Domenin rinne sumussa

Savu E. Kor­te­nie­mi (b. 1986) is Lapland-based visual artist. Their approach to art encom­pas­ses sculpture, and various drawing tech­niques, alongside writing and community work.

Savu E. Korteniemi hold a master degree of Fine Arts from the University of Arts Helsinki, Academy of Fine Arts, and have participated in exhibitions both in Finland and abroad. Their works have been acquired for public art collections, and they are a member of the Finnish Association of Sculptors and the Artists' Association of Lapland.

Even when drawing, Savu E. Korteniemi feels that they are above all a sculptor. They are particularly interested in objects and how one can give shape to things out of reach. The making of concrete pieces is analogous to language construction. In that sense thinking is also three-dimensional.

Like objects, thinking is silent; networks of language form a self-enclosed world; language can't pass these borders.

PLEASE NOT: When referring in English, please use gender neutral pronouns they/them.


e-mail: savu[at]

Twitter: _Korteniemi

Facebook: SEKorteniemi

Instagram: saukorte

omakuva Jieris

Brief texts in English

On my working

There is brief texts in English on some of my projects. Unfortunately, there is no possibility to add language versions of the websites at this time.

My English is not so correct but I hope you could catch the idea :)

Please don't hesitate to take contact if you would like to know more on my working.


The Last Ones

In the Baltic-Finnic, Polar Star -centric myt­ho­lo­gical worldview there is the con­nec­tion between the Land of North and the Land of Death.

I'm interested in not only folklore but also in power relations behind these kind of stories: whose words we use for describing of our world?

In Baltic-Finnic mythology exists the Mountain of the North. From the top of the Mountain there is a route to the Above World via the Polar Star, and via the roots of the Mountain there is route to the Underworld. I see the connection between that mythological mountain and the Mount Domen which have had a role during the witch-hunts of Finnmark area in 17th Century, when Christian court believed that there was a gateway to the Hell via Domen. The belief became true to the victims of the religion-based violence.

The Last Ones is the serie of the exhibitions and writings. The project is in progress. The first serie "The First Pictures" has been exhibited in gallery Merz Sammonkatu, Tampere at 2018.  "Blue Maiden & Maid Anni" has been exhibited in Gallery Oksasenkatu 11, Helsinki, at Feb 2020. Next exhibition "The Atlas" will be opened 14.3.2020 in Gallery Napa, Rovaniemi.

Blue Maiden & Maid Anni.

Gallery Oksasenkatu 11, Helsinki at Feb 2020.

In Toivo Kuula's song a wanderer meets a wood-elf called Blue Maiden and are not able to love a human being anymore; the wanderer spends their lifetime in loneliness, seeking the soul of their own. Actually, there is two types of wood-elves in Finnish folklore. The idea of the dangerously enchanting elves is based on the Celtic myths. Additionally, I have heard stories of elf maidens who are delusive by another way: they look like human being from ahead but their back is wooden. The deficient anatomy refers to the Finnic dualistic soul beliefs and the ghosts of the dead persons.

The installation Maid Anni based on Viena (Archangel) Karelian oral epic poem The Hanged Maid. When Elias Lönnrot wrote so called "Finnish National Epic" The Kalevala, he used the poem as material for the story of Aino, the one of the most famous Kalevalaic characters. Maid Anni meets also a seducer or suitor in the woods - but in contrast to the Lönnrot's version, they are not old man Väinämöinen but "Kalevatar" (actually, their gender seems to be quite ambivalent) who appeared from the earth. Did Anni meet herself, the shadow of her own or so called "doppelgänger" from the underworld?

Etymologically the Finnish word "itse", parallel to "self", derives from a Fenno-Ugric word meaning "the shadow-soul". Similarly, Finnish version of elves refers to the soul beliefs and the idea of the individual's personal guard or "genius". In the drawing The Mirror I put together the idea of the shadow-elf as some kind of mirror image and the structure of Édouard Manet's painting A bar at the Folies-Bergère.

Naarmankaira installaatio yksityiskohta

Could you see a tree as an art? Could that tree be a part of the culture? Whose culture?


Originally the word ”culture” refers to the agriculture. Via that etymological background, I see the connection between the conception of the western culture and (maximal) capitalizing of the land, which has created the concept of the ownership of the land. The Western way to understand culture as a relationship between capitalizing and ownership met very different cultural understanding of the use and ownership of land in Laplad. From the Western point of view, the culture leaves marks, and in Lapland these kind of marks didn’t exist. From the Western (or the South, as we tend to say in Lapland) point of view Lapland has been seen as a peripheral and virgin No Man’s Land. That’s why the major parts of Finnish Lapland are still state-owned.

Art history teaches us to understad Ancient Greece as the starting point of our Western culture. We have learnt that the historical background of the painting lies in the creation of the illusion. On the contrary, the background of the sculpture goes back to the religious objects like Ancient Greek votive statues. The meaning of these objects was not how the objects represent something but how they exist. The difference between representation and existence is still interesting because it tells something essential about our way to give meanings to our material surroundings.

But why go to Greece - it is so far away! If the culture means, among the other things, thinking and doing art within some epistemological frame, isn’t there also a connection between thinking and our physical surroundings, the land? The land is neither empty nor virgin. Somebody has already seen, thought and used the land. When we talk about culture and art we also have to discuss about power. From which point of view do we create relevant questions and answers? In which kind of light the reality becomes visible?

