Kalervo Palsa’s art is sometimes classified as surrealism, naïvism or primitivism, and Palsa himself defined his art as fantastic realism. In truth all these descriptions apply and more, since he was a great experimentalist, both with materials and with subject matter. When he was young Palsa was influenced by Vincent van Gogh, Alpo Jaakola and Vilho Lampi, and especially the writer August Strindberg. Later Otto Dix, Edvard Munch and Francis Bacon also became important. 

Here we have grouped his work into rough categories, showing how he often returned to similar themes and compositions many times. Among his best-known works are the following:

Kaikkein Pyhimmän Jumalanpalveluksen Julistus (Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos), a series of paintings with two candles, an erect penis, and a bowl of breast-like fruit (1972–3).

Kullervo, two paintings of Kullervo, the ill-fated antihero of the Finnish epic Kalevala, hanging naked and from a tree and carving quotations from Mussolini (‘The act always precedes the law’) and Hitler (‘The world is a prize for the powerful’) into the trunk with his knife-like penis (1972 and 1983).

Rauhan Paikka (A Place of Peace), an oil painting of a huge anus, surrounded by images of every Boschian horror image a sensitive artist can imagine. In the middle of the painting is a man reading a magazine, sitting in a rocking chair, apparently oblivious to the horrors around him (1978, reworked 1987).

Toinen Tulemnen (The Second Coming), a series of paintings of a man giving birth through his anus (1982–7).

Kriitikon Silmä (A Critic’s Eye), several versions of an anus with a magnifying glass (1971–7).

Miehekäs Kuukautiset (A Manly Menstruation), paintings of a man bleeding from his anus (1973).

Vapautuminen (Liberation), a series of Munchausen-esque paintings of a man levitating half in the air, hanging from a string tied around his giant penis that splits the upper air (1973–8).