DUCAT PRIZE 2020
Finland’s oldest art prize was awarded in 2020 to Inma Herrera, a visual artist who expands the concept of graphic art. Herrera turns graphic art into experiential installation art, where material and philosophical dimensions find multimedial manifestations. A graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts at the University of the Arts Helsinki, the Madrid native has found a peaceful working environment in Finland that has helped the artist to tread a distinct path.
Inma Herrera: Aeris Kintsugi, 2019. Photo: Inma Herrera.
Where does your passion for making art come from?
Inma: Well, that’s a good question. Making art is a need that I have. For me it’s the best way I have to communicate with the outside world but also to understand it. In my early years of artistic training, I realised how strong my need to create was. However I didn’t really understand what making was going to be about. Creating helps me to connect with another dimension in which I explore unknown fields. I am able to analyse, deconstruct, and feel what otherwise would remain invisible to me.
How did you end up practising printmaking?
Inma: At the beginning of my career, I assumed that one would have to be extremely patient and gifted to get along in printmaking. One of my main concerns was that it would end up getting on my nerves because of how slow it is, and that I would struggle to acquire the arduous technical skills. In spite of this preconception, I decided to try and then I realised how mistaken I had been. I still remember how magical the moment was when I looked at my first print coming out of the press. Working with this medium involves knowing the procedures, the steps and the proper timing to be able to use it artistically. Over years of training, I have realised how those processes, which are obviously time-consuming, shaped my way of thinking and gave me space to elaborate my ideas. That time and space have become my best allies to make me understand better what is going to be the final outcome. Maybe that’s why I feel so close to this medium. I’m also interested in the physicality related to traditional print techniques.
"Creating helps me to connect with another dimension in which I explore unknown fields." -Inma Herrera
Are there some specific people that have helped you build your own path in art?
Inma: There have been many people both in Spain and Finland and I am truly grateful for their contribution to the growth of my career. Among all, I would like to mention my partner, Felipe de Ávila, an artist I admire and whose intellectual support has been very meaningful to me. Working as a visual artist involves the exposure of the most vulnerable parts of your being and the work becomes so personal and important that when the time to exhibit your work comes, you really feel exposed and that is often overwhelming and therefore the support of your peers becomes relevant. I remember before moving to Finland I was struggling to find my own language. I believe it was then I started to understand that one should find one’s own path. There is neither a rule nor a single recipe that can work for everybody. You can observe your fellow artists and assume that you have to follow the same steps, because those might seem to lead to success. But I have preferred to free myself of the fear of making mistakes and so I explore unknown territories. I guess I moved to Finland because something was telling me that I had the need of having time for myself. Here, I somehow found that peace. I found the silence I needed to create and explore.
Inma Herrera: Vestigium of a Human Imprint, 2019. Photo: Inma Herrera.
"I guess I moved to Finland because something was telling me that I had the need of having time for myself. Here, I somehow found that peace." -Inma Herrera
You seem to have an interesting way of engaging with philosophical matters and concepts in your art. Could you tell a bit more about that?
Inma: I incorporate into my works approaches that come from psychology and phenomenology. Authors such as Erich Fromm, Carl G. Jung, Alexander Lowen, Maurice Merleau-Ponty or Mark Paterson, among others, guide me on this path. In my research, I relate the traditional and handcrafted image-making techniques and the understanding of human perception through social sciences and philosophy.
Do you ponder philosophical issues a lot in your everyday life? Is it your way of being?
Inma: No, I would not say that it is my way of being. I think it is vital to my life. I believe philosophy brings light to our understanding of the world and our mission in the universe. I have always been interested in abstract fields of thinking. But I would not focus only on philosophy since, as I said before, other fields such as psychology or spirituality are also significant to me and therefore you can find them in my work.
"Something that is crucial to me is to create meaningful experiences, therefore what happens in the space is so significant to me." -Inma Herrera
Inma Herrera: Res-Extensa, 2019. Flow, 2017. Photo: Inma Herrera.
Is the selection of materials intuitive to you?
Inma: The materials I use primarily belong to the language of printmaking. I would say that it is the way I approach them that I can define as intuitive. This opens a huge universe for exploration as chance and error can become interesting allies in the process.
When you are processing your work, who do you communicate with?
Inma: I believe I want to communicate with other people, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing art. Something that is crucial to me is to create meaningful experiences, therefore what happens in the space is so significant to me. That is why my practise has increasingly turned into sculptures and installations. I try to dedicate special attention to the exhibition space, in order to leave my own imprint, so I can share with the audience my reflections through art.
What has art made you realise or taught you?
Inma: I think that art brings us light and hope. It takes us out of our daily routines. The capacity that art has is to bring us to the present moment – and at the same time it makes us transcend ordinary perceptions. What I’ve realised during my processes of making is that there’s a long path to really understanding and embodying the concepts and ideas you want to talk about through your work.
"I see this prize as a placement of trust in the research I do." -Inma Herrera
How will you remember the special year 2020?
Inma: It has been a fruitful year professionally. I have started collaborating with an important Spanish gallery in preparation of my first solo show. This project has been very relevant for me since It has been a long time since I went abroad and I truly desired to establish professional bonds with the artistic community in Spain. This had its starting point in a nine-month residency grant I received in 2017 in the prestigious Spanish Academy in Rome, an old institution dedicated to the promotion of Spanish creators from a varied spectrum of disciplines. With this new collaboration I am strengthening the presentation of my work in my country. While the beginning of the pandemic seemed to stop all movements, I had the privilege of being part of Kone Foundation’s Home Residency programme which allowed me to concentrate on my work despite all the worries the pandemic brought to our world. And last but not least, I would say the most important thing this year brought me this amazing award for which I am really grateful. I see this prize as a placement of trust in the research I do.
Inma Herrera: Manus Plenas, 2018. Photo: Inma Herrera.
What kind of projects are you working on at the moment?
Inma: I just opened my first solo show ‘That space outside my body’ at F2 Gallery in Madrid which gathers a selection of works on copper, prints, video and sculptures made during my stay in Rome at the Academy and later in Finland. This January I fled to the Spanish island of Mallorca to work on a project with the artist Shirin Salehi. This work was awarded the Pilar Juncosa and Sotheyby’s biennial prize for Artistic Creation by the Pilar and Joan Miró Foundation in 2019. We are now preparing a big exhibition on the ritualisation of the processes in printmaking and sculpture through an installation. The exhibition's opening is still to be confirmed due to the pandemic-related restrictions. And finally, next May I will participate in an exhibition with my dear colleagues, the artists Suvi Sysi and Roma Auskalnyte at Forum Box in Helsinki. You are all invited! •
Text: Katri Salmenoja and Inma Herrera
Translation from English to Finnish: Simo Vassinen