Six questions for Paula Bulling

Paula Bulling, born in 1986 in Berlin, studied at the Academy of Fine Arts (Hochschule für Kunst und Design) in Halle an der Saale. The artist and illustrator, who is very fond of travelling, had been in Ecuador while still in school. Trips to Argentina and the USA, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel followed. Bulling lives in Berlin but regularly spends her summers in France. In summer 2012, she participated in the Goethe-Institut’s exchange programme Comic Transfer and stayed in Paris. Your book, Im Land der Frühaufsteher"(i.e. in the land of early risers) appeared with Avant Verlag and documents refugee policy in Saxony-Anhalt. How did the story come about?

The book came about while I was a student in Halle. Through the filmmaker Maman Salissou Oumarou I got to know people in a number of refugee camps, whom I visited regularly. I drew a lot of portraits while I was with them. It was from these that the first chapters spontaneously emerged, which then had to be linked up with each other… When I realised what a task that was, I was already far too deeply involved to backtrack. And so the book Land der Frühaufsteher arose within two years.

You are politically involved on behalf of asylum seekers. What hopes, what significance do you attach to your comic here?

For me, the comic is also a political project. I hope it is a book with a clear-cut position, and also an enjoyable and exciting read. I believe that concrete political work and artistic approaches can complement each other well, because both tackle a subject from different sides, and thus unfold their effects in different directions.

Why do you work with pen-and-ink and water-colours?

For Im Land der Frühaufsteher I used whatever material came to hand. At the moment I’m into brush and water-colours. I like the spontaneity that comes when you never have one-hundred percent control over the drawing. And you are forced to just go ahead and draw, straight away and without tensing up.

Together with Maman Salissou Oumarou, you are currently working on the book “Youssouf,” which is about an African man who leaves his country.

Salissou and I know each other from the time when I started with Im Land der Frühaufsteher. Even then, we were developing a preliminary script for Youssouf. We wish to show what motivates someone to leave his life behind him. It’s not the story about a flight, but about the time before. The story is pretty much finished, and we are now looking for ways to realise it.

You studied ceramics and illustration in Halle. What has stayed with you?

In my course of study in ceramics I got a pretty complete training in drawing – from bones to dead and living plants, animals and people. In my illustration class, I then had to forget all of it. I gave up my course in ceramics after getting my pre-degree certificate because I wanted to work in a more conceptual way and ceramic as a material is very time-consuming and quirky. I really miss sculptural work a lot, but I have neither the time nor the peace and quiet for it. And I have the impression that the mode of working in comics suit me better, I enjoy this rhythm, being with people, dealing intensively with something, and then quietly drawing.

What characterises a good illustration?

Liveliness, fun, poetry.

Rieke Harmsen conducted the interview.
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
October 2012
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