Interview: Niko Vartiainen

1. Please, introduce yourself, tell us a little bit about you.

My name is Niko Vartiainen and I’m a well-mannered graphic designer by day and filth loving collage artist by night. I live and work in Turku, Finland.

I remember when about 7-8 years ago I first time saw works by THS, Misprinted Type and Plastic Kid – they blew me away! I was familiar with collages before but their styles were something so weird and amazing that I was hooked straight away.

2. Recent, current or future projects that you would like to share with us?

I’m just doing collages 🙂 They are now getting bigger and bigger and there is whole a lot of paint and other stuff in them. And I have couple of murals going on, those are quite exciting projects, it’s so different to do works on A3 size paper or 3x6m wall.

3. What kind of things influence your work?

I know this is a super cliché but everything I see and hear influences me. All the little things I see and hear haunt me until I’m next to my desk and find the right picture to match those feelings/visions… usually it’s just a scrap that sparks the fire.

4. What is your normal working process when you use collage? (Idea or commission? Where do you get your materials or find your images? What is your cutting technique? The best way you have found to paste? Where do you work and how? And very important: What do you do with your scraps?)

When I start to work first I decide whether I start a completely new piece or continue with some unfinished one. I usually have about 10-15 on-going works that are waiting that I’ll come up with the perfect next piece and there might be just two papers attached to each others or then there are couple of about 90% ready works.

After I’ve chose what to do, I start to go thru the materials, which are old magazines and my beloved scrap boxes. I go thru them until I find something, same time I usually put a side some other images/pieces that I find interesting.

My main tools are scissors, scalpel and tape, I have tried to use glue but for some reason I just don’t like it. For cutting I used only scissors for quite a while until I found the perfect scalpel.

When all the main parts of the work I’m doing are found I start spin them around until the final form is set. Then I usually choose the background, depending on my current the mood, I can go with blank paper/cardboard or sometimes I paint the background just to add some real texture. After the background is selected and the semi-ready work attached, it’s all about the extra filth/scraps. I like to use markers and color pencils to add that final touch 🙂

5. What is your latest discovery in the world of collage? 

Jesse Draxler, his fashion stuff is just incredibly clever and dirty.

What advice would you give someone starting to work with collage? 

It’s simple: Learn from the masters then forget everything you saw, find the technics that suits you best and just do your own thing.

6. What do your friends/family say about your collage work? 

Generally everybody are supportive and like my stuff. More further I push my works more they seem to understand that this thing I do isn’t just something I picked up from the childhood and I might be serious 🙂

And what do you do when you are not working on art?

I work as a graphic designer in a local digital media agency and my wife and our two year old son keep me very busy. After all that if I’ve extra time I go mountain biking or play basket ball.

7. Would you like to ask anything to John Baldessari? Shoot.

What made you choose your style? Sorry my english, I’m trying to ask that why you started to do that kind of art you do…