Riitta Kuisma, creator of jungles within the urban jungle

Riitta revives the true meaning of jungle within urban jungle. Armed with brushes and paints, she adds a vibrant fauna and flora to the city’s concrete walls. 

Besides nature, cityscapes and people are also on her agenda. No matter the subject matter, though, all her works are beautifully and meticulously executed, emanating a feeling of calm and blending in well with their surroundings. 

Art Education: Monumental and Decorative Painting

The quality of her work is by no matter a means of chance. Focusing on monumental and decorative painting in her studies, Riitta comes well prepared to paint murals. She explains monumental painting as “something that is done to a surface that can’t be removed” including relief sculptures or mural and ceiling paintings in the shape of frescoes or mosaics

To receive this kind of classic art education, she had to leave her native Finland. “What happened in the early 90s, at least in Finland,” she says, “things moved from traditional art more to installation art, video art, conceptional art. I actually just wanted to understand how to draw that three dimensional figure onto a two dimensional paper.” Encouraged by a friend who was studying architecture in Moscow, she soon found herself in the Russian capital too, getting her B.A. and M.A. in Fine Arts.

You can take the girl out of Finland but you can’t take Finland out of the girl.

“I think, it was meant to be that I left Finland and found a way to do a little bit different art,“ she says, “I learned more skills. As a person I always like to challenge myself. I need to learn more things, I need to explore and maybe in Finland, just graduating from the painting department, I think, I would maybe not have continued being an artist.”

Although, leaving Finland is what ultimately turned her into a full-time artist, she would never want to shake off the years of her upbringing in Turku, Finland’s ancient capital and oldest city that is surrounded by forests and close to the sea. “Nature is part of me. I’m a forrest girl,” Riitta says, underlining her fascination, love and respect for nature.

Hong Kong’s fauna and flora in Riitta’s art

Riitta first came to Hong Kong for a short visit in 1996 and one of her trip’s most surprising find were the flamingos in Kowloon Park.

After moving to Hong Kong in 1997, she made it a point to further explore Hong Kong’s fauna and flora through regular hikes or occasional visits of the Botanical Gardens. “At least once a week, I need to get to nature,” she says, “sometimes I photograph leaves so I can draw the shape of those particular leaves that actually are part of Hong Kong.”

Even from the busiest streets in town, it never takes more than an hour to get to nature. Although, Riitta feels very happy about that, she is very aware that many people living and working in the urban jungle hardly ever get out or even think about nature. So adding fauna and flora to the city’s concrete walls serves as a little reminder of Hong Kong’s natural side. She also hopes to bring positive energy along with it.

Riitta’s art in Hong Kong

Riitta has been painting all around town including Sai Ying Pun, Kowloon Tong, Hung Hum, Cheung Chau, Sai Kung or Tai O. Let’s have a closer look at three of her walls.

Poetic Park (2019)

As can be seen in this work, the flamingos of Kowloon Park will always be an inspiration to her.

Location: Whampoa Street/ Hung Hum Wan Street

Rainforest (2019)

Riitta recently showed me her marvellous version of a rainforest that she painted along a pedestrian bridge in Kowloon Tong. I could hardly believe all the marvellous little details she added to this massive wall. 

Location: True Light Lane, exit G2 Kowloon Tong MTR station

Transformation I (2018)

This wonderful mural shows the transformation of a freed bird into a dancing, flying girl. Riitta recently told me that an open bird cage is a recurring motif in her art since she first painted it in 2016 as part of a mural in Sai Kung. Her initial inspiration goes back to when her son had just graduated from school and was about to leave to study abroad.

Location: Art Lane, exit B3 Sai Ying Pun MTR station

More about Riitta:

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