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TNC Classic 2019

Anna & Elena Balbusso

Dark City Gallery x Handmaids Tale

Limited Editions /

All Illustration ©2019 Anna and Elena Balbusso 

After interview Anna & Elena Balbusso back in 2018 for the launch of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged from the Folio Society I have become in awe of the Twins in credible unique style an approach to illustration. TNC had another opportunity to talk with Anna & Elena about their Limited Edition Series with Dark City Gallery.  


Congratulations on your new screen prints for The Handmaid's Tale, how excited are you to share these four stunning prints?

It’s very exciting for us and wonderful to see such a positive response from the public. We are grateful to everybody who supported us and helped to make this project possible. Creating this set of posters has been such an interesting journey for us.


How did this project come about?

In 2012 we were commissioned by The Folio Society to illustrate the official novel for Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. The book’s illustration has since received multiple awards. The story was an instant revelation to us. We were very moved and artistically inspired by the story; we went on to create a personal series of four posters, The Wall, The Mask, The Blood and The Face.

Our artwork evolved from independent and artistic research (before the success of the television series). In 2018 our posters received numerous awards including the Gold medal Gosee Award Illustration (Germany) - the Applied Arts Photography & Illustration Award of the Canadian Applied Arts Magazine, the AOI WIA World Illustration Awards, shortlist UK.


We later teamed up with Dark City Gallery (in the UK) and the set of four posters were produced as limited editions screen prints.


Does it add any extra pressure on you when you're doing a limited edition run of prints?

This is our first limited edition series and our first screen prints, so there wasn’t really pressure, more excitement. Dark City Gallery were confident that the artwork would print well and the posters would be well received by print collectors around the world. Of course there is always some risk due to amount of work involved in screen printing. All the 7-colour screen prints were hand-pulled in one production, which took several days to complete.


It has been a great experience working with Dark City Gallery and White Duck Editions (the screen printers). Hopefully this set of posters is just the very beginning!


Can you take me through the four designs, what was your inspiration behind each print?


Stylistically influenced by Italian Futurism and Russian Constructivism, our series is centred on the woman's body; the posters are not the novel's illustrations. The titles focus attention on precise concepts with a universal meaning. The red dress has now become a universal symbol of women's rights.

©2019 Anna and Elena Balbusso 

THE BLOOD - represents the women as empty objects for use and consumption, with no soul. The women’s' red dresses, with straight lines and angles, are like armour that imprison their body. Resembling clones the women are emptied of their personality and identity. The blood alludes to violence, suffering and abuse. We want to communicate the psychological impact of suffering, slavery, emptiness, and obsession.

©2019 Anna and Elena Balbusso 

THE WALL - The wall is always a barrier, a prison, the two handmaids are not free, they are slaves of a strict reproductive role controlled from above. The eyes (which are a feature in all four pieces) symbolise the dictatorship, which owns and controls the woman. The basket (cage) with the egg symbolises the woman imprisoned totally in her reproductive role. Even today, many non-democratic cultures impose specific roles on women.

©2019 Anna and Elena Balbusso 

THE FACE - represents the concept of the pregnant woman imprisoned in her reproductive role. With a vision created with the eyes and the round opening of her belly with the bars, one sees a large face with a mouth that imprisons the egg. Looks like he's eating it....

©2019 Anna and Elena Balbusso 

THE MASK alludes to the hypocrisy of our society.
In some modern society’s woman are still impacted by stereotypical roles. There are strong influences that attempt to reduce the role of woman to sexual and reproductive objects neglecting other aspects of the person, such as their thoughts, feelings and freedom to choose.

"The screen prints are outstanding quality with vibrate colours, including metallic ink! "

We tried to create images that capture elegance and harmony, enhanced with a colour palette designed to generate an abstract and engaging minimalist composition.

What is it about Margret Atwood's groundbreaking book that interested you as artists?

We found the novel inspirational exploring the poignant theme of subjugation of woman's bodies, an issue close to our hearts. Today women are still striving to liberate themselves from the authority and control of traditional power structures, as well as to secure equal rights. Depicting this reality in our art is important to us.


And finally, what do you want people to take away from this series of prints?

This is a very special series for us and one we are very proud of. The screen prints are outstanding quality with vibrate colours, including metallic ink!  Only 100 of each poster was produced, so we hope those who wish to own a poster will treasure and enjoy them for a long time. The posters are not only decorative, but were created to communicate our desire to share universal values, equality, freedom and human rights.


They were fashioned from our need to express an honest and sincere message.

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