1. What’s your story? Where are you from?
My name is Karin. Originally, I come from Romania, but it has been quite a long while since I’ve lived there. I first came to Finland as an exchange student – to the lovely northern city of Oulu, in fact – and I permanently moved to Helsinki in 2009. Then in 2015, just to keep things moving and grooving, I moved to Scotland to study: my one year of MA stretched into two years, with a super inspiring artist-in-residence period in Edinburgh College of Art. Now I’m based again in Helsinki, but it seems like later this year I might be moving to Athens!
2. Tell us about your aesthetic.
One thing that is imperative to me is mark-making. Experimenting with marks – be it with the help of monoprinting, pure brushstrokes onto paper, or coloured pencils or graphite – and the physicality of mark-making are at the core of what makes me tick when drawing. Also, a great part of my work involves playing with transparencies, and I think my educational background and my frankly quite huge love for printmaking have a big role to play in that. At times I find it fascinating to exercise by limiting my colour palette and see how layering builds up the image.
Lately I have been trying to give a lot more thought to light and shadows and how to convey them all the way from the eye, through my mind, and eventually through the touch of the pen on paper. I’ve always been captivated by light and shadows, and now is a high time to explore the ways to represent them.
3. What is your favourite medium and why?
I like trying out new things, but of course it totally depends of what I might find the most suitable and rewarding medium to convey my message at any particular moment. Screenprinting is my ultimate love because of the whole elaborate – almost magical – process that in involves. The way one can play with textures, various inks, pens or indeed at times digital marks when working on the layers is amazing and can vary a lot of the time. You can’t really predict how your initial drawing is translated through the exposure, which marks will transfer onto the screen and which won’t: it’s that anticipation that is exhilarating to me! It is physical, noisy, potentially messy, or not… Like life. I love it!
At the same time, coming back to working with coloured pencils in the past half a year has been hugely rewarding. I’ve been sketching with them in Edinburgh, Rome, Helsinki, and the Finnish and Italian countryside, and I find new ways of exploring this medium as I draw. Now I’m trying to bring more layering into my work with coloured pencils, too.
4. What is your artistic process like?
If there is any single way to describe it, then I think the most apposite word would be “moody”. At times I can work like crazy without having as much as a breather, letting the intuition and the medium dictate everything – and on other occasions I like to take my time, go through my photographic and textual references, reflect on moments that have gotten stuck with(in) me and which I think might turn into a project. Overall this seems to work for me, but I do believe in the need to self-monitoring a bit, to put it this way.
5. Who and/or what inspires your work?
Without any doubt: people. In all our shapes and forms, with all our moods and different values, psychologies, qualities and flaws, I find us people annoying and fascinating at the same time. What could be a more inspiring topic? At the same time, I draw a great deal of inspiration from the inhabited infrastructure and the nature we occupy. I have seldom walked under a tangle of electric cables or phone wires without stopping to gaze at their rhythm and cracking a photo or two for later reference. Nothing is trivial.
6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?
An important one by all means! That said, I’m not one for what people call classical art, and I’d be hard pressed to remember when was the last time that I was truly moved by anything that’s displayed in a museum. I would rather not define art very narrowly… But I suppose “art” is my gateway into reflecting on issues that matter to me. I need it to be there to push me, to make me question, to intrigue me, to inspire me, to anger me and to soften me when necessary. I refuse (maybe too stubbornly oftentimes) to see it as a thing of beauty, and of beauty alone. This sets me up completely against my rather traditionalist art education during the High school. For me, art is political, and has to be, just as it has to be uncomfortable, inspiring, disturbing, challenging, to make us stop and reflect on issues otherwise unreflected upon.
7. Where did you study?
My Bachelor’s degree is in Graphic Design, from Timişoara, in Romania. In 2016 I graduated with an MA in Illustration from the Edinburgh College of Art. The latter was the place that most shaped my working style and ethics.
8. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Still moving around, no settling in as of yet, exploring different societies, people, doing lots of artistic residencies.
9. What about in ten?
In a spacious, light-filled, and cosy studio stacked with screenprinting equipment, in a place that can supply me with decent tea. This is just for the sake of dreaming, really. I am ready to be surprised; keeping my expectations reasonable and working hard doing what I most like.
10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?
I’d really like my works to resonate with people who are different from me, and for my art to find common grounds with circles I wouldn’t imagine I’d mingle with in person (I may be a bit shy). At the same time, I am happy and ready to take a step back and leave space to audiences to make up their own stories behind my illustrations. I don’t like to tell people what to think with my art; I like to insinuate, to suggest, and to use subtle symbols, to plant little seeds and let them take over from there.
11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?
Without a second thought: my partner’s food. He’s the most amazing and passionate cook I’ve met, really. The way he gives thought to spices, how they work with each other, with other ingredients…oh man, it’s always a feast of flavours and textures. He’s a historian as well, so for him food has to have more than its mere nutritional value; the stories and historical events behind some of them are a joy to listen to while munching greedily. My most fave, though, must be his Korean bone soup (gamjatang) that boils for at least 12 hours.
12. Favourite book?
Oh, way too many favourite books! I feel now like I should list all of them mentally, so as not to be disrespectful to the impact they’ve had on me. One that impressed me to tears was “Guapa” by Saleem Haddad, about a young man struggling to make his peace with his sexuality, and with the prospect of always having to hide in shadows with his relationship, in a time of revolutionary heat of the Arab Spring in an unnamed Middle-Eastern capital. Haddad’s writing really takes over you.
13. Favourite genre of music?
Love music, couldn’t live without it! My music taste is wide and embracing, to a certain extent. I feel very strongly about it, and oftentimes my love and opinions can be quite intense. What usually happens (not always) is that I come across an artist I immediately get keen on and go on listening to the same song for days, sometimes even weeks. It’s crazy! At the moment I’ve been obsessively listening to The Soil, a South African band. In terms of perennial favourites, Malian music that involves kora playing is at the top of my list though.
14. What are your hobbies?
I have been doing capoeira angola for about seven years now, and it is getting to the point where it might turn into a research path as well, from an illustration point of view. Still working on my PhD proposal, so I’ll keep it at that for now. Beyond this, I love comedy, reading, hiking, dancing. This winter I tried for the first time cross-country skiing more seriously and I took a strong liking to it. I want to keep on perfecting my technique, but with Athens in the future that might prove to be very occasional.
15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
When I was very young, at 7 years old, I was pushed to study violin, but art took over my interest pretty strongly at that age and stayed with me. However, every now and then when attending a concert or listening to a very skilled musician, I feel like I could have pursued music if it wasn’t for the strict teaching that felt punishingly harsh. Also, I have a big problem staying still, and just bounce about when music is playing; in my heart I am a dancer, I just know it!