Inka Bell

Where are you from and where do you reside?
I am from Finland, I was born in Espoo, which is the neighboring city to Helsinki, where I work and live now.
What’s your favorite part of living in Helsinki?
I like Helsinki, because it is relatively small and in a way I can easily understand my surroundings. I think that for the size and the amount of people living in Helsinki, it has quite a lot to offer.
Have you always worked with printmaking?
I think working with print comes really naturally from me. I have always felt really happy while spending time in print studios and I enjoy the process. At least for me, printmaking is a really natural part of graphic design and they share quite a lot of similarities. I think my working method took a lot of influence from my working methods as a graphic designer and has determined my style quite strongly.

Is there something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I also used to be an illustrator, working with dark and detailed collage-style.
Did you go to art school?
I have a bachelor’s degree in both graphic and fashion design from the University of Art and Design Helsinki. I did a lot of screen printing both on paper and fabric, but had a long break before picking it up again and working with my current style, mainly because of the lack of facilities.
Have you ever collaborated, or would you?
Nope, I could collaborate, if a suitable project would come, but I started focusing more on my own artistic work because I was so tired of making compromises as an illustrator or as a graphic designer. I enjoy the fact that I don’t need anyone’s approval on what I do, and that makes me more experimental with the work I do.

I have my own small studio next to our screen printing facility, and we have people visiting all the time. I like the fact that, if I want to, I can always go and have a chat, but when I am creating I like to close the studio door and be on my own. I even prefer printing alone, although sometimes I need an assistant when printing large scale works.

Are you influenced by any artist that does something completely different than you?
I get most inspiration from visual artists that do the complete opposite from me. Music of course influences a lot, but can’t really name a one single artist.
When did you begin your current practice?
I got back to printmaking around 2012, but have done it more seriously for three years now.
Describe a typical day in the studio for you.
It depends on which phase the project I am working on is in. It can vary from anything between focusing completely on the creating part, answering emails, writing grant applications, and of course the actual printing. Quite often, it is a combination of all of these. I also co-run an open access screen printing studio, so often I do something related to running that too. I start my days quite early and feel I am most efficient before noon.
What necessities do you require when making your art?
In the beginning, I use computer a lot and later, of course, everything that making a print requires. While working, I always have the radio on and drink lots of green tea.
What themes or motifs are you consistently drawn to?
I would say basic forms, such as a circle or a square. For some reason, I often feel that my works have a strong 70’s or 80’s vibe in them, although almost all of my inspiration comes from science fiction. Usually the themes of my work are futuristic scenarios that also tackle around questions around human behavior and technology.
Where do you find your day-to-day inspiration?
I would say sci-fi. All futuristic scenarios, whether it is a movie, piece of art or some song.
Did any specific sci-fi movie or book inspire your current works?
It’s an overall theme that keeps influencing me. Can’t really name only one, it’s a sum of everything. I think the visual language that these films have is so intriguing. I quite often ponder these futuristic questions and scenarios myself, too.
Do you find that environment relates to your work?
Most definitely. I think even the smallest things effect, starting from the tools I use, how my studio looks and the city I live in.

"Usually, the themes of my work are futuristic scenarios that also tackle around questions around human behavior and technology." — Inka Bell
Where do you think you make your strongest work?
At my studio, wherever that has been. My current one has been my favorite so far. I also had a really good experience in a printmaking residency at Frans Masereel Centrum, where the whole setup was just so inspiring. I hope to get to do some more residencies in the near future.
What is the most difficult part of the artistic process for you?
I think between coming up with a theme and realizing the first work. Between that time there is this huge rollercoaster of feelings that you are about to create something extremely beautiful and thinking that what you just did is something that never sees the daylight. But while it’s the most difficult, it’s also really rewarding, once you are actually able to find the right direction.
What tangible objects or intangible moments are you most interested in representing through your works?
I like to create certain scenarios and states of being to which I hope the viewer can reflect their own feelings to, whatever they might be. I wish to take the viewer away from the present for a while, in a way a certain kind of escapism.
Are there any aspects of your process that are left to chance?
Currently, depending on the technique, I know quite well how the end result will look like, although for me creating is still intuitive, so there is always some chance in the process, although I do analyze my work a lot. At the moment I am working on how to expose my work and my working technique more and more to chance.
"I wish to take the viewer away from the present for a while, in a way a certain kind of escapism." — Inka Bell
How important is spontaneity in your art?
Depends on the angle you are looking at it. For quite long I have followed “form follows function” type of thinking, but then again, I might do some spontaneous decisions while printing and mixing colors.
In light of ‘form follows function’, what function do you see your prints having?
With this I mean that I analyze quite a lot what I do when I create. Why am I drawing a line or why is the composition the way it is. Is everything visible really necessary or do they serve some function?
How do you choose your materials?
I try to respect each medium I use and maybe even slightly overthink the chosen technique. For example, I like using screen printing to create solid larger colored areas, and keep that in mind when creating an image, but don’t see any point making that type of image with stone lithography, which is great when you are creating tones and more lively surface.
What’s one of your favorite objects you own? What’s the story?
At the moment I feel really attached to the green plants at my studio, which some I got as a present and some I have bought. I’m usually not able to keep any plants alive, but the ones at my studio have for some reason survived.

Do you remember the first work of art that captured your attention?
I think it was a poster of a Henri Matisse Blue Nude at my childhood home.
Is there any artwork on display in your home or studio? Whose is it?
At my studio all the works I have are my own, besides the ones I got from my daughter. At home I have some pieces from friends and colleagues that I have gathered throughout the years and plan to get more.
How has your work developed in the past few years, and how do you see it evolving in the future?
I have started to work towards more tangible three dimensional works, besides traditional fine art prints. This enables me to continue the creating process after printing and also leaving more space to chance and something that maybe didn’t even occur to me in the beginning. I have also picked up a long lost oil painting hobby, because I have started to long for surfaces and textures, that I am not able to achieve with printmaking, so let’s see how that starts affecting my work.
What’s next for you?
I just started planning a smaller solo show here in Helsinki next spring, and another one with a completely different approach later next year.

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