Mouthing Off Artists’ Spotlight
In this series, we will be showcasing the work and experiences of our Resident Artists, who have taken the time to have a chat with us either over Zoom or email. We hope that through these interviews our readers will be able to get to know our artists, what they do, and how they have made their way to where they are now. Our Resident Artists work in a diverse range of media, from painting and drawing to ceramics and film, so there should be something of interest for everyone!
This week, we had the opportunity to get to know Rebekka Katajisto, an Art Conservation student and illustrator here at Mouthing Off. Currently in the process of finishing a Master’s at UCL, Rebekka has been spending her lockdown working on her dissertation and building her portfolio. Her artwork, which largely consists of intricate line drawings in black pen, uses hundreds of small marks to make up her scenes. As a result, each artwork is a clear display of Rebekka’s patience and attention to detail.
We hope you enjoy this insight into Rebekka’s life and practice, and that this encourages any burgeoning artists in the Mouthing Off community to continue honing their practice. Check out Rebekka’s social media pages, and be sure to check in again next week for another interview with one of our Resident Artists.
Please introduce yourself to our readers!
I am a 22-year-old student from Finland, currently studying a master’s degree in the Principles of Conservation at UCL. Prior to this, I completed my bachelor’s degree in History of Art at Warwick University. In March I relocated from London to the New Forest where I am now based.
I am more of a casual artist, tending to pick up and drop drawing approximately every half a year in an endless cycle. Since the beginning of lockdown, I have come to the realisation that this is a skill I do not want to neglect and waste. Becoming a featured artist and illustrator at Mouthing Off has been a great motivation and push to once more produce artworks at a regular pace.
I love creating artworks with pigment liners and a crosshatching method. This produces detailed images which, when observed closely, reveal hundreds and hundreds of individual strokes making up the whole. I also enjoy photography.
I am a big fan of St. Francis and his life (from an art-historical perspective), medieval German castles, Moomins, historical dramas, learning languages (I currently speak Finnish, English, German, and Italian), turtlenecks, and medieval altarpieces. My other hobbies include volunteering; during my masters I volunteered at the UCL archaeology collections, the Petrie Museum of Egyptian archaeology, and on a train restoration project at the London Transport Museum- the last one I sadly never was able to start due to the Coronavirus outbreak.
How did you get into your chosen practice?
Here comes the worst personal statement cliché ever – but ever since I was four years old, I told my parents that I wanted to become an artist. However, as I got older, I struggled to come up with creative ideas. As contemporary art is more concerned with ideas and concepts rather than necessarily manual skill, I opted for the closest alternative subject, art history. During my studies I became increasingly interested in the making and construction of artworks, and particularly enjoyed working first-hand and within close proximity to objects, such as the fabulous Copenhagen Vase at Waddesdon Manor. This interest pushed me to pursue conservation, which I initially regarded as a way for me to use my artistic skills without having to face my apparent inability to come up with ideas. Studying conservation has widened my interest from this out-dated view of the conservator as a manual worker to other areas of conservation, such as object-based research, analysis with various scientific tools and preventive conservation. It feels like a privilege to be involved in the preservation of a work of art.
What themes do you explore in your artwork?
My artwork is almost always replicated from a photograph or an existing work of art, translated into my own style. My latest piece is of a photo I took in Venice last summer, looking over the Grand Canal off a Palazzo. Another recent one was a screen capture from one of my favourite video games, the Last of Us. Prior to this, I drew portraits of my favourite characters from Downton Abbey, all of which I binge-watched in one week. Tove Jansson’s original Moomin art is something I keep returning to due to my Finnish roots.
In this sense, my artwork is a pure reflection of my character and personality in that current moment – the things I am consuming, watching, doing and feeling. The content can be anything I feel like drawing, but the style and impression created are what is constant within my body of work.
What or who would you say are your main artistic influences?
