Artist interview: Juliana Hyrri

Juliana Hyrri is a painter, illustrator, and comic novel artist. Hyrri’s first comic novel was awarded Kritiikin Kannukset award in 2020.

Even though the artist decided as a teenager that doing anything in the field of arts is a no-go, the path led Hyrri half-coincidentally to study at an art school in Hyvinkää, where the long-lost spark ignited again. Before today, Hyrri’s path has involved other schools, missteps, and different kinds of experiences.

–My journey to the field of arts has been ludicrous. In my rebellious youth -phase, I even decided that I will not do anything involving arts. But what then would I do?

Hyrri’s artistic process is constantly on the move. Sometimes experiments with techniques get the artist carried away, but some experiments have felt more like a mistake.

–You can’t be ready as an artist, whatever that means. Absolutely your own expression will remain and is part of you, no matter what the result is.

Style-wise and thematically, Hyrri works emotions in the frontline. The working process usually starts with writing.

–Writing works like some kind of platform, and the text can be just current from the mind. It can be compared to voice warm-up.

Hyrri is interested and intrigued by the small things and details in everyday life and the interfaces of reality: the differences and combinations of reality and imaginary reality.

–Different childhoods and childhood stories, secrets, diaries. Also, porcelain animals, especially cats. And plants, nature, free and caged.

Hyrri’s artworks are usually drawing, painting, contemporary comics, installations, all of these combined or neither of these. Everything Hyrri does is leaning to the narrative, to the story, and storytelling.

–In my work, I’m striving for overlaps and contradictions, and thematically I often move on the surfaces of otherness, growth, and abandoning. In my first comic novel, The Nightingale that Never Sang (Suuri Kurpitsa, 2019), work-in-progress or drafts as themes arise.

Painting at Keran Hallit was a personal challenge to Hyrri because it would be the largest work size-wise the artist would have done so far. It was also interesting to meet other artists because an artist’s work can often be lonely, the artist explains.

–I have never had the chance to paint anything this large-scale, and I wanted to get all of the joy out of the project. One of the reasons why I wanted to be part of the Keran Hallit painting project was the chance to talk to the other artists and working together.

Even though Hyrri has previous experience painting murals, this particular work’s large size gave a challenge, especially working with the lifter felt scary. Painting at the heights, the artist was somewhat scared, which motivated work faster.

–Admittedly, I was occasionally scared to go up to ten meters high, and there I must’ve flexed all of my muscles at once. The fear motivated me to work fast, and it really was rewarding to see this big painting progressing and getting finished.

Painting the large-scale mural was rewarding, even though rain surprised all the working artists at the last meters.  Thankfully this appearance required only waiting and patience.  Despite the difficulties with the lifter and the rain, the artwork was finished within the given time period.

–I am a little ashamed with all my fumbling with the lifter. My ability to perceive machines and gadgets is not the best possible, and even though I got a good introduction to the lifter, I had to ask for help intermittently. In the end, I managed to work the machine pretty okay.

In the mural, the main part is given to the tigers that have settled at a pond to play, dance, or fight, working as a kind of mirror, reflecting in essence primitive human nature. Right before painting Keran Hallit, Hyrri painted a series of paintings, where she paired up paradise surroundings to the feel of danger.

–My painting at Keran Hallit is a straight continuation to these smaller paintings I made.

Painting at Keran Hallit was an educational experience and a great chance to stretch Hyrri’s artistic limits and gave a chance to prove to themself that it is possible to do.

–Painting at Keran Hallit was a great chance to stretch my limits. Foremost I learned that I am capable of painting a large mural in quite a short time. Apparently, with willpower, I am capable of working with a lifter as well. The experience was educational, and I would do this again anytime.