“There’s so much poetry around us” – an interview with the artist Moki

Copyright: MokiCopyright: MokiMoki concentrates first and foremost on painting. She published her first book, Asleep in a foreign place, in 2006, and her second book, How to disappear, in 2010. But Moki also illustrates comics, which appear in international anthologies such as the Orang magazine. In this interview she talks about her working methods, looking for motives and her relationship with picture stories.

You work in many disciplines and formats, you do spatial art installations, textile sculptures, drawings, pictures and photographs. How do you decide which medium is appropriate?

I think it depends on what I want to express. I wish I could do more spatial work – I really enjoy doing installations and sculptures because I can feel it with my whole body. If I want to tell a story, written format or a picture story is more suitable of course. If it’s a matter of a feeling or a mood, it’s more appropriate to choose painting.

Do you conduct intensive nature studies for your pictures?

Yes, urban scenes are rarely found in my work. I’m always collecting pictures: clippings from newspapers or magazines, pictures from the internet or photos I’ve taken myself. I’m observant when it comes to little things. If I go for a walk I could stop everywhere to watch a beetle or look at the structure of a stone. There’s so much poetry around us.

What do your landscapes represent – do they symbolise something or just not?

I mostly decide intuitively what I want to paint. It’s often interesting to hear the interpretations given by people who have seen the pictures. I usually only realise myself what might be concerning or affecting me in retrospect. Kurzgeschichte 'doppelpunkt' 2007 - Acryl auf Papier DIN A3, Copyright: Moki

What’s the function of the people who can be seen in your landscapes?

I usually paint people from my circle of friends. I try to integrate them and their clothing with regard to the colour scheme of the picture. The people in my pictures function as a mental door: in contrast to landscapes without living beings they make identification with the picture easier for the observer. However I like the empty landscapes better because I can move around in them more freely in an artistic sense.

Many of your works contain references to Japan or Asiatic landscapes, what do they mean?

There are so many breathtakingly beautiful landscapes. In China there’s a mountain range called Huang Shan (Yellow Mountain), that has made a great impression on me. Many people find elements from Scandinavian countries in my pictures. But in principle I incorporate fragments from all parts of the world. As a person characterised by Western ideas I perceive the Oriental philosophy to be extremely enriching. I love books and films from Japan or China that don’t contain “black-and-white painting”; films by Hayao Miyazaki, in which characters are good and evil at the same time depending on the perspective of the viewer, they seem like a quantum leap in comparison with the familiar Disney patterns or Harry Potter.

How do you feel about comics, do you read any yourself?

I’m probably more of an outsider in the comic scene because I didn’t grow up with comics. My elder brother Thomas wanted to become a comic illustrator, and sometimes I sat in his bedroom and read his comics. I’m very choosy when it comes to comics. I like the Moomins by Tove Jansson, the stories and drawings by Genevieve Elverum, Gipi, Marijpol, Amanda Vähämäki and Martina Lenzin. It’s very inspiring working with the artists from the Orang magazine or Spring. It was Haina and Marcus Schäfer who brought me into contact with comics.

It seems to me that you want to tell stories more than anything else; whether that’s actually in comics such as the many times in “Orang”, or even in your pictures, which are often highly charged with tension. You can guess at a story in them, however it remains up to the observer to think it up for themselves.

Yes, precisely. In contrast with pictures, if you want to tell a story you have to know in advance exactly what happens. I’m working on incorporating more lightness into the abstract concepts, even if that’s often much easier to do successfully on a visual level.

Moki, born in Brilon in 1982, has been living and working in Hamburg since 2001. She has been a master student there at the Academy of Fine Arts since 2009, she completed her Diploma in Free Art in 2007.
Jutta Harms conducted the interview.
She is a PR agent, editor and translator of comics. She is based in Berlin and works with publishers such as Reprodukt, Edition Moderne and Avant-Verlag.
Related links