Some years ago I spent the New Year holidays in the old lumberjack cabin in Naarmankaira, which is a large wilderness area in the North-Eastern part of the Rovaniemi municipality in Lapland. Nowadays this area is better known as the Rovajärvi Firing Range. Somebody had carried exploded grenades to the sauna, meaning to use them as candleholders. I started to think how these metal objects (Naarmankaira forests are full of them) somehow replace the objects of previous fishing culture: wooden statues which are called as Roundheads, Fish votives or Fish statues - the used name depends on how one understands the meaning of these objects and how strongly they wants to highlight the connection between these statues and old non-Christian religious habits. I started to think the connection between the ”culture” and the ”nature”. I asked myself which kind of things are possible and visible within our culture. I started to think about trees. I drew trees and carved some new objects.

Kven Connection Project is Norwegian-Finnish art project, including residence periods in Vadsø, Norway and exhibitions in Vadsø (Ruija Kvenmuseum, October 2017) and in Rovaniemi, Finland (Arktikum, Regional museum of Lapland, May 2018).

- - And old man, who is sitting with a spade in his hands, is Finnish - - [he] is sitting and looking his daughter who holds a little child - the Future - in her lap. A brave fisherman is watching caringly to the Sea. He is a Norwegian and daughter's husband. - -

- Sculptor Ensio Seppänen on symbolics of the Immigration Monument in Vadsø 1977. Source: Vadsø Museum - Ruija Kvenmuseum


Why the Immigration Monument, tributing the ethnic minority of Kvens in Norway, repeat the official narrative of the norwegiasation politics about the Kven past and Norwegian future?

I drew the serie Double lighting as a part of the Kven Connection Project (2016-2018). The project was led by institutions; after that I took part to the artist-led exhibition (October 2018, Gallery Jieris, Muonio) in which we like to deepen the discussion about the cultural and lingual rights of Kvens. I wrote also an self-critic article about the challenges of socially engaged art in cooperation with Kven activist Katriina Pedersen.


Notes during residency period in Vadsø, Norway in March 2017

The next one is shortened and edited version of the text originally published in the blog of Kven Connection Project ( ).

Let’s make some art about Kvens!

Or... wait, it’s not so easy. In which kind of context do we work within our project called ”Kven Connection”? The general question is: How to make an art about others?

First idea: Kvens are Finnic-speaking people living in the Finnmark area on the shore of the Arctic Sea.

Second: something about Samuli Paulaharju. No, I haven’t read Paulaharju’s folkloristic tales, but I know his works, of course.

Third one: trips with family to Norway when I was a child. Norway was the closest foreign country, a good place for holiday trips. Actually, Sweden was closer, but there is not such a big difference between Finnish and Swedish Lapland in my mind.

As a child I’ve spent many summer holidays in Pello which is a municipality at the border of Finland and Sweden. There is the Torniojoki river on the border, called also ”Väylä” (maybe ”The Way” in English), and the river never divided but only connected people. Countries are different, but people are the same in many ways on the both sides of the river. I know that the Torniojoki river is familiar to many Kven people too. Many Kvens are from Torne Valley area, from both sides of the river. So I feel that there are some similarities between my background and the Kven history, language and culture.

Is it enough? Could I say that I understand Kven people somehow? Is there any real connection between me and Kvens?

I started the project by reading books. For academic artists like me reading is the most natural way to get any information - so, let’s go to the library first! Let’s read about history and politics, about conceptions and statistics.

I learned something new about some words. The Finnish word ”Ruija”, used for the Finnmark area, could also mean ”Northern Lights”, like the old Norwegian name Haalogaland (Haleugir = High flames), which is the name of the area including Nordland, Tromsø and Finnmark.

An other interesting point is the term ”Terra Feminarum”, that originates from the medieval chronicle of Adam of Bremen (1073-76). It’s possible that the ”Land of the Women” refers to the Kvenland - or not. Maybe this connection is based on a misunderstanding, because the words ”Kven” and Swedish ”kvinne” ( a woman) are so similar.


7.3. Tuesday

I found a book called ”Solgunni muistelee - Solgunn forteller” (Memories of Solgunn). There was a poem ”Oma kieli” (The Language of One’s Own).

I tried to translate it somehow:

The sky is so wide

Stars twinkle brightly

to the children of the World

Children of the World speak the language of their own

- -

The little Vili is a Kven

and he speaks the language of his own

Now he doesn’t need to worry

to get battered

when he speaks the language of his own

How true that is! I have heard many of this kind of stories also in Finnish Lapland. Too many painful stories (not only mentally, but also physically painful).

8.3. Wednesday

-Measurement, monitoring, statistics

Does the statistics tell the truth about the reality? Are the statistics objective?

Lassi Saressalo explains in his study how the State of Norway gathered statistics about ethnic groups of Finnmark area. First there were three different options: are you Norwegian, Sami or Kven? But then they simply dropped out the question about the Kven background. During many decades there were only two possible ethnic identities: Norwegian and Sami. This is how the bureaucratic power and violence work!

In Western countries we still believe that we are innocent, that we didn’t treat our minorities the same way than in totalitarian countries. The murder of culture happens somewhere else... we believe so strongly that we are on side of truth that there is a lack of words to describe the differences between the official and the ”real” truth. For example, in Russian language this kind of separation is created by two words: the word pravda means official or common truth (based not only on facts but also beliefs and opinions), whereas the word istina means the ”real” truth based on real facts.

My work deals with the difference between these terms, two kinds of truths:

-the difference between official and actual reality

-the difference between the national and the local points of view

-the difference between knowledge and experience

Homepage of the Kven Connection Project:

On Kven People:

Yh­teys­tie­dot Contacts