Iassen Ghiuselev


LOCUS December 2003

Review by Karen Haber

Children’s books have always been a temptation for artists, and never more so then now when there seems to be room for both highly stylized mixed media, cartoons, and traditional representational painting.

A fine example of the latter Is Iassen Ghiuselev’s Alice’s in Wonderland. It’s a must for Alice fans of any age. His meticulous, peculiar, beautiful and yet jarring illustrations – which fist appear in truncated form as marginalia in the original German-language edition – have been given full play in this new English- language edition, and to wonderful effect. Ghiuselev’s Alice is an antidote to Disney’s and every other saccharine representation of Lewis Carroll’s heroine. Somber and unsmiling, she has the knowing, wonder air of a child who has seen – and been through – far too much.

Wonderland itself is a place askew, and Ghiuselev glories in the artistic opportunity this present. His sepia-tinted illustrations reveal a pocket universe of odd creatures and odder angels, recalling Escher engraving and medieval landscape paintings with their peculiar architecture and impossible perspective.

The book’s illustrations seem to be segments of a massive Wonderland mural, detailed on the front cover of the book that the illustrator has painted over several years. Repetition of key elements appears throughout the book, occasionally flopped, in sepia or monotone. The effect is iconic: the bottle labeled “drink me” assumes almost mythic importance. Alice’s giant face peering from a tower window her giant hand reaching for the white rabbit, is monstrous and disturbing.

Without framing devices, the art allows the viewer to cross the threshold and enter the work. The result is an odd sensation of happening upon a surreal yet vaguely familiar scene: the Mad Hatter defending him self in the courtroom, Alice taking counsel upon the finer point of flamingo croquet. The peculiar vertiginous composition of scenes carries echoes of Escher and lends a vaguely sinister tone to the work.

The book is a visual delight, with the art deployed in a “call and response” manner, never overwhelming the text. Ghiuselev;s delicate linework recalls the pleasing archaic tone struck by Tenniel, without directly aping him.

This is one of the most brilliant pictorial interpretations of Alice, and one of the best designed editions of Carroll’s classic tale, to come along since Lizbeth Zwerger’s gutsy version. Disconcerting and beautiful, Alice’s in Wonderland is a fine sequel to Ghiuselev’s Pinocchio.



Alice’s adventures in Wonderland

Review by Bob Smith

There have been many version of Alice printed from its 1865 inception, this latest variation is simply stunning though. The story is as it always was and always will be but here comes adorned with the illustrations of Iassen Ghiuselev whose sepia and red-drawn pictures inhabit and seem cultured from Alice’s own mind and thoughts rendering ever greater meaning to the well-worn story. The coup-de-grace of this is a painting – originally done in gouache on wooden panel – which somehow tells the whole story through its’ montaged form. It should also b enoted that this is a limited edition printing but is as good a rendition of Lewis Carroll’s story as could be wished for. (BS)



Alice’s adventures in Wonderland
Booklist – Uncorrected proof


Jennifer Mattson

Ghiuselev, like many illustrators before him, has responded to the siren song of a certain English schoolgirl and her trip down the rabbit hole. Like his Pinocchio ( 2002 ), this interpretation showcases his painterly style, mixing full-color scenes with vignettes reminiscent of the burnt sienna drawings in an old master’s sketchbook. The twist is that every full-color illustration hails from one painting,m reproduced on the cover, that incorporates most of the major episodes into one Escher-inspired dreamscape. Parlaying a single painting into enough artwork for Carroll’s unabridged text presents obvious challenges.

Ghiuselev’s ambitious vision and startling perspectives – such as a dramatic overhead view of the Mad Hatter’ tea party – will delight children’ literature enthusiasts and aspiring fine artists alike. Younger Alice fans, however, may prefer the more straightforward rendition by Helen Oxenbury or Lizbeth Zwerger ( both 1999 ).



Alice’s adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll & Iassen Ghiuselev

March 2004

James A.Cox and Diane C.Donovan

This Simply Read Books edition of Lewis Carroll’s classic fantasy, Alice’s in Wonderland, is a simply gorgeous version showcasing bold, often monochromatic, and somewhat exaggerating illustrations by Iassen Ghiuselev that bring the unreality of Wonderland vividly to life. This is a literally treasure for readers of all ages.



The Vancouver Sun, saturday, November 29.2003

Alice’s adventures in Wonderland

Written by Lewis Carroll

Illustrated by Iassen Ghiuselev

That may or not may be true, but I do know that you can’t have too many copies of Alice’s in Wonderland. You’ll be overjoyed by this beautiful new book from Simply Read Books, the Vancouver publisher that brought us Pinocchio, also illustrated by Italian artist Iassen Ghiuselev. Simply beautiful.



Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Children’s and Young Adult Books Rubric

17 October 2000

Lorenz Jaeger

The illustrations of Iassen Ghiuselev recall the well-known pictures of John Tenniel’s first edition, but then pass beyond them in a quite unique and carefully thought-out way. The text is placed in amongst wonderous arches, Gothic dimensions and furnishings from the nineteenth century: darkened and leading into the nightmarish realm of Tenniel.

There Again

It is surely a secret desire of any given illustrator to do the illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This autumn, two such interpretations will be released on the market, and I could hardly say that they could be more different: the Bulgarian artist Iassen Ghiuselev gives us pictures of an Alice that flow onto the wide-format illustrations like the remains of a dream.

Through an ochre filter, one that makes everything slightly out-of-focus and coarse-grained, the observer sees ever-new perspectives in the scenaric happening – here his viewpoint is extremely elevated, there the reader is quite a tiny little thing in amongst the gigantic creatures and contraptions. In this way the action appears something of a weightless camera that moves freely through space and time, exactly as Alice herself does. Ghiuselev has let himself be fully possessed by the morbid and nightmarish side of the story, but has not presented it in a mixed-up manner – on the contrary, it is pedantically exact. His scenes seems to enlarge themselves, to draw the reader into them like one with the story, which is fitting, as what Ghiuselev creates is known to us from dreams of falling and flying, those that make us shudder.

Die Zeit

14 December 2000

Karla Schneider

Eat Me, Drink Me

Friends of beautifully illustrated books who have at home numerous editions of the robust Alice can lick their lips when it comes to the unparalleled pictures of Iassen Ghiuselev. As if personally tasting of the “eat me!”, “drink me!”, the viewer is catapulted from a formic to a bird’s-eye view, happens to vanish above the stairways, is sent outside the action and attentively casts an eye into the private kitchen of the Queen of Hearts. A succession of scenes that fit together disconnected dreams latent-dangerous, tempting, and the brassy light outside that remains monochromatic through the entire time, while inside it is shadowed and brownish like a peeled apple that has already been sitting a good hour on the plate.

The sweetsy fingers of Disney have been far left behind, as has been the elf-like Alice of Rackham with her cute gnome kingdom. If inspiration has been bestowed from somewhere, it is most likely from the spirit of Tenniel and the old staging of perspective that was invented in Italy, that which, in cases of such like drawings, creates an impression of open space.

Along with the book comes a poster on which all the illustrations are printed. Each level progresses on the former in an Escher-like manner, thus unifying the pictures, which, in the book, are presented separately in a deservingly impressive fashion.

Die Welt

16 January 2001

Brown-on-brown like engravings from the Renaissance, they escort the tale like framing illustrations. Realism in the details, yet there is something quite unconventional about the perspective. When all is said and drawn, what is found is a Picture the size of a poster that unites every single drawing into a surrealist canvas, one recalling the eye through which Escher viewed the world. It is as if there were no dimension of up or down, it is as if, in the tableau, the walls were at the same time floors and the stairs themselves were at once entire flights: this is truly the wonderous land of Alice.

Neue Züricher Zeitung

29 November 2000

Ursula Zinreich

The Adventure of Observation

Iassen Ghiuselev’s illustrations for Alice present exactly as many unexpected contortions as the story itself has. Ghiuselev also plays as artistically with what he is doing as John Tenniel did with the originals, back in 1864/65. Some of the figures, like that of the Mad Hatter, are drawn based on the originals. But otherwise, the brilliant making of the figures overflowing with whim and artistic practice have rather little in common with what has come before them.

And the very whim that the book itself has received is the subject matter of a poster, one that, at the same time, could present a single picture. This crazy, in the true sense of the word, story of the girl in the land of wonders is a stroke of genius, particularly from the point of view of the symbols and the pictorial changes that the narration radiates. Exactly like Alice literally fell in her dream, so does the viewpoint of the observer rush into a precipitous headlong fall from the top downwards into the defiant abyss in a singularly convoluted perspective that opposes all logic.

In looking at this sequence of illustrations, any child could effortless, and, above all, without harm, follow the process of the lessening of the human fight against quite tiny things, as did Alice. In arriving at the society of tea drinkers at the end of the poster, the breaking in the architecture and in the fantastical space remain an open road backwards and forwards, or at least inside to the pages of the book. Such an interweaving of different levels is executed through the replacement of the illustrations with text.

The pallid ochre in which Ghiuselev favours his illustrations makes them appear point-blank coloured.