Keijo Ikonen

Kontiolahti (1941–2015)

Filled with stand-ins, cows, maids and farmhands, a rural idyll, made of concrete, started to form in 1994, in the courtyard of Keijo and Maire Ikonen, near Joensuu, North Karelia.

”I thought I’d start designing from mass, it just felt like I needed to start trying. That it might work… and slowly, the eye sees how to. There’s no need for lots of tools, a putty spatula and a knife, and just start molding.”

Retiring fed the flames of Keijo’s creativity in concrete sculpting, resulting in ”starting to think freely”. The ideas for various forms of making come the shapes of the objects. Even the doorhandle of the gazebo is made from an old water heater’s regulator.

”Apparently ideas come in volumes, they are not dying out. Any material works, just as it has shapes. I’ve specialized in using it in a completely different place, than what it was for, where ever there’s something like this, pleasing for the eye.”

Integrity is the most important thing to Ikonen. Finnish wildlife: bears, a lynx, a fox, an eagle, owls, are present as statues in the grounds. Harmony and order must be kept: ”You have to put thought in it, what goes where and how”. Not just the end result, but the process of making concrete sculptures, is of course highly important. Ikonen aspires to finish the sculptures as real and as natural-looking as possible.

Ikonen does not try to convey any specific message with his work, but gain a smile from a neighbour. There are plenty of curious admirers for the sculptures, as the Ikonen courtyard is in a visible place on the side of the road. Cars often slow down on the spot and the daring come all the way into the yard.

Art making is hard work and in the case of Ikonen, very hard work. A finished, human shaped concrete sculpture weights around 200kg (440 pounds). In the summertime gardening and maintenance of the lawn, flowers and vegetable garden keeps him busy. Despite all the work, Ikonen also knows how to relax. ”There I sit on the swing and listen to the sounds of nature, think what I think, or don’t think at all.”

Text and photos: Minna Tuuva. Translation: Ina Aaltojärvi.

Document film on the web page of Karjalainen newspaper.