Nina Kokkinen’s research

PhD. Nina Kokkinen, Research doctor


  • Doctor of Philosophy (Study of Religion) University of Turku, 2019
  • Master of Arts (Art History), University of Turku, 2020
  • Master of Arts (Art and Design, Audiovisual Media Culture), University of Lapland 2004

List of publications 12/2021

Current research

The focus of my research is on the connections between art and religion from late 19th century onwards. In my dissertation (2019, University of Turku), I examined the importance of esoteric spirituality in Finnish art at the turn of the 20th century, and re-conceptualized the notions of ‘occulture’ and ‘seekership’ – theoretical concepts building a bridge from late 19th century esotericism to present-day spirituality. In my postdoctoral research, I further delve into the discourses related to esotericism, heterodox and especially ‘Eastern spirituality’ in modern and subsequent Nordic art. As a researcher I move across the disciplines of study of religion, art history, and cultural history.

I have also curated art exhibitions related to my area of expertise, and I’m interested in creative writing and developing my skills as non-fiction writer and editor. Since 2021, I have been the editor in chief (together with Riikka Niemelä) of the scholarly journal Tahiti – taidehistoria tieteenä / Tahiti – Konsthistoria som vetenskap.

Research fields and issues I have worked with include:

  • Art & Religion: theoretical and conceptual connections between art and religion, discourses of ‘spiritual’, ‘sacred’ and ‘hidden’ in modern and contemporary art, artists as spiritual seekers.
  • Esotericism & Occultism: history and theory of modern (western) esotericism and occultism especially in relation to the field of art, re-conceptualization of ‘occulture‘ for the study of modern art.
  • Art history since late 19th century: Fin de siècle, Symbolism and early Modern art especially in Finland, discourses of ‘spiritual’, ‘sacred’ and ‘hidden’ in modern and contemporary art.
  • Dialog between science and art: searching for methods and practices connecting scientific work to artistic research and expression, creative writing as tool in academic and non-fiction writing.
  • Dialog between scientific and curatorial work: popularizing scientific research through curated art exhibitions, writing different kinds of texts for exhibitions.

Awards and honours:

  • Edvard Richter Award 2019, granted by Finnish Art Society for high quality writing on art (Totuudenetsijät, Vastapaino 2019)
  • Honorary Mention at the Art Book of the Year Competition 2020, for the edited book Spiritual Treasures, Iittala’s XXIV National Art Book Days

Curated exhibitions:

  • Salatun tiedon tie – Path to the Hidden Knowledge. 3.6.–11.10.2020, Villa Gyllenberg, Helsinki
  • Sielun silmä – The Inner Eye, 11.5.–8.9.2019, Gallen-Kallela Museum, Espoo
  • Sielun silmä – Själens öga – The Inner Eye. 20.9.2019–19.1.2020, Tikanoja Art Museum, Vaasa