Andreja Brulc's Blog

Beletrina ’36 Top’ Book Covers / 2007–2011

Posted in Books by andrejabrulc on 06/10/2013

A selection of ’36 top’ book covers made in March 2012 for my ‘artist-in-residence’ application in Oaxaca, Mexico. The book covers were produced during my first five years of the Beletrina contract (2007–2011). My statement for this selection made in the application is below.

1 part_2007-2011 2 part_2007-2011

Statement

The largest body of work I have produced, often involving crafts in the context of contemporary art and design, consists of designs and illustrations for book covers for Beletrina, a major literary imprint of the Slovene publisher Beletrina Academic Press.

In Nov 2006, having just finished my professional studies at the London University of the Arts, I won a public competition in Slovenia to become principal cover designer and illustrator for the imprint, and after nearly six years in this role I will have created from my London home around 200 book covers. The publisher, subsidised by public and private funds, has gained its reputation primarily by introducing prominent works of contemporary national and world literature to Slovene readers, including Mexican authors such as Octavio Paz and Sergio Pitol. The publisher’s goal is to set standards for a new publishing philosophy which, in addition to focusing on non commercial titles and giving priority to inventiveness, freshness and directness, respects authors and invests a considerable effort in the promotion of their work. Their philosophy and my close-knit relationship with the publisher has helped me to develop a highly individual and recognisable style and branding for the imprint over the last nearly six years.

The branding is defined by a central stripe of a single colour with separate but unified design elements above and below. The artwork encompasses the entire jacket. The whole collection is uniform in style, but at the same time each book is visually distinct as each requires a different response in method and technique depending on the content of the book – I am a passionate reader, so all the books are read before I get to visual thinking in the sketchbook, creating artwork and finalising the book for print!

Designs involve mixed media including photography, drawing and silhouette, montage and collage (cut and paste techniques), the use of typography, organic and man-made textures and patterns, textile, threads and so on. The illustrations in particular often use traditional craft techniques such as hand printing, stitching and patchwork, embroidery, knitting and crocheting, and industrial materials such as sandpaper and scrim tape. I also apply traditional techniques to unusual materials and use new techniques with traditional materials. I experiment with different possibilities in which images are juxtaposed in a tense relationship to one another and blended together through mixed media, thus creating different realities and perceptions through the interplay of natural forms, narrations and emotions. The choice of using the traditional crafts as a subversive technique is primarily in order to respond to the content of the book but at the same time to explore and challenge certain traditional ideas ad taboos, expressed in that content, that are deeply rooted in our society, such as cultural, political, social and geographical situations.

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MEXICO Project: Typographic Mexican cuisine

Posted in Craft, MEXICO by andrejabrulc on 16/01/2013

This typographic stitching artwork titled Espagueti con chile poblano was inspired by one of my favourite dishes I had in Mexico. It comes from Angela’s kitchen at Arquetopia. The dish is called Spaghetti with creamy roasted chile poblano sauce (Espagueti con Salsa Cremosa de Chiles Poblano). Her recipe can be found below. Provecho!

Andreja Brulc_Espagueti con chile poblano

Ingredients
1 pack of spaghetti (250g per 2 servings if a main dish)
4 medium size fresh green chile poblano, without skin and seeded, roasted (picture below with 3 poblanos only)DSC_0258
1 tablespoon of vegetable or olive oil
1 Philadelphia cheese
1/2 cup of milk
3/4 cup of thick (double) cream
1 large onion, finely chopped after cooked with spaghetti
1 large garlic clove or 2 small ones
butter for onions
other herbs and spices to taste (pepper, salt)

Notes
– In Mexico, this dish is traditionally made with spaghetti, but other pasta can be used instead.
– The dish can be served with a grilled chicken breast and salad. In this case, the above ingredients are sufficient for 4 servings.
– Some recipes used chicken stock, while Angela’s recipe uses only salt to taste, added at the end.
– Instead of an ordinary thick cream (double) you can also use sour cream or cream cheese.


Instructions

1. Add spaghetti to a boiling water containing salt, onion and oil. When soft, remove from heat. Drain and set aside until the sauce is ready.
2. Roast the cleaned chillies in a flat pan (comal), so that the shell can be removed when rinsed in water. Remove the seeds. Alternatively, instead of roasting the chillies in the flat pan, place the cleaned peppers directly onto the flame of the burner on the cooker. Then let the skin char slightly making sure you turn them to have an evenly roasted skin. Then place the roasted pobalnos into a plastic bag or cover with a kitchen towel and let them sweat with their steam for about 15 minutes to loosen up their skin. Using a knife or your finger, remove the core of the pepper with the seeds and the veins. Clean under running water or with a paper towel.
3. Prepare the sauce by mixing the roasted chillies with milk, cream and Philadelphia cheese and blend until smooth.
4. Separately, fry the onion and garlic in butter in a larger sauce pan, and when gold, add the sauce to the pan.
5.Thicken the whole mixture by slowly simmering it for 10 minutes (low heat). Stir frequently.
6. Add the spaghetti to the thicken paste and salt to taste.
7. Served in a dish with cream if left over.

