Illustrator Noa Snir’s black and white linocut series explores psychological disorders, phobias and syndromes through pared-back interpretations. The project first came to life as an A5 publication a couple of years ago and Noa has continued with the project since, which has led to an exhibition of the prints in O! Galeria in Porto opening this week.
“As the illustrations were first hand-pulled offset prints, it felt natural to make an exhibition of them,” explains Noa. For the show the illustrator has developed a new batch of prints, portraying some “lesser known mental illnesses” to sit alongside the existing ones. Taking the project outside of the confines of a zine, it’s allowed Noa to expand the dimensions of the prints and “play around” with the technique.
“There is something about linocutting which is more restrained in nature because of the limitations of the technique,” says Noa. “It is very different from how I usually work, and forces me to be very exact in my expression, in order to reduce complicated ideas to simple one-colour images.” In contrast to previous projects we’ve shared on the site, where intricate patterns and rich colour palettes are the norm, Noa has stripped back everything to concentrate on figure and form, while carefully considering the content of her images. “I’ve found [this approach] served the subject matter quite well in this case. I wanted to reduce the images to a necessary minimum, while still remaining communicative. So for me this has been a lesson in minimalism.”
The project is rooted in research, which has involved Noa looking into various disorders online and poring over the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), as well as speaking to friends working in psychology. “I discovered so many things I had no idea existed – the human psyche really is capable of everything,” says the illustrator. “I come from a family where mental illness is common on both sides and I’ve been concerned about the probability of being affected… I have to admit reading about the topic had a calming effect on me. Educating myself proved to be a very healthy, fear-reducing tactic for me.”
“My initial goal was to create an easy-to-understand book for anyone interested in the topic of mental health, from doctors to patients and family members,” Noa continues. “There’s a certain level of humour in the images, which makes the sombre subject matter more approachable. If it can promote an open discussion about mental well-being, I would feel happy and accomplished.”
For the show, and for the first time, Noa plans not to show the book side-by-side with the prints. “I want the images to stand out on their own, without needing the crutches of a textual explanation. There will be an index for context, but I’d like to prolong the time between the viewer seeing the disorder and then reading about it,” she explains. “I think many of the images I created can be read in numerous ways, as they hold symbolic meaning independent of their texts.”