Sykkyrämyyrä (Kinkmole)

October 5th – October 27th, 2018

Galleria Kuvitus, Helsinki

Ilona Partanen’s first solo exhibition was based on her first children’s book Kinkmole. The exhibit contained colourful gouache paintings, prints and ceramics. The techniques used highlight the close relationship Partanen’s illustrations have with decorative and folk art.

As a child, Partanen was very fond of the illustrations of Polish-German illustrator Janosch. The rich and intense style of her first book is reminiscent of both the Eastern European cartoons of the 70s and the world of Ukrainian folk artist Maria Pryimachenko. The names of the characters are as memorable and affable as those found in the Moomins (created by the Finnish-Swedish author and illustrator Tove Jansson) or Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter (written by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren).

Partanen’s characters were born nearly a decade ago as the illustrator doodled in her notebooks during lectures. Back then they didn’t have names yet, but over the years the characters took on lives of their own and they began to appear more and more in her illustrations. The likable Kinkmole was not originally intended for children: it was born during a time when the illustrator suffered from migraines and a series of eye infections. Imaginary conversations with the blind mole helped the lonely patient stuck at home. Partanen came up with the name Kinkmole when designing a fabric pattern as she was graduating from the Lahti Institute of Design in 2011.

The magical realism of Kinkmole can encompass a wide range of issues and situations from embarrassment to organising a search party for lost shoes. In fact, embarrassment was one of the main themes when planning the book’s plot. Partanen handles embarrassing issues with great sympathy. At the beginning the small Kinkmole is quite a timid character, but by the end of the story it has grown happier and more confident.


There have been many problems in the field of Finnish children’s literature in recent decades, including lack of critique and research and minimal compensation to authors. Luckily, the dream of writing and illustrating is once more alive in the visual arts arena, even among new professionals. Finnish children’s literature has begun to regain the lure and lustre it had in the 70s, and the picture book is once more “the world’s best tool for achieving shared, sensitive and powerful moments” (Majaluoma, M. 2001)


Adapted and edited from the original exhibition text done for Galleria Kuvitus, published on October 4th, 2018. 


Ilona Partanen (b. 1986) is a Helsinki-based illustrator and graphic designer. She is one of the illustrators at Napa Agency and she holds a Master of Arts (Art and Design) degree from Aalto University. Partanen’s illustrations have been on display in solo and joint exhibits both in Finland and internationally in London and Slovenia, among other places. Specialities: pattern design, children’s book illustration, character illustration, magazine illustration, traditional illustration, mural painting.

For art and illustrator enquiries please contact the illustrator directly.