This week One Quart celebrates the Helsinki Comics Festival and the joy of the visual narrative with a series of artists – hand picked by Karstein Volle – who we think you should know better. First up is an interview with visual artist Emmi Nieminen.
We are lucky people.
Not only do we live in a wonderful city, in a wonderful time – despite the dodgy things – I think we can all agree that life now, compared to 50 or 100 years ago is damn sweet; no flying cars, but hey.
Once a year, in this wonderful city at this wonderful time, a comics festival is being arranged. Comics are a wonderful medium for humans to express themselves in. As non-intrusive as books, you can pick them up at your leisure and have a taste or a full evening buffet of reading, as beautiful as art and as compelling as films. The most perfect marriage of drawing and narratives there is.
Comics are a wonderful medium for humans to express themselves in. As non-intrusive as books, you can pick them up at your leisure and have a taste or a full evening buffet of reading, as beautiful as art and as compelling as films.
Part of the attraction is that ANYONE CAN DO IT. No budget needed, no studios, set designers or actors to be booked and paid for. It’s storytelling in it’s purest form. The banquet is ready, with the visual arts, typography, narrative spaces, vivid (or discreet), use of color and suspension of disbelief all at your disposal.
Now, in this wonderful city at this wonderful time, with this wonderful mode of expression, a comics festival is arranged. Which you can visit free of charge. Yup, free. As in nothing. You just bring yourself (clothed, preferably). There you can be presented with international living legends such as Gilbert Shelton (Freak Bros.), José Muñoz (Alack Sinner), Charlie Christensen (Arne Anka). Finnish masters such as Hanneriina Moisseinen and Pertti Jarla, plus a cornucopia of great artists you’ve never heard of, but will be way grateful of discovering once you get to see their stuff.
Like I said, we are lucky people.
This week One Quart celebrates the Helsinki Comics Festival and the joy of the visual narrative with a series of hand picked artists we think you should know better.
First up: Emmi Nieminen.
Emmi Nieminen (s.1988) is a visual artist focusing on illustration and comics. She lives and works in Tampere and is one of the founding members of Tampere Kunsthalle.
Karstein Volle: Hi, how are you?
Emmi Nieminen: Hey there Karstein. I’m fine thanks, just a bit busy.
KV: Of all the more lucrative and less work intensive disciplines within the visual arts field, why comics?
EN: Like most Finns of my generation, there was a steady flow of Disney comics to our household when I was a child. The local library also made sure I was exposed to MAD magazine, franco-belgian adventure stories and the comics from the underground and alternative eras. It wasn’t difficult to have access to comics of different styles and as a child who wanted to learn to draw better and better, I was hooked. Stories and pictures combined seemed the most natural method of expression then – and it still does.
It wasn’t difficult to have access to comics of different styles and as a child who wanted to learn to draw better and better, I was hooked. Stories and pictures combined seemed the most natural method of expression then – and it still does.
There really was no specific eureka moment, but I do remember making the decision to pursue comics in one way or another at the age of seven. Then again, I also wanted to become a dinosaur* – so that’s the level of realism and rationality behind the decision.
I was warned by adults in my life that the path I’m choosing is difficult but I also received tremendous amounts of support and encouragement. Without them I probably would be doing something more lucrative and infinitely less satisfying.
KV: What is your dream project?
EN: I’m cheesy in the way that I usually get excited by most of the work opportunities I get or come up with. Still, I didn’t recognise my dream projects as such when I started working on them, the appreciation comes way later. For example Vahinkoraja (Damage Limit) forced me to break some of my patterns, try to trust the reader more and I had to learn how to use colors. It didn’t feel like a dream at the time, but it pushed me forward and I learned a lot by working on it. A dream project is not necessarily fun, but something that hones my skills further.
A dream project is not necessarily fun, but something that hones my skills further.
KV: Tell me about an unfinished project of yours. No matter if it’s going to be finished, in progress or if it crashed and burned.
EN: I’m working on two books at the moment and the third is waiting in the torpedo tube to hit my calendar in the near future. The no. 1 priority at the moment is a journalistic comic Vihan ja Inhon Internet, created together with the journalist Johanna Vehkoo (LongPlay, Ajatushautomo Hattu). It’s about online misogyny and we really, really need to get it done.
And we will, it will be published by Kosmos Kustannus Publishing around October and it will be good.
What is different about all of these projects is that I’m collaborating with writers or using pre-existing stories instead of controlling everything myself. I’ve never really had this kind of opportunity before and in all honesty, it hasn’t been easy to keep the despot in me leashed. I do believe these are the kind of projects that leave me more skilled and experienced than before, so dream projects really.
KV: Where will all this end?
EN: All of this art, all these people will decay and decompose at some point and our experiences are forgotten. We are matter, molecules recycling again and again for as long as the Universe exists. Still, I do feel like continuing working with text and images for as long as I can.
* Preferably a triceratops
What Emmi has published this far. Go buy it in any good book shop. If they don’t have her material available, it’s likely it’s not a good book shop.
Planeetta Funk, kustannusyhtiö Kumiorava, 2016
Berlin Suomix – Finnische Berlin Comix, anthology, 2016
Nyt riittää! Enough is enough!, anthology, 2015
Vahinkoraja/Damage Limit, kustannusyhtiö Kumiorava, 2014
Vagina Dentata, kustannusyhtiö Kumiorava, 2013
Keskiviikko, kustannushtiö Kumiorava, 2012
You can even visit Emmi on the worldwide web: Emmi Nieminen