WHAT INTERESTS YOU IN HELSINKI?
There was never a specific reason of interest when I started this project, nor an intellectual decision. The series emerged in a natural way due to a chain of events, and I think this fact has given stability to the project over time.
I was living in London and came on vacation. I did some drawings and photographs without any purpose, because that’s what I usually do. I enjoyed that trip very much and I still keep in my memory how I first saw the city. I can’t remember when I decided to make more trips, but thinking back perhaps it was that first impression that made me continue, and also having seen the beauty of the city in wintertime.
What is significant is the difference between the drawings I did before I lived here and what I am doing now. Somehow, when I moved to Helsinki I was quite disoriented, because I used to see the city as a tourist and I couldn’t see it that way anymore, then I realised that I can only depict the city by describing my life here.
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE A SUBJECT TO DRAW?
Exactly the same way I would choose what photograph to take. I have a photographic eye and I can’t see things otherwise. Over the years I have worked so much with analogue photography that it has determined my way of seeing space, light and shadows, and there is no going back now. I would certainly draw differently if it were not for this fact.
YOU ARE FROM SPAIN – HOW DOES HELSINKI’S LANDSCAPE, ATMOSPHERE, STREETS, HOUSES, ETC. DIFFER FROM YOUR HOME REGION?
I come from La Coruña, in northwest Spain, and I find similarities in what it is to live near the sea, but apart from that, there is nothing similar. The essence of Helsinki, in addition to its culture and history, is very much conditioned by the specificities of the weather, the change of seasons, the hours of light and the winter nights. The effort to adapt to it changes the way I see things and therefore my own work.
ARE THERE ANY TYPICAL FEATURES OF OUR CITY? WHAT ARE THEY? WHAT FEATURES COME TO MIND FIRST?
On my first visits I lived in London and my attention was caught by the silence, the wide streets with few people, but especially the light, so oblique, bright and enveloping. When I wasn’t here, it was the light that I remembered most.
There is also its Art Nouveau architecture that in some way introduces a dreamy and fictional element when you walk the streets. And finally, my vision of Helsinki was shaped by all the movie scenes shot in the city that I have seen in Aki Kaurismäki films, many years before travelling here.
Esther Martínez Rey was born in La Coruña (Spain), in 1973. She studied Fine Arts at Salamanca University, specialising in Painting, with a scholarship at Kunsthochschule Berlin Weissensee. She have lived in Paris where she improved her knowledge of the printing press, and lately in London, where she attended drawing lessons at the Royal Drawing School and focused her artistic practice on portraits.
She is currently working on a series of drawings and photos of Helsinki.