Né le 20 octobre 1970, à Helsinki en Finlande, Ville Tietäväinen est d’abord illustrateur freelance et graphiste. Il publie sa première bande dessinée en 1995, Hymyilevä kuu Des oiseaux, des mers paraît en Finlande en 2003, sous le titre Linnut ja Meret, puis en France aux éditions Delcourt en 2005. Passionné par les phénomènes sociaux et la réalité politique de l’Europe, Ville Tietäväinen s’est documenté à la source pour écrire Les Mains invisibles, un album déjà paru avec succès en Finlande (où il a gagné le Prix Finlandia, le plus grand prix décerné par la Fondation finlandaise pour la culture) et en Allemagne (où il a été nominé pour le Prix Max und Moritz). Il a accepté de répondre aux questions d'Oncle Fumetti. Il nous parle de son travail et de la Bande Dessinée dans son pays...Dans la langue de Shakepeare.
Hi Ville. For this moment you are not enough known in France. What is your background ? You are an illustrator, graphic designer ... What else ?
Professionally I’m a graphic designer and illustrator, a visual storyteller, so to say. I actually graduated as an architect but story-wise, I needed to express myself more. Making graphic novels became a passionate hobby that every now and then takes up more of my time than the actual work. The thing that interests me in this art form is that one person can create the whole universe without any compromises and a huge funding.
What are the economic and cultural impacts of the comics in Finland? Is this a usual literary style in your country or is it a confidential activity?
Whereas in Central Europe comics and graphic novels are big business and one could say some sort of industry, in Finland it is a common preconception that especially graphic novels are art and that they are seldom for the masses (Invisible Hands was a surprising exception. It had extremely good reviews and four print runs). Since graphic novels usually don't have any sales expectations, they are made quite uncompromisingly. Compared to the small population, Finland has many truly original comics artists.
What sort of comics read the Finnish public ; US comics, mangas, European comics ? Is there a specific Finnish style ?
The most popular comics are newspaper strips, actually nowadays mainly Finnish ones. From the 50's the Donald Duck anti hero has been close to the Finnish hearts. In the 70's and 80's we had a lot of quality comics translated from France and Italy, but the amount of translations has diminished since. Many Finnish readers read foreign comics already in English, so it is no use translating them anymore. My Finnish publisher WSOY and some smaller publishing houses publish a few more alternative albums from central Europe and US per year.
How about the book "invisible hands" have you come, you who live so far from Spain ?
Actually the idea came to me in Paris. In 2001 I was near the old opera house, where there were lots of posh fashion stores. About 40 years old North-African looking man in a worn suit jacket was throwing sticky super hero figures, childrens’ toys, to the big store windows. He was shooed away by the shop keepers. Expressionless, he moved on to the next window and started throwing again. The character kept bothering me. I started imagining his life: how did he get to this point in his life. Where had he come to Paris and why, what hopes did he have when the jacket was new. Did he have a family back in the old country, was he in contact with his loved ones or was he too ashamed to be in contact with them anymore. I had many questions and no answers.
Why do you chosen this subject ?Is there a economic and illegal immigation in Finland ? Could you have created this book with action taking place in Finland ?
Nowadays the city I work in, Helsinki, has quite an international atmosphere. Around 12 percent of the population is from abroad. So we have all kinds of immigration and these kind of stories in a very small scale. The hidden or open racism is also abundant. So yes, I might have told this kind of story from Finland too. It is universal and unfortunately very timeless.
From what sources did you get your informations ? Have you turned into a journalist going there to investigate ?
I did not know anything of immigrant lives then, let alone undocumented immigrants lives. Only after five years I encountered an anthropological thesis that dealt with the same questions I had in mind. The motives and hopes of Moroccan undocumented immigrants. What made them to leave all and commit a life endangering journey to Europe. I contacted its' writer Marko Juntunen who was very helpful and soon agreed to be my guide and interpreter in Morocco and Spain. Without Marko this book would not exist.
We spent three weeks in Morocco 2005, mainly in a small coast city Larache. Marko had lived there for three years interviewing people and they were open to me too. After we got to Almeria, Spain, where one third of my story is situated, things went complicated. It was estimated that over 40 000 undocumented Moroccans worked there in greenhouse industry. They were very scared of speaking to us since every European to them was a potential threat of being deported back to where they came from. With Marko’s fluent Arabic we got their confidence. They took us to see how they lived in makeshift houses of the junk left from greenhouses. Next year we came back to see what has happened to the people we met. We found no one, just sad stories. One 300 people’s community that had been built inside an old greenhouse ruins had been burned and bulldozed one night, and the inhabitants had moved somewhere else or lived for example in a dried up sewer.
You had a price in Finland and also in Germany with this book. How is it received in France ?
In Germany I was only nominated for the Max und Moritz Prize, but the media coverage and praise has been great there too. In France the book has been mainly covered in various blogs yet, but the articles have been so overwhelmingly positive that I'm eagerly waiting for the response of the ”official” media too. Oh, the Arte channel made a nice insert about me and my work last summer.
How do you work? When and what are your tools ?
It depends on the story I'm making. I always come up with the style and technique after I know what the particular story needs. In Invisible Hands I used aquarell and oil pastels, for the two won't mix and create interesting grainy texture. The technique also had symbolic value, if one thinks for example Africa as oil and Europe as water.
What do you read and what artists were you influenced by ?
I read mainly novels. Much more than graphic novels. I like to imagine things in my head and not be lured by interesting pictures. Therefore I don't really have influences that I'm aware of in the comics scene. I actually want to deliberately avoid them and any unintended mimicking of other artists.
What are your future projects ?
After Invisible Hands I did something completely different: My daughter Aino had powerful nightmares especially when she was 3 to 6 years old. I tried to console her by asking her to tell about the bad dreams as soon as she could. I thought that it would help her to calm down and deal with the dreams. After three years I noticed that we have written material for the whole book. Aino just has to draw them as she remembered them. Then I used her drawings to fill the gaps so that we could have as understandable stories as one can get from dreams. In addition to make a picture book together with a 6 years old child, the most fascinating thing for me was to realize what horrors there are in the collective subconsciousness, in a child's mind, that is totally immaculate of what adults think of as scary or agonizing. Here's some notes about the book in English http://www.booksfromfinland.fi/2013/11/tales-of-the-night/
After that I have been illustrating and designing a modern fairytale series Tales of the Trees. I have graphic novel ambitions too, but they have to wait until next year.
Thank you very much Ville for your time and your interesting answers. Congratulations for your works. Hope we read very soon some graphic novels from You.