23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Einar Turkowski
© Ali Ghandtschi

Einar Turkowski

The North German illustrator and storyteller Einar Turkowski was born in Kiel in 1972. After leaving school he trained as as a stage designer and studied art, art education and biology, before being accepted into Rüdiger Stoye’s illustration classes at the University of Applied Sciences, Hamburg, in 1998. In March of 2005 he astounded the board of examiners with the picture book submitted as his degree thesis, »Es war finster und merkwürdig still« (t: It was dark and eerily quiet), which was published only a few months later. »Die Zeit« celebrated his literary début as a »parable about the Other« and a »virtuoso work of art in black and white«. Besides imaginative illustrations and a powerfully stark plot, he also designed the book’s exquisite typography.

At the centre of his work is a stranger who secretly arrives ashore, moors his boat with ropes, poles and strange equipment, and moves into an abandoned house in the dunes. The residents of the nearby town eye him with suspicion through their long telescopes, crouch in snail-like shelters and build cameras with hidden microphones in order to spy on him. It soon becomes clear that the stranger is a cloud fisher. He catches clouds with his instruments, and they rain down buoys, life-savers, pieces of wood and in particular wonderful fish, which the envious, hate-filled coastal residents would like to call their own. Turkowski is effective in drawing the reader into the unreal and secretive scenario, which is made up of curious machine-like beings. What appears to be artful lithography in nuanced greyscale is actually drawn with plain pencil. Turkowski has created a picture book that draws upon the great tradition of illustration and, with his pencilling techniques, at the same time creates something completely new – a surreal world of images, painstaking in their fanciful design, unique in their hyper-precise bizarreness, created with over 400 pencil leads. »I limited myself to the pencil, the boringly normal HB-hardness, because I like concentrating on one tool, and to do everything possible with it, from the finest stroke to the darkest shadowing«, the artist responded to a question about his technique.

Einar Turkowski’s »wilful and amazingly quirky first work« (»Die Zeit«) was met with great international acclaim. The award of the Grand Prix by the 21st Biennial for Illustration, Bratislava (BIB) stirred up particular excitement. For the first time in twenty-eight years the award was given to a German. The jury commented: »Einar Turkowski has blazed a new trail for storytellers. […] His masterful black and white drawings radiate humour, sensitivity, acuity and even ›colourfulness‹.« In addition to his grandiose literary début, he also drew the illustrations for the children’s book »The Scarecrow and his Servant« (2005) by the British author Philip Pullman. Turkowski lives and works as a freelance illustrator in Martensrade-Ellhornsberg.

© international literature festival berlin


Es war finster und merkwürdig still
Zürich, 2005