A GLIMPSE ON ROMANIAN UNDERGROUND
Interview with Sorina Vasilescu
Sorina Vasilescu aka Sorina Vazelina has been active on Romanian alternative comics art scene since its inception in late 90's. Somehow, we managed to catch up with her online and have a short chat about comics, graphic art, and meaning of life in general.
RP: Although you are internationally recognized as a comics author, you are also active in other fields of graphic art, can you explain us in which and how?
Well, I'm mainly a graphic designer and illustrator, comics are something I do on the side. I work as an illustrator for Esquire Magazine Romania and for the local French publication Regard. As a graphic designer I handle gig posters, book layouts, branding, anything that falls inside the realm of visual communication, web design included.
As techniques I use anything from quill pen and ink to vectors and collage, the issue is always dressing up the message in a fitting outfit, finding visual solutions for communication.
RP: Having on mind all these activities you are constantly involved in, what can be considered as a central area of Sorina's interest? Where does your heart sleep?
My heart and brain are pretty tangled up most of the time. When I'm not working I'm probably walking aimlessly around the city, watching strangers, looking at buildings and at the cracks between them, watching movies or reading.
RP: As we mentioned above, you are very active as a member of wider Romanian underground community. Can you inform us more about the local scene, its beginnings, how it got developed and where it stands now on the international scene?
I know a bit about the underground scene in Bucharest and Timisoara in terms of musical venues and graphical approaches. But I can't make a reliable list of events or people, my memory is fairly selective and subjective :) Cluj, Iasi, Brasov are areas I know little about, but people's roads always criss-cross. In Bucharest, the alternative comics came about around the independent publisher Hardcomics. It is run by Serbian designer Milos Jovanovic, who also runs the studio It'sEveryday.ro. He used to make flyers for the Web Club in Bucharest (venue that gathered numerous underground musicians in the '90s) and was the founder of Omagiu Magazine (one of the first and best designed magazines on visual communication and art in Romania).
I guess music was a strong vein pumping blood into the underground scene. Around these musicians there appeared designers, labels and events. Most of the up and coming artists that were part of the Web crowd are currently shaping the contemporary sound of Bucharest. Matei Branea is one of the earliest trail blazers in terms of Romanian illustration. His slightly perverse drawings titillated the imagination of Romanians through animations and through his weekly drawings for a TV program dedicated to advertising in the mid '90s, Marca Inregistrata. He was also published by Hardcomics and is still active today. Hardcomics has gathered a number of prolific comic artists in the publication The Book of George, that was showcased during the Angouleme Comics Festival. The Graphic Front is an organization of graphic designers publishing books in the field, assembling a historical biblioteque of visual communication in Romania. Alexe Popescu is a graphic designer with connections in the Web scene, his CD designs and product designs carry his unmistakable signature of impeccable work.
Hell, there are so many people active right now, who've sprung up from underground roots, that i can't really remember. Timisoara had a strong punk underground scene that's slowly died out. Still, it's the former members of the drum'n'bass gang that are running things around town right now, and the youngsters at Groovy Gravy are catching up. Back in the '90s there used to be a great festival in Timisoara, TMBase, a hub for emerging artists and an outlet for international musicians. The posters of Adnan Vasile for this event mark a milestone in the visual outlook of Timisoara. Adnan is still creating gig posters for the Setup Club in Timisoara, where TMBase founders run a venue dedicated to dubstep, drum'n'bass, etc.. The rock scene was pretty vibrant back in the'90s with bands like Implant pentru Refuz paving the way for new generations of activists and music addicts. There are also a few graphic design studios that have sprout back in the late'90s and are still active today: Synopsis Media and 3X Studio. Folkolor is a group of local artists active in a variety of fields, organizing comics workshops and managing grafitti projects.
RP: In your opinion, whom can you identify as key figures, activists, publishers and authors on the Romanian alternative scene? Wider audience of Risha Project would be very interested to get informed about that, I suppose.
Hmm, here's a sort of list in random order: Hardcomics (Milos Jovanovic as publisher), Jumatatea Plina Publishers (they translate and publish comics, organize comics workshops and listening events dedicated to experimental contemporary music), IDEA (magazine dedicated to contemporary art, based in Cluj), Maria and Ileana Surducan (talented comic artists), Matei Branea (cartoonist and animator), Sefeu (demented comic magazine), Graphic Front (graphic designers and publishers of materials on the subject), Mircea Cantor and Adrian Ghenie (international artists), Mitos Micleusanu (Planeta Moldova project, sort of activist), Mind Bomb (association of activists from Cluj, active in the graphic field), Alburnus Maior (activists focused on combating the Rosia Montana mining project), Tamba (cartoonist), Nicu Ilfoveanu (photographer), the circle around the Romanian Centre for Contemporary Dance, Dan Perjovschi (international artist and activist), Origami Sound (gig organizers, group of music producers and musical platform), Andra Matzal (journalist), Mircea Nicolae a.k.a. Ionut Cioana (international artist and photographer), Ion Barladeanu (artist), Cosmin TRG (music producer, living in Berlin), IRLO (street artist), Alexe Popescu (graphic designer) etc. etc.
RP: Your ability to create very detailed illustrations on very small space, using the techniques that usually are not considered as very precise /like 7B graphit pens, watercolor, etc/, is something that makes your art stand out from the crowd with its cuteness and intensity..can you tell us what is your secret, how do you manage to achieve that? What kind of food do you eat?
I guess I owe it to my genetical background. My grandfather is a former plane engineer, my dad's an inventor, professor and engineer, my mom's an extroverted hippy minded economist and my grandmother (former accountant) used to knit intricate Macramés for the best part of her pension period. Multiply this data with an ADHD parameter, divide it by a "horror vacui" condition and add a hefty dose of masochism and obsessive compulsive disorder and there you have it :P
RP: What kind of philosophy/behaviour/approach/attitude would you recommend to the artists with fewer opportunities? Is there some secret tip how to break the limitations of place and environment that is limiting one's development and advancement?
Make the best of your limitations and defects. Try to learn how to make fun of the shit in your life, this will help you navigate through it, rather than drown in depression and despair. Friends always help, so does keeping a sketchbook and constant practice, experimentation and collaboration. And I try to keep in mind one of Bukowski's quotes: “The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”
Get to know more about the works and projects of Sorina Vasilescu by clicking HERE