It’s a new year, a new month and, of course, we nave new comic fun. This January the illustrative duties of the newsletter will be taken over by the super talented Hannele Richert. In keeping with the season, she will embellish our newsletter with her dark, humorous and complex images. In this interview, the comic artist revealed to me what particularly influenced her artistically in her youth, how her work is connected to David Lynch and something no one, (yet,) knows about her.
Could you briefly introduce yourself and your career? I am a cartoonist and translator. My first comic was published in 2003, 20 years ago already! I have published two full length albums, lots of smaller publications and some short stories in anthologies. In recent years I've been experienting with short animations, risography and spatial elements in comics exhibitions.I graduated from languages and literature but also studied visual arts and comics.I have worked and volunteered for comics associations and festivals for around 15 years. Nowadays I'm most active in the contemporary comics association «Kutikuti», that publishes an international comics magazine «Kuti», and organises exhibitions and workshops collectively.
Can you tell me about the images that are in this month's newsletter? The time range is between 2019 and 2022. That's a period when I became more interested in producing single images and silent cartoons instead of dialogue. Some of them were made for the Kuti magazine, some for riso booklets, and some just for the fun of drawing.
Do you have a favourite picture? And if so, which one and why? Maybe 04, the head on fallen leaves. I also made an animation based on it. It has to do with taking time for thinking, mourning, changing and renewing.
What did you want to be when you were a child? I wanted to be lots of things, but artist and writer were always in the top 3 of my dream professions.
It's decorative and quite dark, but sometimes humorous. Somebody called my recent work «Lynchian», I like that description. I used to make everything in black and white, now there's more colour at times.
*Editor's note: Lynchian is a newly formed adjective from English and means roughly «having the same balance between the macabre and the mundane as in the works of filmmaker David Lynch».
Do you have a favourite colour? I may have one! Dark turquoise.
Which themes are close to your heart and important for your work? It is important for me to bring out images and words my subconscious is offering – or rather pushing through. This is something I find hard living without. Sometimes it brings out sinister, haunting stuff. Otherwise I have also worked in societal projects that aim to have an effect in readers. Right now I'm working together with a journalist on a book about a survivor of human trafficking.
Where and how did you grow up and has that had an impact on your life and work?
I grew up in a rather small town called Kerava, 30 km from Helsinki. It had some good sides to it: we rode everywhere by bikes, there was a good public swimming pool and a library, even a movie theatre when I was a kid. But the downside was that the nightlife/streetlife was pretty wild and even violent, and we participated in it from quite early on. Kerava was even famous for it. The melancholy in my comics may partly come from growing up so close but so far away from my teenage ideal city Helsinki, that seemed to have freedom and opportunities that Kerava was lacking. I might have been wrong! But there was a limited amount of people, especially young people, who were interested in arts the way I was, so I was a sort of weirdo, and for the cool Helsinki residents it seemed I was coming from the city of losers
What brings you joy at the moment? Collective projects, building my exhibition of spatial comics, my children and our pet turtle.
What is the most challenging thing in your life right now? It's a challenge to keep everything together with lots of projects and loved ones to look after. The state of the world also brings me down from time to time.
What do you like to draw the most? I love drawing patterns, invented ones or things I see around the city or in nature. Surfaces and materials. I'm also really into drawing squiggly worms!
What can comics, cartoons and illustrations do that other media cannot? People draw in millions of different ways, and it's touching to see how each particular person experiences, or rather creates their world. Same goes for the stories: they can go anywhere, you can make anything happen. I'm more interested in contemporary comics nowadays but I do respect the pioneers as well. Nowadays superheroes are something we're all used to, but it is actually pretty radical that an ordinary person can fly, lift buildings and so on. And if someone takes that seriously, invents long functioning stories and draws them meticulously, that's pretty cool. In Finland Donald Duck is a big thing, the weekly magazine is well edited, and several generations learnt to read from it. I did, too!
We also have a good amount of domestic daily strips in the newspapers, even though the golden age of them is over. Of course the internet came to replace some of that. I do read comics on Instagram, it's a good format for sequential art, even if it has some ethical problems.
Could you list a few of your favourite things, (or moments or experiences,) for me in key words.
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