Biographical Details

For 20 years Anja Purolainen achieved her artistic expression through the creation of ryijy rugs (traditional Finnish wall hangings) of original design and vibrant colours. She achieved a childhood dream when she returned to painting in 2004, after retirement from psychiatric social work. 

Anja paints using her imagination and memories, rather than direct subjects or scenes, which she interprets in a wide variety of styles. She constantly explores and develops new themes, giving her work renewal and fresh direction. She works primarily in acrylics and mixed media, and innovation with strong colour and form remain central to her creativity.



Although spending most of her life in New Zealand, Anja was born in Finnish Karelia a few months before the start of the Second World War, and close to the Finnish-Russian border. Anja’s early life was turbulent, but she gained strength from the positive determination of all around her to overcome adversity. This is reflected in the strength and positive conviction of her paintings.



Anja’s arts education began with attendance at courses held by the South Canterbury Arts Society, where she learned much from other members. Anja has since been tutored by Maria Foley and Colin Higgins, and has attended courses in Christchurch through the Continuing Education Department of Canterbury University.