Kalervo Palsa

Kalervo Palsa

"It is not enough to paint flowers, one must also paint handman's nooses"

Taking place for the first time in German-speaking countries, a wide-ranging exhibition of the paintings of Kalervo Palsa (*1947 in Kittilä; †. 1987 idem). Palsa was one of the major Finnish painters of fantastic expressionism, who only became known to the art world posthumously. His life story is as unsettling and disturbing as his pictures, which are marked by both pessimism and moments of absurdist humour. What makes them distinctive is their unique approach to existential themes such as death, sexuality and loneliness. Palsa's art challenges the onlooker and leaves a deep impression. From 28 November to 10 December 2013 a total of 20 works, original documents as well as the movie "Clearance of Getsemane" by Erkki Pirtola will be shown in Kunstquartier Bethanien (Projektraum) as part of the NORDWIND Festival. Dr. Jyrki Siukonen will open the exhibition on 28th of November at 6 pm with a lecture. Free admission.


Hugo Kalervo Palsa was born 12 March 1947 in Kittilä, Finland. Palsa's childhood retreat, and later his studio, was a 15 square metre shack named Gethsemane and Castle in the Sky. Palsa began noting down events and thoughts in his diary at an early age. He drew a great number of self-portraits in his diaries, notebooks, and anything else that came to hand. Palsa kept repainting his works, even those he had already considered finished, and made several different versions of some of them, allowing a theme to live on for many years before finally signing the work. Kalervo Palsa died of pneumonia in his studio in Kittilä on 4 October 1987.

Pekka Lehto is director and producer of more than 20 documentaries and feature films, which have been internationally broadcasted and won many prizes. Ranging from dramas, political and human rights stories through to portraits of unique personalities, for example 2010 Epäilyksen Varjossa (In the Shadow of Doubt) or 2012 Komissaari (The Commissioner). His film “The Surrealist and His Naughty Hand” can be seen as a first attempt to understand the inner world of Palsa and will be shown at the exhibition opening. (Duration 68 min. Finnish with English subtitles, 2013).

Erkki Pirtola, born 1950, is a Finnish artist, writer, teacher and documentarist. Since 1987 Pirtola has documented Finnish outsider-art. He lived with Kalervo Palsa in 1972. His first documentation "Clearance of Getsemane" is dealing with the emptying of Palsa`s atelier Getsemane after Palsa´s death and funeral. The film will have its premiere at NORDWIND and will be shown daily at the exhibition space (Duration 45 min., Finnish with English subtitles).

Dr. Jyrki Siukonen is an artist and a scholar. He works as Senior Researcher at the Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki. He has published widely on Kalervo Palsa and is the leading expert in his art. At the opening of the exhibition Siukonen will give a lecture titled “Loneliness and Defiance. Kalervo Palsa's life and art.” (Duration 35 min., English/German).