Illustration: On the Swing / Book Cover / Italo Calvino

Posted in Books, Craft, Illustrations by andrejabrulc on 20/09/2010

IC_Baron na drevesu_Jacket_FrameThis stitched embroidery, titled as On the Swing (2010), is a part of a larger illustration made for book The Baron in the Trees (Il barone rampante) written by the Italian author Italo Calvino. The author creates a fantasy world immersed in history, philosophy and politics at the time of Voltaire. Described as conte philosophique and a metaphor for independence, the book tells us the adventures of a boy called Cosimo who, as next in line for the title of Baron, resists the authority of his parents when 12 years old – he refuses to eat a dinner of snails prepared by his sadistic sister Batista and rejects his comfortable aristocratic childhood by climbing up a tree adjacent to the dining room. He spends the rest of his life inhabitating an arboreal kingdom. The story is narrated by his younger brother Biagio. Set in Liguria near the French Riviera, the two brothers belong to the 18th century nobility, whose family estate is located in the vast forest landscape of Ombrosa. Cosimo discovers that the more he distances himself from others in order to see them from a new point of view, the more he is able to help the society. His love for a young woman named Viola, the daughter of the Marquis next door, in feud with the Cosimo’s family, changes the course of the lives of everyone: Cosimo, Viola, Biagio, and the community of Ombrosa.

The cover illustration – which combines mixed media by collaging photography, distressed paper and historical textures, print-making and outlined stitching – reflects the direct meaning of the book and its setting. It depicts the most memorable scene in which Viola, while sitting on her swing holding an apple, is taken by surprise at her first vision of the sudden appearance of Cosimo on the tree. She drops the apple and her shoe. The swing is set near the wall that physically divides the two estates, here reinforced by the stripe across the cover, and surrounded by the white magnolia, mulberry and oak trees. The scene is further set against the silhouette of the veduta of Ombrosa. The use of the two 18-century paintings by Watteau and Fragonard as a source for outlining the characters’ sihouettes using the traditional craft of stitching has two purposes: on the one hand, it is intended to reinforce the historical setting through the traditional forms (the tradition of the nobility), while, on the other hand, by subverting the painting’s context through the use of stitching and placing it into a different context, the idea of creating a new meaning is evoked showing the ‘new’ world (rebellious child breaking from the tradition).Marquisa on the Swing

Illustration: Love is in the Air / Book Cover / Jani Virk

Posted in Books, Craft, Illustrations by andrejabrulc on 15/10/2009

Small Format 217x516_TypeThis illustration, titled as Love is in the Air (2009), directly responds to the title of the book Ljubezen v zraku written by the Slovene author Jani Virk. The author addresses the complexity of human behaviour in a constant search for true love. The main protagonist is a divorced middle-aged man: a single parent, a music teacher, a fan of the music band Santana and of the writer the Márquis de Sade, a prisoner of his own personal ‘disorders’ and dualities. On the other hand, his daughter Ula is to him the only light in his life. His attempts in searching for the fulfilment of love are shown to us as countless incidents of his staggering from one relationship to the other. At the end we even find him in Mexico, in Tequila (as seen in the stitched agave plant at the back), but all these attempts appear to be in vain, uncertain and elusive.

The illustration is therefore playing on the traditional air-borne fertility symbols of “birds and bees”. The methods of traditional crafts, such as stitching and patchwork, digitally photomontaged, are thus used as subversive techniques to address the taboo issues in the theme of sexual reproduction.Birds and Bees

Illustration: The Pig / Book Cover / Lucija Stepančič

Posted in Books, Craft, Illustrations by andrejabrulc on 01/07/2009

LS_Prasec pa tak_Jacket.qxdThis illustration, titled as The Pig (2008), was made for the collection of five short love stories Prasec pa tak written by the Slovene writer Lucija Stepančič. The author dissects the modern human psyche in a tragicomic way and evokes the power of emotion already forgotten. The illustration reflects the title – the word ‘prasec’ (a male pig, a term used in Slovene in much the same way as the English word ‘bastard’) is an insulting word from the female perspective to describe the “macho” type in an oppressive, male-female relationship. Though the illustration presents us a very kind and likable piglet, it is used to manipulate the viewer through the image into exploring the possibility of art to comment on the language in a particular socio-cultural and geographic context.

The artwork for this cover focuses on one of the stories in which a Slovene woman accidently overhears a conversation in her own language on the street of Venice from the open window of her hotel room. A male stranger lies to a male cousin of his divorced wife, whom he has just met by chance. The complexity of contemporary male-female relationships in our society, in which the criteria for moral values are often blurred or even questioned and above all require the need for re-evaluation, is expressed through the use of the traditional technique of stitched embroidery. The embroidery of the pig is set in a strong contrast with the photo below. Normality becomes absurd, absurd normality.

