Biennial of Illustrations Bratislava

The BIB abbreviation stands for the Biennial of Illustrations Bratislava. This unique event organised by the Bibiana house of art for children has turned 20 this year. As it is only every second year, this means that children's book illustration enthusiasts have been meeting in Bratislava for 40 years. This year's BIB features the biggest number of illustrators since the event's establishment in 1967.

Barbara Brathova is the main curator of the jubilee event:

"We presented this year about 100 illustrators more than in the last 2 years. So we present 48 countries, 410 illustrators and approximately 3,000 illustrations."

This number refers to the works selected for the competition part of the BIB. Every two years, the international expert jury decides on the winner of the Grand Prix. This year, the Iranian illustrator Ali Reza Goldouzian was awarded this prestigious award.

"My name is Carl Stefan, I'm from South Africa, I'm an illustrator and I'm a part of Bibiana biennial workshop held in Bratislava."

Organising workshops for illustrators has become a tradition at the Biennial of Illustrations Bratislava, the most prestigious event of its kind in the world. The workshop was established in 1983 by the founder of the Slovak school of illustrative art Albin Brunovsky. The sunny weather helped Carl Stephan, one of the ten participants, to find inspiration. As they worked making lino-cuts in a room hired for them, the illustrators made quite an impression:

[the chorus of the "Fernando" song by ABBA sung in Portuguese] Reporter: "So that was the international co-operation at the workshop here, close to Bratislava in Slovakia. It was the Indian - Brazilian duet. Thank you very much for that ... And now back to work. When I see Hindi writing it reminds me of pictures because it's very decorative."

Sonali Biswas: "Yeah, its letters have curves and straight lines all mixed together. We're here because we're supposed to look for images, some interesting images in the writing itself so it has calligraphic elements. In an image, in a drawing you have lines and curves, everything coming together and we are supposed to come with the name of the character and make a composition with the script also so even that becomes a part of an image or an image in itself."

Sonali Biswas comes from India. She learnt about the BIB workshop from her father who was awarded a prize at the Biennial in Bratislava some years ago. The main topic of this year's workshop was to create an international calligraphic dictionary.

"The concept of the workshop is that we have to collect words. We have to get letters from other alphabets. It's not my decision all the time. I'm forced to think how to use already made elements and I like that."

Fadi Adlih is from Syria. His vision of a calligraphic illustration depicts an upside down mermaid. She has the upper part of her body in the shape of a fish while instead of the tail, there are two legs moving in water. Fadi and others in the group were led by the renowned Slovak artist Dusan Kallay. The idea behind this year's workshop was to try to avoid the most common illustration techniques such as painting or drawing, and to improve or revive classical print media. The South African illustrator Carl Stephan has come to Bratislava to learn more about European children's books.

"My style was very westernised. My things look like more Belgian comic books, almost. But now for example we are working with cuttings and printing and looking at some other people works they're people who use a lot of colours, they use lots of pastels and a variety of techniques, prints, things like coloured pencils. These are things I've never used before. Professor Kallays's stuff looks almost multimedia but it's not. It's got this old world style. It almost rings back to, if you look at the architecture in Bratislava itself, it rings back to the old buildings and it's got that sort of flavour to it. It's not something that you can really explain."

Well, graphic art full of imagination, dedicated to children. That's what the BIB workshop for illustrators is all about. The works of its participants are usually put on display for visitors of the Biennial of Illustrations Bratislava. This year, it is possible to see prints by artists from Greece, Iran, Iraq, Syria, India, South Africa, Brazil and Argentina in the Slovak capital together with other 3,000 illustrations from all over the world until October 31.