Walking the line:the Animix festival

Blumenberg was born in Lugano, Switzerland, and made aliya at the age of 13. Even so, he says he makes good use of some of the traits he imbibed in his birth country.

Raffael Blumenberg’s ‘Woman, Man, Line.’ at the Animix festival. (photo credit: COURTESY RAFFAEL BLUMENBERG)
Raffael Blumenberg’s ‘Woman, Man, Line.’ at the Animix festival.
Artists, by definition, are constantly looking to push the envelope. It is, by nature, an unsettling process in which the creator puts himself on the line, hoping that things will work out for the best.
Around 11 years ago Raffael Blumenberg certainly took the plunge. Although the motives were primarily not of the artistic kind, at the age of 42 he found himself at a very loose end.
Blumenberg was born in Lugano, Switzerland, and made aliya at the age of 13. Even so, he says he makes good use of some of the traits he imbibed in his birth country.
“The book has been produced with great attention to detail,” he says. “I think I bring a lot of Swiss elements to the production process. I was very painstaking with this.”
The tome in question is titled Woman, Man, Line, which basically spells out the visual components of the book, which will be the topic of an address Blumenberg will give at the 15th edition of Animix – the Israel International Animation, Comics & Caricature Festival, taking place at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque August 4-8.
Woman, Man, Line is Blumenberg’s publishing debut, at the relatively grand old age of 53.
“I studied design 28 years ago – I remember because my first son was born then – at WIZO [Academy] in Haifa,” he says. “I also studied illustration, but I only really used that skill for work. I did all sorts of designs for advertising material, you know, for hi-tech companies and that sort of thing. I also managed to incorporate a little bit of illustrative stuff.”
By his early 40s, Blumenberg was married with three children and was a partner in a busy graphics studio.
“I worked 12-13 hours a day,” he recalls. “But the work wasn’t taking me anywhere creative. I was frustrated.”
It wasn’t just the professional front that was a source of disgruntlement. He grew up in an Orthodox family, and had faithfully followed the path of the straight and narrow. But for some time he had begun to feel increasingly disillusioned with organized religion.
“I remember I’d go to the synagogue on Shabbat morning, and I suddenly realized that what I enjoyed about that was the walk there, in the fresh morning air, but I no longer connected with the services and what went on at the synagogue itself.”
Before long, Blumenberg’s marriage began to fall apart, as did the rest of his life.
“I remember lying on my bed and looking up at the ceiling, wondering what I was going to do with my life. I had no relationship, no one to talk to, no job, no faith and no love, and I’d given up smoking so I couldn’t even comfort myself with a cigarette,” he adds with a laugh.
It was quite a personal clearance sale.
“I remember a friend called me and said: ‘Hey! Don’t you know you’re supposed to do things in ones?’ All that happened to me in the space of a single year.”
It sounds like Blumenberg is a man of principles who does not compromise on his own credo, even if the latter was not always clear to him. However, the cartoonist says it was just a matter of doing what he had to do.
“There was no act of heroism here. Things just happened the way they had to. I just came to an impasse. I realized that, in every area of my life, I wasn’t where I wanted to be.”
All of that comes through, palpably, in Woman, Man, Line. In fact, had it not been for the multiple break, Blumenberg may have never let his creative genie out of its bottle.
“That’s where I started to draw from,” he declares. “It wasn’t really a proactive decision. I had plenty of time on my hands – I hardly worked for two years – and the stuff just started coming out.”
It is clear from the book that Blumenberg’s newly founded creative path was a form of emotional exorcism and self-therapy. Not that the artist was aware of it at the time.
“The amazing thing is that I never connected the things I was drawing with myself. There are a few drawings I somehow connected with. Here’s one of the first things I drew about nine years ago.”
The picture in question is called “Wordless” and depicts a man sitting at the edge of a precipice with a row of flowers growing behind him. There is also one flower growing at the bottom of the cliff, a distance away, which the forlorn-looking character appears to be contemplating.
“I was at the beginning of searching for a relationship. It was quiet to begin with. There were all sorts of dates, but I didn’t find myself. The first date I ever had was at the age of 40-plus.”
The scene changes dramatically, as Blumenberg gets into the date groove and soon feels he is being chased rather than taking on the traditional male role.
“I felt that, instead of being the hunter, I was being hunted,” he says. His “Bachelor” drawing conveys that in no uncertain terms.
Woman, Man, Line opens with a foreword by the author in which he describes his doldrums state in succinct textual terms. What follows is a touching portrayal of Blumenberg’s personal evolution over the decade that followed his epiphany, divided into sections called “Together,” “Alone,” “Life” and “Nuances.” There are emotive works, darkly humorous ones, downright comics drawings and satirical items.
The back cover features a stirring reflection from Blumenberg: “In each illustration I proffer a moment in life, a split second, one perspective out of countless angles one could take on the same scene, and in the heart of the lines lies an accumulation, of many years, of desires and fears.”
And all’s well that ends well. Both Blumenberg and his ex-wife have new partners, and the artist has a healthy and close relationship with his children, including with the youngest, a yeshiva student.
Blumenberg will talk about his book on August 6 at 8:30 p.m.
For tickets and more information about the Animix Festival: (03) 606-0800 and www.animixfest.co.il