Hamburg-based illustrator Friederike Hantel came to our attention recently when she teamed up with Munich graphic design studio Bureau Borsche to make a 10-page-comic for the Bavarian State Opera’s Max-Joseph-Magazin.
“The project started with a lovely email from the Bavarian State Opera, all in English which made me smile and feel cosmopolitan as we are both German,” Friederike told It’s Nice That. “The briefing for my comic was ten pages long and included the cover and the ending. I was free to tell my version of Sergei Prokofiev’s opera The Fiery Angel. The story is about Renata, an obsessed woman who is in love with an evil angel, Madiel. She thinks that she has found the angel’s reincarnation in her ex-lover Heinrich. She tries to win him back with the help of Ruprecht, but ends up being burnt at the stake. To me it is a sad story about obsession, unrequited love, dark magic, desire and pain.”
“Because the plot takes place in 16th Century Germany I tried to put the whole story into a weird dark renaissance pop art look,” Friederike says of the twisted look beneath the comic. To achieve that, I stole iconic characters from famous renaissance paintings. To satirise this practice, I duplicated them, but their expressions stay unchanged throughout the story. For example Ruprecht as a copy of Michael Angelo’s Adam always has to deal with the same face. If you carefully look, you will find a lot of Botticelli —his Venus, some background guys and even himself. I also choose Michael Angelo’s Adam and other figures from the Sixtine Chapel. Raphael’s cherubs are transformed into skeletons, a Dutch Prometheus appears, even Donald Trump tries to hide himself.”
Of her work more generally, Friederike explains that “I always enjoy playing around with the aesthetic influences that each project contains within its content, and mix it up with my love for pop artists like Lichtenstein, Warhol, Wirsum and Edelmann. I also really love the pure Japanese aesthetics by Hokusai, the craziness of Tanaami, the humour of Toriyama. I always aim at a twist or a contradiction, my illustrations have to carry some kind of beauty but they also have to irritate. I never know where it will end, I have to observe the drawing develop until it feels right. This way of working stays novel and exciting — it is intense and sometimes exhausting, but I think this is what keeps my work interesting and prevents me from getting bored.”