I visited the “Fantastique! L’estampe visionnaire de Goya à Redon” in Paris’s Musée du Petit Palais in 2015. This exhibition comprised a selection of prints, lithographs, and woodcuts depicting nightmares, macabre beasts, death, and dreams. There was a large range of artists on show, including Dürer, Goya, Fuseli, Redon, and Delacroix. I believe I started developing my crosshatching style after seeing these works, which had a great impact on me and my artistic style. Out of all my interests (including my strong interest in Franciscan altarpieces), I most enjoy black and white prints such as these because of their intricate detail and overall impression.
Have you faced any challenges in your artistic career?
Social anxiety has been a major roadblock in most, if not all aspects of my life, notably my artistic career. Engaging with people, discussing my ideas and thoughts clearly and effectively and being confident in my own skill often seem like insurmountable mountains. I tend to over-criticise and undervalue my own work to a frustrating extent – this is probably why I also give up drawing on a regular basis, as it leads to severe lack of motivation. Through lessons learned in therapy, I am slowly learning to stand my ground, learning from mistakes, and becoming better at it all- but it is unfortunately an extremely slow process. Becoming more public about this issue, like informing university staff, teachers, and friends has been a major help.
What artwork or project are you most proud of?
The project I am most proud of was a series of three A1 artworks for the Practical Art Exhibition in 2018 at the University of Warwick. Producing these works required six to eight hours of labour every day for about six weeks, and about seventy-five Staedtler pens which did not quite fit into the £100 budget offered! After not drawing for two years, I was forced to create once again, and inspired by the noticeable improvement in the quality of my work from the first to the third artwork. I barely remember anything from the opening of the exhibition as I was so excited and nervous, but what I’ll never forget was the shock when one of my professors approached me offering to buy my work for £100. I was honoured and ready to agree before my module coordinator advised me not to sell for any less than £275 per work. The works are now in the good care of my parents in Brussels, and so unfortunately are only admired by my family.
Do you have any current or future projects lined up?
I am currently working on my master’s dissertation, which aims to examine the intersections between technical art history, conservation (science) and art history- possibly in relation to altarpiece frames and other non-pictorial components of altarpieces. This will keep me quite busy until October, but I will keep drawing for my gallery and illustrating other articles at Mouthing Off. For a while now, I have been entertaining the idea of setting up my own shop where I can sell my prints and take commissions.
What are your goals for the future?
I was due to start a postgraduate diploma in easel painting conservation at the Hamilton-Kerr Institute at Cambridge, but unfortunately this was deferred by a year due to my fears over Coronavirus. After seventeen years in the education system, this will give me a well-needed break to focus on my art and possibly start my own little business alongside working. In Autumn 2021, I will return to conservation full-time. I am still beyond words excited for the future and cannot believe that I have this amazing opportunity to fulfil my dreams of becoming a qualified art conservator.
What do you think is the role of the artist in society?
An extremely important (and an understated) one. The artist records history, evokes universal feelings and emotions, challenges boundaries, represents culture, communicates, questions, inspires, and preserves traditions- amongst a variety of other things. As versatile as art can be, so is the role of the artist.
Can you give some advice for someone who wants to pursue a career in art?
As a casual artist, I am perhaps not the most qualified to answer this question. However, from my personal experience, I would advise anyone to keep working, keep putting out content, and it will naturally get attention and engagement as you go on. I just recently started posting all my work on my Instagram as well as my personal Facebook page and have gotten a few requests for commissions so far. In addition to this, I have started filming the making process and posting these on TikTok and Tumblr. It may feel like a bit much, but this way your work becomes more accessible to a much wider audience. Just keep producing, creating, and putting yourself out there! In terms of my future profession as a conservator: if you are, like me, struggling with the creative aspect of art, keep in mind there are so many other possible avenues to pursue a career in art. You are not only limited to producing artwork in the traditional sense.
Want to see more Resident Artist interviews? Check out our previous one here.