Monday, 2 May 2016


I couldn’t help but be struck by the vibe of Bologna. Art students flood the halls carrying portfolios and in the afternoons, it’s open house for them to show their work to publishers. Students line up in queues snaking through the halls, in the hope of being the next best discovery. How hard it must be for acquisition teams as they sift through the work and how hard for the students. But there's hope! The picture book won't die.

In the confusion of the first morning I felt the most tangible thing to do would be to walk around the Illustration Exhibition where the work of about 60 illustrators from more than 1000 applicants was displayed. Two separate exhibitions were given over to two individual artists, Laura Carlin and Maisie Paradise Sheering both from the UK.

Laura Carlin, the Bratislava 2015 winner, won the cover design for the 2016 Bologna brochure

and Maisie Sheering, who won the Ragazzi Award for Illustration in 2015, showed the Oscar Wilde story of The Little Prince, El Principe Felix.

Laura’s swimming pool illustration immediately gave me heart palpitations with its crowded confusion of bodies and splashing. I think a left-over from visiting a municipal swimming pool for the first time in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe with my 5 year old cousin who was a good swimmer and intent on drowning me. It reminded me that illustration has the ability to evoke deep, dark, hidden emotion.

In general I had a sense that colours were more muted. There was more print work (although I seem to have chosen painterly work here) and a feeling of retro was coming through. Interestingly the text isn’t put up next to the illustration, which makes looking at the work more like reading a wordless picture book as you hazard a guess. At random in no particular order here are some glimpses.

From Kalimat publishers in the Emirates (I’ve just returned from the Sharjah Children's Reading Festival) the winner of the New Horisons category in the Bologna Ragazzi Award for the book, Lisanak Hisanak –which means Topsy Turvy and is a play on the double calligraphic meaning of different Arabic words, by Fatima Sharafeddine, illustrated by Hanane Qai.

Italy never disappoints and this work by Veronica Ruffato was particularly haunting.

More figurework by Giulio Pastorino, also from Italy, with fresh brushstrokes and colour evoking African markets.

From China, Zuming Wang for his tiger with a thorn. Why are tigers so popular right now?

The moon again from Japan, by Yudal Suzuki & Megumi Ohto with mice eating the moon. What might not come through in this basic photograph taken with an iPad is that the paper is textured.

And one of my favourites from Taiwan by Shu-man Wang where a little boy watches his father/grandfather? build delicate, airy cane-work against flat planes of colour. I love the tiny details like the pairs of Asian scissors and the paper patterns. For me there was a real sense of wonder.

From Argentina, Cynthia Alonso. 

From Spain, Manuel Marsol with some very small and rather curious paintings that had the sense of being sketches out of an old 1950's autograph book, by a talented friend/cousin/aunt.

 Of course Bologna isn't Bologna without a stop for an ice-cream between halls


And when a break is needed, a coffee in the sunshine on the edge of Piazza Maggiore with a friend. 

And finally there's the extra pleasure of discovering a mammoth poster of your son's novel at the Fanucci Editore stand.

A happy tail-end to the Bank Holiday week-end!

twitter: @dihofmeyr


Penny Dolan said...

This all looks such a perfectly lovely trip, Dianne. Thank you for sharing these examples of this year's artwork on ABBA.

So many styles & feelings & interpretations within even these few pages. I'm wondering if the set of black/grey & white images are for a variant of A Monster Calls or a greyer, older Beauty & The Beast or possible both.(Sorry. I can't click back from the comments to check that artist's name.)

Must have been a wonderful experience - especially seeing that giant poster.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Yes Penny.. in a way its annoying that no text accompanies the illustrations... it makes one feel that perhaps these days illustrations are judged out of context and seen as paintings on their own rather than a story in pictures. I can't tell either, but I thought the illustrations might have been a Beauty and the Beast story. Its an Italian illustrator, Veronica Ruffato.

Sue Purkiss said...

Really beautiful. I particularly liked the Italian illustrations. Lovely to see your son's book doing so well!

Carol Thompson said...

Thanks Di,
I love the diversity and the powerful sense of place in some of these images - the Taiwanese image of the grandfather building his cane structures is exquisite.
They're also a reminder of the sensory overload that I always experience at the Fair - these images are a tiny drop......and the need to escape occasionally for gelato and fresh air!

mackyton said...

Thanks for sharing these photos of this book fair. Personally I love book fairs. Recently attended an annual fair at a local event venue Chicago. Truly, it was one of the best book fest I have ever attended. Enjoyed a lot there.