Octavia Monaco, born in 1963 in Thionville in northern France, has been living in Italy since the 1970s. The trained goldsmith was enrolled at the Bologna Arts Academy, but her skillls in painting and graphics are largely self-taught. Aside from her work as an illustrator, she runs courses and creative studios for illustrators, teachers, and children. She also teaches illustration at the Bologna Arts Academy.
The worlds of Octavia Monaco’s pictures are fantastic, universal and archetypal, and are strongly influenced by fables, myths, and fairytales. Her characters shift between dream, imagination and reality in worlds which are both imaginary and symbolic. Octavia Monaco’s imagined worlds are, above all, inspired by women and questions of identity and the collective subconscious. Her pictures emerge from a close dialogue with contemporary art, but also from the art of ages past, for example the work of Gustav Klimt. This was realised in her 2004 book »Ví presento Klimt« (2004; Eng. »Klimt and his cats«, 2004), which, narrated from the perspective of Klimt’s cat, is concerned with Klimt’s life, travels, and work as an artist, the latter being of greater significance to the painter than his own family or health. The reprint of the artist’s most famous painting at the end in the appendix also reflects the connection sought between fiction and reality. In her most recent illustrated fairytale book, »La vera principessa sul pisello« (2008, t: The Real Princess and the Pea) Octavia Monaco adapts Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale in a multifaceted way and encourages the rediscovery of the original text. Unlike in the original, the reader here encounters a thoughtful, observant, and critically reflective princess who arrives as a stranger at the royal court and remains a stranger there. She must submit to the familiar ritual for determining the truth of her claim to be a princess and passes the test. However, unlike Andersen’s princess, she distances herself from the royal family’s expectations and, emancipated, rejects the role expected of her. The illustrations reflect this literary discussion of stereotyped roles, emotional masques, opportunism, and the determining of an individual’s identity by outsiders.
Octavia Monaco was awarded the Premio Andersen in 2004 in the category »Best Italian Illustrator « and has shown her work to international audiences in various exhibitions. She lives in Bologna.
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