Pig

Illustration: Simona / Book Cover / Michel Houellebecq

Posted in Books, Craft, Illustrations by andrejabrulc on 01/05/2009

Print Layout 1This embroidery, titled as Simona (2007), is a part of the illustration made for the book The Possibility of an Island by the controversial French author Michel Houellebecq. The illustration closely reflects the narrative of the book, which centres on a cloning cult, preoccupied with a genetic modification and ever-lasting human love without pain and emotion, with a strong belief that the human race can be saved from aging, physical and psychological suffering and dying, through the creation of a new and better one. The main protagonist, Daniel, is a successful misanthrope stand-up comedian, whose “success”, built on politically incorrect jokes about racism, paedophilia and torture, is measured with a luxury villa in Spain and a full bank account. He lives in a hysterical society of unlimited sexual freedom, where there is no space for the ugly, the poor and the weak, or for the old and the dying. He is bored of his hedonist lifestyle but he cannot escape from it. After his two unsuccessful love affairs – with one woman, who does not like sex, and with the other, who does not like love – he seemingly finds immortal earthly pleasures in the sect that believes in advanced extra-terrestrials. Simona

The illustration focuses on the story, told through Daniel (No. 1), a dog and a woman, which is interwoven with commentaries from two clones, Nos. 24 and 25, two thousand years from now. The two clones live in a time – identified by unemotional background (sandpaper) – when the human species is struggling to survive in the face of climate change and nuclear war. Advanced technology and biological science is counterposed by the use of traditional materials and techniques – silhouetting, stitching and sandpaper. The three Daniels are identified by typographical numbers, while the silhouetting of the clones as seemingly identical male figures was to emphasis the genetic modification – the effect achieved by spraying the template of a figure on the sandpaper and then replicating it digitally. I intended to make them seemingly the same and visually receding from the foreground into the distance as if progressing through time and space.

Spraying the figure on the abrasive surface of the sandpaper, the material used in decorative crafts such as for smoothing the wood, was to reinforce a paradox: future genetic modification of human cell, which, on the one hand, is still very much controversial on moral grounds, while, on the other hand, it is a result of the inevitable technological advancement pushing its boundaries and in particular showing a global competition in science between the dominant countries of the developed world. Another tension is demonstrated by the traditional stitching used to outline the fragility of the female in the social order of the book, thus making her more human than her male counterpart, juxtaposed by the image of the dog. In the novel one feels that love between the woman and the man is equated with human love for the pet, shown here by the use of photography as only the dog seems to be real, perhaps a symbol of true love.

Print Layout 1

Illustration: Neighbours / Book Cover / Pascal Bruckner

Posted in Books, Craft, Illustrations by andrejabrulc on 01/04/2009

Print Layout 1This illustration, titled as Neighbours (2007), was made for the book L’amour du Prochain (Love of Neighbour) written by the French author Pascal Bruckner. It shows a response to the novel, which talks about the disillusioned generation of ex-students of 1968, who under the slogan ‘Let’s be Realists, Let’s Demand the Impossible’ attempted to change the foundations of capitalism of the western society but failed. Today, the ex-rebels from the barricades of Sorbonne are very successful businessmen, directors of global co-operations, important politicians and diplomats, all of them the most eminent representatives of the very same state apparatus against which they fought 40 years ago.

The illustration shows the moment in which the main protagonist, Sebastian finds himself with two housewives in a rented flat, with the view of Paris and butterflies flying in through the open French door. Sebastian realises at his 30th birthday party that his success can make him a prisoner of his own self, if he remains a conformist to traditional moral values. So, he decides to substitute his economic success and monotonous family life to become a male prostitute, who, with a religious fervour, enlivens the life of bored and sexually deprived housewives. What begins in happiness transforms gradually into a nightmare. Bruckner depicts a dangerous current of decaying bourgeois society: a desire to break away from everyday routine and a belief that one can make a normal life outside tradition, ignoring taboos.

The use of handicrafts as a subversive technique in this piece highlights the double life – and the reversed role in sexual behaviour – of the main character through the use of the technique and materials (stitched embroidery and lace) signifying the transformation of moral values from tradition to transgression. In our popular imagination prostitution is more commonly associated with women. The prostitution of heterosexual men is, on the other hand, rather “hidden” in our society but, in contrast to any other form of prostitution, it has to some extent been glorified in literature and movies, as described by the French euphemistic term “gigolo“, as handsome type, who escorts rich and unattractive widows, such as Richard Gere’s character in American Gigolo (1980).

Promiscuity in sexual behaviour is still part of a taboo in more traditional, if not even in progressive, cultures. By exposing in the illustration the most essential parts of the body as fetish – covered in lace and textile – I intended to emphasise the most common stereotypical, or even “macho”, perception of parts of the body associated with sexuality. At the same time by making facial parts ambiguous and thus stripping the individuality from each character, the illustration further raises a concerned issue that such relationships, as depicted in the novel, can still be a traumatic individual experience.

Neighbours

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