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Featured Artist Interview - Mira Nameth

Mira Nameth's name conjures up thoughts of beautiful melancholic figures embedded in enchanting florals. They are, of course, her own creation. Where imagination breaches reality, Mira's fantasy elements lead our emotions awry with each tantalising swirl and every haunting glance.

Mira's art extends beyond race, culture or geography. Reaching out from her garden of imagination, this Swedish-American illustrator casts a spell on TAXI as we venture out into her charming playgrounds.

TAXI>>Growing up with such an artistic family (involved in painting, writing and film-making), would you say that it was inevitable that you would pursue a career in the creative field? Share with us your initial pursuits.

Mira>>I want to say no, but actually, it probably was inevitable. When trying to do anything else, it just felt weird. And to really prove the same point, my sister experienced the same thing.

I studied a couple of years at 'proper' universities in Sweden - sociology, psychology, and literature. There, I also got involved in student magazines, which was a great learning experience, doing illustrations, covers, posters and layouts - it was like a playground (although we all took it quite seriously). I started studying design and illustration at Forsbergs in Sweden, and later Hyper Island, while in the summers working at a magazine and an ad agency.

TAXI>>Your clients have ranged from Coca-Cola to Ikea to Clinique. What is your process like, in translating & infusing their brand with your personal style?

Mira>>The main point when 'translating and infusing' is to create something that uniquely expresses me as well as the brand or the idea.

I'll use Coke as an example - it really was a perfect situation, as it was a very open brief. (To create something - anything - emerging from the bottle, or playing with the bottle in some sense. The important thing was that the added element communicated the Coke Side of Life.) While it's very easy to explain the craft by which the illustration is created, it's of course harder to explain where ideas come from. The bird illustration, which is probably my favorite, had to do with personal evolution, and a sense of freedom. Evolving into freedom, so to speak.

TAXI>>Your website describes your art as "mixing strong contrasts with softer shapes, figurative imagery with abstract organic forms". You are also influenced by Asian art and indeed, your style hints at elegant Japanese wall paintings of yore. What do you identify most with your various influences and how do you see it evolving with you in your future illustrations?

Mira>>Nature. It is said of Swedes that they have a strong relationship with nature, and I have spent every summer of my life at the Swedish countryside, always close to forests. I think that comes through.

I call it florafauna sometimes, the combination of plants and animal elements. it's hard to say how it will develop in the future, but right now, my work is somewhat less figurative.

TAXI>>Your human subjects typically feature lovely, almost melancholic females or beautiful flowers (one of which grew a bird's feathered wing as a leaf). Why do you choose these subjects?

Mira>>I recently met with my agents, and they said that the women in my drawings look like me, and also pointed out that their other illustrators do exactly the same thing. While they are definitely not conscious self-portraits, I think it is inevitable that they in some way end up expressing what I was feeling at the time.

While I wouldn't describe myself as constantly melancholy, there can be a streak of that, and, like most people, there have been periods more filled with melancholy, and some without. There is one that looks a bit annoyed, and I recall being a bit annoyed when I was making it. While I prefer to see art more as craft and ideas, and less as personal therapy, some traces of the state of mind probably always 'slip through'.

TAXI>>In viewing your works, your characters have evolved, from melancholic ladies to babies (one of which was a poster of a baby for Warchild), to toddlers in flower fields. Share with us a little about this transition in your characters.
Mira>>It is actually not a backwards evolution - I created the vector work a long time ago, and most of the hand-drawn work is newer. The toddler is Katie, the character in a children's story, and there is something in the patterns and backgrounds of the story that relates to my hand drawn work.

I think it was more a transition of style, rather than characters - or maybe the change of style led to another type of character. I still like both styles, and there are definitely connections between the two, but right now, I am preferring drawing by hand.

TAXI>>You work with simple, loose lines that merge with complex elements. The end product is still an imaginative scene that feels "light". You also have a series of illustrations that reflects solid, bold colours. Why did you take these two separate approaches and what were they a reflection of?

Mira>>The simple answer is that I don't find them that different. I like both light, minimal, yet visually interesting drawings, as well as more dense scenes. Sometimes it's about taking a simpler element out of a more complex scene, and looking at what is interesting with that particular element.

TAXI>>How do you feel about the design scene in Sweden, and how has your environment influenced you thus far?

Mira>>Design, as well as ideas, that come out of Sweden are generally very interesting. I like that they both like tackling real problems in a pragmatic way, but also unreal problems in a witty way. As mentioned before, nature plays a big part in my work, and Swedish nature in particular. Being in a very design-oriented environment (not only my family's home) probably played a big part as well, but in a more indefinable way.

TAXI>>To put it simply, I would imagine an artist's keyword (intention) before embarking on a project would be "expression". Today's times are changing rapidly and one feels life and art is moving rapidly with it. What keywords come to mind for you before embarking on a project?

Mira>>My main aim is to keep it imaginative, authentic and distinctive.

TAXI>>I'm sure everyone would love to see your current working space. How about showing it to us?

TAXI>> Okay, before we end, where would you like a TAXI to take you to now?

Mira>>To David Lynch's red room (in Twin Peaks), and then come pick me up again, when it gets too creepy.

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