which fairies and forest sprites, centaurs and Pan figures thrive, sheltered by the leaves of the Tree of Life, far from cruel and ugly reality. Even the demonic figures are gentle.
Airi Kuronen was a wonderful contemporary artist who lived on the margins, outside the norms of society. This, however, does not mean that she made art outside the arts. She lived from and amidst her art.
In Airi Kuronen’s fantasy forest, life is wrapped around trees: flowers, vines, human and animal figures straight out of fables and myths, and a combinations of these. Trees represent the forces that sustain continuity and life. People and animals are mere visitors, actors in the fantasy with their different roles. Naked animal or human figures are stern-faced or contemplative even if the environment invites them to rich and joyful Baroque and Renaissance celebrations.
Kuronen describes her nature worship in her works; it is a religion in which one can escape when everyday life and sadness become unbearable. Most of the figures that she drew are naked. The gender divisions are not always clear either: a bearded man can have breasts, a woman may have more than two breasts. Defence mechanisms and clear gender identities, considered unnecessary, are excluded from the fantasy world.
Airi Kuronen had drawn since she was a child, but her style changed due to her illness. She created her drawings at night, when she went through the things that she had experienced and imagined during the day about the goodness and the badness of people. Despite the battle of the opposing forces, the drawings are not frightening or distressing. “Myths live on in modern life. They touch everyone, even if there are those who don’t notice them: goodness, evil, light and shadows around us,” she said.
When drawing, Airi Kuronen felt alive. She said her drawings came about without any prior planning, as if guided by an invisible hand. The drawings were created in cycles, filling the paper from edge to edge. Unfortunately, she destroyed most of her works when preparing for an exhibition and before and after exhibitions. Most of the magnificent fantasy drawings made with ink and ballpoint pens were objects of the destructive frenzy of the artist who showed no mercy to herself.
Text: Elina Vuorimies. Editor: Lauri Oino. Translation: Kirsti Nurmela-Knox. Photos: Veli Granö.