Interviewer: Tiia Jyrkiäinen, 24 March 2014
Julia Prusi, a listening artist
The love of beauty runs in the family. Already at a very young age I started experimenting with materials, such as paper, charcoal, pastels, clay... but most importantly, I learned to use my hands and my imagination. During my primary school years, I enjoyed visiting art exhibitions and I reflected on what I saw. My father brought me professional quality paints, brushes and papers from abroad, and I learned to draw from life. When I was at secondary school, I started taking arts classes for children and teenagers and then proceeded to an upper secondary school of visual arts. After completing compulsory education, I started my studies at the Kankaanpää School of Fine Arts. I graduated in art with graphic art as my major subject in 1997.
This is not your only profession. When we met, you worked for a marketing agency. How did you end up working in marketing and illustration?
Soon after I graduated, I experienced a break in my creativity that lasted as long as eight years. During that period, I studied information and economics. The pressure caused by my busy exhibition schedule became overwhelming and I felt that I had nothing more to say by means of art. I finally overcame the block in 2006 when I suddenly had an urge to process sorrow I had encountered – I did it by painting. After that, it felt as if a stopper had been removed and a flood of images poured onto canvas through my hands.
I started my own arts and marketing company in 2011 and I can now combine my two passions: design and art. I’m the producer of an art event, I illustrate books and the like, design textile designs and paint murals and paintings. One project feeds the next and thus helps create a continuous flow of new ideas. I always keep a notebook at hand and write down ideas, topics and sources of inspiration. I believe this way of working is going to prevent new blocks from developing.
Can you tell us something about the context of your paintings?
I’ve been interested in myths, archetypes and symbols ever since I was a student. I like to explore dialectical relationships: alienation and intimacy, awkwardness and timidity as well as feelings of inadequacy and promises. For instance, I study the ways people want to be displayed; the roles we have and the things in ourselves that we want to hide or disguise. Art offers a fascinating way of combining such themes as loneliness, jealousy, anger and fear with materials we normally associate with warmth, intimacy and vulnerability.
What is it about opposites that interests you?
I’m a person of opposites myself: on the one hand, I’m very open and sociable, but on the other, I need a lot of time alone and quietness. I’m patient, thorough and meticulous with the details of my paintings but impatient when it comes to putting ideas into practice. First and foremost, I want to try and find a balance in my life. Sometimes it almost looks like an unattainable dream, but I keep striving for it.
Your work often depicts people, plants and animals. Where do you find the inspiration and themes?
People as well as flora and fauna are an inexhaustible source of inspiration. I’m sensitive to moods and people’s sentiments, and I’m curious about everything I come across in nature. In my works, I want to combine poetry and imagination with anatomy and natural sciences. I try to find a mystery and then develop a new, creative language, new stories and new references.
In the history of humankind, I’m particularly interested in collection and migration: for 40,000 generations, people were nomads and collectors, whereas the modern way of staying in one place is a very new phenomenon. Collecting things and wandering in the nature give me the same kind of joy of seeking, finding and realisation as painting does.
As a part of my profession, I obviously also follow the trends in illustration and exhibitions, albeit not as actively as I used to. I took art history classes at the university and I still study it. A single brush stroke may sometimes enthral me; experiencing beauty gives me a great pleasure.
I like to call you an “artist who listens”. What is it like to adapt to the wishes of your customers?
For quite a while now, most of my work has been commissioned: illustrations, portraits and murals. Co-operating with customers, publishers and authors is fun and fruitful. A free artist might find it abhorrent to receive instructions, but I prefer a dialogue with different sectors to painting alone and only for myself in my studio. I’m no longer exhibiting as often as I used to, so without any feedback from my customers I would not receive any criticism at all. And painting without receiving any feedback would be like calling out into an empty forest. I must say, though, that the amount of instructions I’ve received has always been minimal and I’ve been given a free hand to follow my own vision.
Artists and illustrators are often known for their unique and identifiable hand and style. I like variety, however, and I’m interested in too many things to concentrate on only one style. I like to vary the techniques I use as well, but aquarelle painting has become my preferred form of expression.
A protean and versatile artist, you are a rare breed of Renaissance woman.
I feel very lucky that my own business, Salotto, allows me to combine the various fields I have studied: information studies, e-commerce, marketing, graphic design and art. I’m aware of the risk of versatility, though: if you are too much of a jack of all trades, you might actually never master one. Versatility is most useful when creating illustrations for the customers of advertising agencies: the final product reflects the advertiser’s own brand and not Julia Prusi. When necessary, I can be a bit of a chameleon!
"I am excited about your work and find it to be very impressive. You use vivid colors that stimulate the viewer's eye. I specifically enjoy Close/Lähellä. I find your work to be fresh and contemporary."Tiah Farkas Publicist & Associate Curator NY Arts Magazine