Aurelia Peter’s bachelor thesis is a cryptic exploration into the ritual of masks
Divided into three parts – a look book, publication and scarf – the Swiss graphic designer turns a critical lens on the notion of masks.
- Ayla Angelos
- 11 March 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Since we last spoke in 2018, Aurelia Peter has completed two rather prominent mile stones: not only has she graduated from Zurich University of the Arts in Visual Communication, but she’s also founded her own design studio – allowing her to concentrate fully on personal projects.
It’s true that much can change in the space of two years, and when asked whether her style has evolved, Aurelia responds saying: “I hope so”. The graphic designer considers progression as an essential part of her process, particularly in terms of being able to critical reflect on her work. “A central aspect of this seems to be the ability to experiment with the new and to maintain an open attitude,” she adds, two factors that sit alongside a drive to follow paths that are yet to be discovered. “In this respect, I do not attempt to approach a defined destination, but rather I try to find an individual design concept and visual language for any particular assignment.”
This experimental approach can be seen be traced from Aurelia’s artistic past. Ever since she can remember, she’s been drawing – “often I painted forms and figures on small square papers and hand-crafted small books of my own,” she tells It’s Nice That. This, combined with regular trips to museums and a profound love of art and books has since fuelled her passion for creativity. “For me, there was never a question that I would start an artistic or creative career – when I was asked what I wanted to become, the answer was always an artist. At the time, I didn’t know anything about graphic design.”
GalleryAurelia Peter: Through the Mask
Luckily, Aurelia had taken part in a preliminary design course during art school in St. Gallen, Switzerland, that saw her learn the ropes of drawing, photography and three-dimensional sculpting. That’s where the interest in graphic design and typography was derived – and an apprenticeship as a graphic designer soon followed suit. Aurelia’s experience has seen her work with numerous agencies and studies, plus a CAS in Typography and Print at Zurich University of the Arts, completed due to her adoration with editorial design and typography. “Because of my fascination and passion for graphic design, I wanted to deepen and expand my knowledge,” she says of her reasons for embarking on the Visual Communications course at Zurich University of the Arts.
With all this in mind, it’s plain to see her how her bachelor thesis turned out like it did. Through a collection of various disciplines – including a look book, publication and scarf design – the thesis deals with the topic of masks and rightfully goes by the title of Through the Mask. An intensely conceptually led pursuit, Aurelia has turned a critical lens on the cultural and functional significance of the object: “Show and hide, open and protect, associate and dissociate – opposites and transitions determine the essence of masks,” she explains. “In our society we are surrounded by many masks. We consciously put on masks to survive in different situations in society or at work, and thus partly forget or hide our personal diversity and possibilities we carry within us to represent ourselves to the outside world.”
Taking the ritual of masks as the starting point for the project, Aurelia divided it into three parts: the fact that rituals are a form of communication, the fact that masks can be part of a ritual, and how masks can be used to convey what ritual is. Consequently, the thesis is split into three parts, too: “With my project I have created a graphic transition ritual,” she adds. The publication itself illustrates the phenomenon of the mask, depicting the various facets that it beholds. The printed matter is also derived from the scarf, which “enables the potential owner to decide for themselves which parts of the scarf should be shown on the outside, and which should remain hidden,” she says, before explaining how the project is meant to encourage the viewer to choose their own personal mask.
Cryptic, but it’s all part of Aurelia’s plan to keep the “magic” alive. In order to help make sense of the project, Aurelia has placed an index at the beginning of the book, and has included a grid and navigation system that gives the various “expressions behind the mask” – achieved through use of a black rectangle, multiple appearing faces and individual signs that show the mystique of the object itself. The takeaway? “Look behind the mask,” says Aurelia, “we can use the ambivalent relationship of the mask to protest ourselves.”