Without lessening the part played by the word, believed by Biblical chronicles to be the first of all things, let us not forget how lavishly the visual fuels the mind. Clear as it has been for centuries that images give world’s true ideological colours, it comes as no wonder that, at times, they are the ones to show where the wild things are.
Ukraine-born artist Sveta Dorosheva has been dedicated to creating some of the most beautiful book illustrations I have ever laid eyes on. After working in the advertising industry as well as a copywriter, the artist now lives in Israel with her family and works on various projects. However, her love story with art goes a long way back. Had it not been for her poor health as a child, a state requiring intense and ongoing entertainment, she would have never discovered the long-lasting passion for mythology and folklore. Et voila!, this is how the mind fashions imaginary solutions to real problems; after all, not all kingdoms have stone walls. Her passion expanded, from a little girl’s dormitory to the whole wide world, and now she sees a fairytale potential in things of all sorts. In the modern narrative par excellence, the Hollywood blockbuster, Dorosheva sees a classic fairytale structure since, let’s face it, it all comes down to heroes and some relentless saving the day.
The Nenuphar Book
The Nenuphar Book, one of Dorosheva’s many graphic jewels, is a book about a world in reverse, where humans are Todorov’s so-called paper beings, while fairytale creatures shiver under their blankets in fear of our mysterious ways. Starting as a completely different project, that is a catalogue of fairies, it came to be an entire chronicle on humans as seen by fairytale creatures. The book looks inquisitively at the abstract mechanisms of love and hate and money, our daily habits and their rationale, if any, and our origins. The lacunae are of course filled with fantasy — since seen from afar, humans seem powerful beyond measure and their lives unknowable.
What is a man?
The particular series of illustrations that caught my eye is a single segment named What is a man? where Dorosheva shows humans through the famous words of poets and philosophers. Plato’s peculiar ‘Man is a two-legged creature without feathers, with flat fingernails’ and Pascal’s famous ‘Man… is a weed capable of thought’ and Aleister Crowley’s ‘Every man and every woman is a star’ are a few of the quotes Dorosheva illustrated, with a style so distinct it gives her the aura of a true auteur.
Dorosheva’s influences for the series What is a man? as for the entire book come from the Golden Age of Illustrations; four decades of beautiful artwork come to an end after the First World War. French Edmund Dulac and Danish Kay Nielsen, who collaborated with The Walt Disney Company for the making of ‘Fantasia’, are two of her favourites. However, when drawing the illustrations by hand on paper and using traditional materials such as pen, ink, acrylics and watercolour, Dorosheva’s main stream of inspiration comes from medieval illuminated manuscripts. So called due to the glowing gold and silver adorning their borders and illustrations, illuminated manuscripts have opulently detailed initials and join the blackness of death with the blueness of honesty or the purple of penitence in beautiful and heavily symbolic illustrations. The first illuminated manuscripts, firstly of religious origins only and then secular too, date back to Late Antiquity. However, it was the Middle Ages that testified to their fully blossomed allegoric imagery — a repertoire so delightfully used by Dorosheva in her attempt to explain What is a man?
Image Courtesy: lattona.prosite.com