Colourful life in joyful art
TEXT: MARI KOSKINEN | PHOTOS © JORMA VÄNTTINEN
Hanna Varis is a Finnish graphic artist and painter. She describes herself as a storyteller, and she gets inspiration for her colourful and graphic work both from the security of a balanced everyday life and from her travels to places like Italy, for instance.
“I like to use traditional methods, but still bring new ideas forward in my work,” explains Varis. “I like to create something beautiful and joyful, with lots of colours,” says Varis, who is celebrating the 35th anniversary of her career this year. She has held over 70 solo exhibitions and participated at over 140 group exhibitions during her long career, and her works are part of major art collections both in Finland and abroad. Currently, until 25 May, her work is on display at Galleria Bronda in Helsinki, and later this year she will have exhibitions in Oulu, Hämeenlinna, Jyväskylä, Vaasa and Turku. “I made a conscious decision not to have retrospective exhibitions this year, because I want to look forward rather than back. My focus is in the now; I want to create something new from this moment,” she says.
Varis wants to challenge people’s thinking around being an artist by providing a different perspective. “Being an artist is not just about mixing colours and creating paintings; it also means hard work, and juggling many different roles, like any entrepreneur,” she explains. “Even though I feel that it is my calling and I have always known that I want to be an artist, it still requires determined, disciplined work.”
Varis has lived through some dramatic events in her life: first, when she was seriously injured at the age of 19, and again years later, when her eight-year-old son was injured in a car accident. In both cases, the recovery took years. “I want to break the mystical idea that all artists work best during difficulties. I find that having a certain level of security and balance in my life helps me to work. Another thing that keeps me going is feedback from the people who have seen my work. I’m touched when someone has found my work significant to them and it has left a mark in their lives.”
As an artist, she is always at work. “I write down ideas all the time and save them for later. When I am ready to start, I lay the notes in front of me on a table and just look at them. Then, some of them feel more important than others, and that’s how the story begins – and from the story, the motif for the new picture.”
Left: Unbearable Joy, 120 cm x 75 cm, 2019, gouache painting and etching collage, cold leaf. Second from left: Layers of Miracles, 2019, 30 x 80 cm, gouache painting and etching collage, cold leaf. Middle: Fan of Joy, 2019, 80 x 50 cm, etching collage. Second from right: Lightness of Insights, 2019, 30 x 80 cm, gouache painting and etching collage. Right: Bowl of Grandmother’s Outlook of Life, 2019, etching collage, cold leaf.