12:00 – 18:00




In Maiju Salmenkivi’s paintings, urban city silhouettes blend into nature and geometric gestures are combined with organic forms. The motifs’ scales in the Building Pyramids exhibition range from tiny cellular level to massive power plants, coal mountaintops, and architectural milestones. Salmenkivi has drawn inspiration from the similarities between the human body and architectural structures, the interweaving of minuscule elements, and the grandeur of pyramids.

Architecture, building interiors, and their relationship with the surrounding landscape have long intrigued Salmenkivi. The journey from factory buildings and coal heaps to pyramids unexpectedly emerged in the autumn of 2022. An excursion to the power plant in Hanasaari, Helsinki, proved pivotal, giving the exhibition its direction. The exhibition’s title in Finnish refers to sculptor Harry Kivijärvi’sbook, Miten Pyramidit rakennettiin? (How Were the Pyramids Built?) (1990).

“To me, the Hanasaari power plant and coal heaps resemble the pyramids – hard to approach or enter, concealing secrets and treasures. They are products of the current civilisation, much like pyramids were in their time.” The construction of pyramids can also be seen as a metaphor for the artistic process; for Salmenkivi, painting is never straightforward, and it always includes a kind of mystery. The motifs often emerge from small observations and details that slowly begin to weave a narrative.

In Salmenkivi’s new paintings, the transition of buildings from use to disuse and the changes occurring in the human body over a lifetime take center stage. Time and its finite nature are present in many ways. Carbon, the enabler of all life, acts as a unifying element in the exhibition – humans, too, are partly made of carbon compounds. An abstract painting titledCircle (2023) is linked with the bodily sensations of growing old, studying what happens to the body’s structures at the cellular level in the course of time. “I find images of cell structure captivatingly beautiful. Microscopic smallness and the entire universe are present at the same time.” 

The two-part piece Imperial Perspectives (2023) is based on demolished hotels from Salmenkivi’s previous gallery exhibition and Frank Lloyd Wright’s drawings of Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel, which was also designed by him. Themes converged during the exploration of the Hanasaari power plant. Salmenkivi found similarities between the factory monitors’ device diagrams and Wright’s drawings. “A power plant is a like a grand mausoleum, containing its own organism: pipes, stairs, lifts, and coal that sticks to hands from the walls.”

Alongside paintings on canvas, the exhibition features works on paper using charcoal, ink, spray paint, and chalk, inviting the viewer to take a closer look. Mountaintops and prismatically radiant forms emerge when scratched into oil pastel surfaces. The color palette is a blend of neutral tones and intensive hues characteristic of the artist. Painting serves as a map to another world, where natural forces surge, rivers flood, trees sway, and wind stirs the pools of color across the canvas.

Maiju Salmenkivi (b. 1972), graduated from the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts in 2003, is a Helsinki-based visual artist known for her strong expressionist style and modern landscape paintings. Drawing inspiration from daily observations and global phenomena, Salmenkivi blends current events with her vibrant and intensely atmospheric artworks. Her colorful paintings engage in a captivating dialogue between urban environments and human figures, seamlessly merging fantasy and reality. Salmenkivi’s works have been on display in various solo and group exhibitions in Finland and abroad, including those at HAM Helsinki Art Museum (2022), Helsinki Contemporary’s Overlook exhibition (2020), Turku Art Museum (2019), and Landskrona Museum, Sweden (2017). Her works are represented in the collections of EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Saastamoinen Foundation, Amos Rex, HAM Helsinki Art Museum, Turku Art Museum, and the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation. Thank you to the Finnish Cultural Foundation, Arts Promotion Centre Finland, and Alfred Kordelin Foundation for supporting the artist’s work.

Fri 15 Sep 2023 – 15 Oct 2023 12:00 – 18:00



Bulevardi 10, 00120 Helsinki