Illustrator Eitan Eloa Tells the Tale of A Grotesque Weddingby Yuval Saar | 05.04.16
When Israeli illustrator Eitan Eloa prepared his exhibition for last year’s Illustration Week (which took place in Tel Aviv), he knew that what he really wanted to illustrate was a text for adults. Something that would serve as a complete departure from his final project at the Visual Communications Department of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design.
That project was dedicated entirely to children’s tales: Eloa illustrated three Brothers Grimm tales, creating a packet of folded papers that were encased together. As one thumbed through the papers, they opened and stretched out into a full-size poster whose intricate illustrations and design were quite breathtaking.
Eloa turned to Israeli writer Shoham Smith in an attempt to find inspiring creations he could illustrate. At the time, he was in the final stages of work on illustrations for a children’s book Smith wrote called “Six Grand Schemes” (in Hebrew- שש תחבולות גדולות). He told Smith: “I would like to illustrate a text that deals with love, the disappointment that love results in, beauty in its painful form, or in other words – deep, heavy subjects that adults can relate to.”
Eloa had no idea that this conversation would later lead to a creation that would reward him with a silver medal (in the Special Formats category) from New York’s Illustrators Association and from his department at Bezalel.
Smith willingly collaborated and sent him a few stories she had written over a decade earlier. “They were all wonderful but when I got to the [story] ‘Wedding Dresses’ I knew that this was my match,” he recalls. “The story won me over right off the start: the pace, the humor, the wit; I could imagine the characters and the illustrations that would accompany it right from the first read. It’s a grotesque postmodern story that breaks all boundaries, about a bride to be with a low self-esteem whose wedding date was set by a fortune-teller before the bride even found a groom, and about her mother who plans the event as if it were her own nuptials that she’s preparing for.”
Early on, it was decided that the exhibition’s platform would be a three-dimensional illustration and that it would deal in visual stories that would not allow readers to simply thumb through the book at a traditional, rapid pace.
Eloa and his team divided the stories between them and started working based on their personal interpretations. In order not to arrive at different creations that have nothing in common, the group settled on a cohesive color palette and several visual rules that echo through all of their separate works.
In his final project at Bezalel, Eloa created a new reading experience of thumbing through a physical object at an age where most people slide their fingers across their tablet screens to read on. This time, too, he decided to work with an unusual format and make visitors to the exhibition circle his work. “I never tried making a concertina before and thought that this could be a great opportunity to learn how. Something about the long strap that grows ever longer felt suitable to the story’s development.”
“The story’s plot takes place over two consecutive days, which just worked so well with how the concertina is built- each day of the story was represented by each of the concertina’s sides. In order to emphasize the three-dimensional element of the format, I created a concertina that was large in scope (5 metres longs) and that hung from the ceiling, which forced visitors to be physically active in the exhibition’s physical space. Instead of browsing through the concertina, the visitors were forced to walk around it while reading the story.”
The visual representation of the mother’s character in the story was influenced by several colorful characters that have been accompanying Eloa over the years: the Joker, divas with long tresses of dark hair and Ursula the Sea Witch (or as he refers to her- “the mother of all witches”).
“The mother changes multiple wardrobes, so I added to them famous dresses and outfits that struck a chord with me over the years, such as the famous dress Jennifer Lopez wore to the Grammy Awards and David Bowie’s black and white stripes suit.”
“The illustration work was done width-wise as part of the brief I defined for myself, every part had to stand on its own but also function as part of the concertina’s composition when it is fully spread out.
Unlike former illustrations of mine, this work was more expressive, the lines were not strict and I used textures more extensively. I wanted the madness, the freedom, the happiness, the humor and the cruelty to scream from the illustrations, I wanted it to feel like a crazed musical.”
Translated from Hebrew by: Joy Bernard