Essi Korva’s sculpture covered with ‘kärsapaisukarve’ represents the sounds of the forest at this year’s exhibition at the garden of the Finnish president’s official summer residence, Kultaranta, in Naantali on June 8, 2022. Photograph: TONY ÖHBERG/FINLAND TODAY / Click to view the gallery

NAANTALI—The opening ceremony of this year’s sculpture exhibition at the garden of the Finnish president’s official summer residence, Kultaranta, in Naantali, southwestern Finland, was harmonious if not wistful.

The exhibition titled “Luonnonmuotoja (The Natural Forms)” is the last one to be held in a while. In the autumn, a massive renovation that includes the garden will take place for the next two years.

President Sauli Niinistö and his spouse, Jenni Haukio,—President Niinistö dressed in a blue suit, Mrs. Haukio clad in a white jacket and a black and white shirt dress—walked slowly and listened carefully when sculptor Essi Korva and other artists told stories about their works now on display in the garden, a Finnish version of the Versailles park adorned with flower gardens, pergolas, gazebos, fountains and pathways many heads of states have crossed next to the grand main building of granite, built in the National Romantic style, completed in 1916 and designed by famous Finnish architect Lars Sonck.

“When you go into the forest and sit on a tree stump, you kind of become one with the surrounding nature,” said sculptor Essi Korva.

Korva referred to one of her works “Metsän äänet (The Sounds of the Forest)” where a pale green girl covered in Powder-headed Tube Lichen (kärsäpaisukarve) sits on a tree stump. Most of the material for this sculpture was found in Korva’s backyard in northern Finland.

Another artist Barbara Tieaho described how one of her works “Tähystäjä (Observer)” represented a memory from her childhood: she lived in a 20-square-meter outbuilding of the main house together with grass snakes.

President Niinistö was quick to remind the listeners that not too far ago people used to think differently about grass snakes.

“They were considered useful because they ate mice,” the president said.

‘Luonnonmuotoja (The Natural Forms)’ exhibition is open to the public on Fridays between 18:00-20:00. The exhibition is open until August 21.