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Noemi Manser was born in Basel, Switzerland but spent the early years of her childhood in New Zealand. At the age of 15 Noemi found herself back in Switzerland where she was quickly discovered as a model. While modeling she began to develop herself as an artist. Over the years, she has developed remarkably as an autodidact embracing the freedom to grow as an individual. She began to focus more on her art which would soon after be exhibited in Zurich. With the use of mixed media, her work ranges from pin up posters to drawings and paintings. We were able to talk with Noemi, learn a bit about her childhood, her modeling career, and her goals in life.

When were you born?

20th of October, 1987

Where were you born?

Basel, Switzerland

Tell us a little bit about Basel.

Basel is in the German part of Switzerland. It’s next to France and Germany. We have many international people, it’s a city full of culture and art. Basel has great museums and events like Art Basel is taken place there too. It’s a very laid back city, interesting people and a beautiful river, Rhein, connects the two parts of the city, little basel and big basel.

When I was 3 months we moved to New Zealand- and with the age of 4 years old we moved back to Switzerland – to smaller villages- my family moved around a lot.

What does your family do for work?

My mom is an art therapist. And my dad works in the import/export business and is also a passionate photographer. He documented our whole childhood on photos and videos, fun to watch after so many years.

Where have you been living recently?

I just moved to the US last year. I am living between New York and Zurich

When did you start creating art? How did it develop to where it is now?

I loved to paint and create as a child already.

After highschool, I took art class for one year to learn the basics. After that I developed as an autodidact.

However my sister motivated me with saying “just paint 30 paintings and we’ll do an exhibition” and then I just got really ambitious and it just flowed… I painted over 100 paintings and drawings, but still never really felt like I was ready to exhibit. But it became my passion more and more. Also I couldn’t think of any other job that would fulfill me as much as painting and playing with colors.

You’re currently working as a model- how do you like it and what do you like about modeling?

I enjoy it a lot, I get to work with great people and feel very supported from my agencies. I get to travel to wonderful places and meet interesting people. I started to work with photographer to do art collaborations, so I can paint on the photograph, which opens up new dimension for me in art and as well in the model industry… it goes hand in hand, so I feel very lucky to do both, modeling and art. I am fascinated by face expressions or just the simplicity of no expressions. And every photographer captures something different. And this I love, the art of catching an expression, anykind of emotions, the vulnerability, strength, even catching thoughts, or just emptiness, with or without make up, nude or with clothes. So its very interesting to me, also observing all the people on set, how they create their work and built something amazing together. Then in the end you have the photo and you know exactly how it has been created… I love this process… its precious to see how dedicated and passionate some people are that I can work with, and this I really appreciate, to work with passionate people, doesn’t matter what they do, but just to see how they love what they do is just beautiful…

If you could collaborate with any artist who?

Alejandro Jodorowsky, he’s an amazing director of surrealistic movies (the holy mountain, el topo)

Also very inspiring artist to me are Frida Kahlo, Patti Smith and Marina Abramovic.

What do you like to do for inspiration? What inspires you?

What inspires me is being in nature, traveling, Music, people,. When I have a neutral surrounding then the ideas mostly pop in. also during conversations images come… but mostly it’s the subconscious that brings me the inspiration… when I tune in there, there is always something in the magicbox.

And what music is currently inspiring you?

Patti Smith, Joseph Arthur, the Black Angels, Allah-Las, Talking Heads, Dead can Dance, the Police, Fat Freddys drop… . I like various music genres, of course it always depend on my mood too. When I paint I love to listen to indian sitar music.

I understand that all of your art has a story and a meaning. Can you run us through the pieces you’ve used for our collaboration? Let’s start with the series of three Black & White pieces called Awakening, Liberaton, and Balance.

Where were you in your life and what is the message and meaning behind them?

I started the “awakeing” drawing when I was in Ibiza… I continued that style in New York a couple months after. I drew the “ liberation” and then the “balance”

They all have many symbols which can be interpreted in different ways. I was just moving to nyc and had the feeling I needed to awaken within and liberate myself from believe patterns. It was a very intense time, a new chapter started in my life and a lot was happening the same time. so in this whole rollercoaster ride I wanted to be able to enjoy it, so I seeked for balance… so that’s my story behind the drawings… but everyone sees something else in them I guess..

Can you tell us a little bit about “Remember Yourself”?

Remember yourself- I gave that painting as a present to my cousin. Her name is Mahara. I told her about the shirt and the name I gave the painting. And she said “ you know what my name means right?” And I didn’t. She said her name means “remember” in the language of Maori. So then it was clear to me I chose the right name for it… in the painting you can discover symbols of New Zealand and things that my cousin loves and what makes her special…

And also about “Polarities”:

Polarity is a watercolor face painting. One eye is open and the other is completely in the dark.. it includes the while meaning of the series. to seek for equilibrium, to get away from self judgement. Not to judge things as good or bad, but more to see more the bigger picture. I believe there doesn`t exist one without the other. Trying to stay in balance and go with the ride with all the ups and downs…

If you could create something for a long time- is it art/clothes and what would it ideally be?

Probably a mix of both like the collab I did with OBEY. Combine art with fashion and collaborate with anykind of people in different parts of the world.

It was my first time I worked with a big brand and its very precious to me to have this experience and learn from very inspiring people…

I love to paint in solitude sometimes, its very healing, but its also very fulfilling too to work and connect with people and create something amazing together. So I think in future I want to continue with what I am doing right now, collaborating and create something together with other creators… things are happening organically.

Do you have any outstanding personal goals or anything you hope to achieve in your life?

I just want to wake up every morning with a smile and a loving heart with a feeling of ease and joy. I don’t expect from life that I’ll be in a constant state of happiness – the ups and downs make life interesting. But waking with a feeling of ease is a good way to start the day and to deal with all the challenges. What really helps is to do conscious breathing exercises and listening to Bob Marley and sing in the shower.

Shop Noemi’s Artist Series here now

Interview // Erin Wignall Han

Imagery // Noemi Manser