Russian Notebooks

Igor Tuveri is one of the most prominent graphic novelists of Italy, who works under the pen name Igort. With his artistic roots in the Bolognese new wave art movement of the early 1980s, he has worked for publishing houses from Italy, France and even Japan. Recurring elements in his work are Russian and Japanese culture. With a varied oeuvre ranging from experimental comics and non-fiction work with a strong political engagement, Igort is one of the most widely translated Italian authors with editions of his books appearing in English, French, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, German, Dutch, Greek and Portuguese. Igort is furthermore co-founder of the Valvoline art group of the 1980s and of the the renowned Italian publishing house Coconino Press. He ranks such classic authors like Winsor McCay and Lyonel Feininger among his main influences.

Tuveri was born in Cagliari on the isle of Sardinia in 1958. He grew up surrounded by Russian culture, as his father was a classical composer inspired by Russian music and his grandmother told him the stories of the great Russian novels before he could read. The Russian culture would remain an influence on his further life and career. At the age of twenty, he moved to Bologna, where he hung around artistic circles. Not limited to one form of expression, he quickly worked as an illustrator, musician, essayist, radio presenter and comics author. His first professional comics pages were published in the adult-oriented Italian comics magazine Linus in 1980. In the following year, he launched the independent magazine Il Pinguino Guadalupa with a group of post-punk authors like Daniele Brolli, Roberto Baldazzini, Lorenzo Mattotti and Giorgio Carpinteri. Accompanied by Marcello Jori and Jerry Kramsky, the young artists eventually teamed up in the avant-gardistic art group Valvoline in 1982. They had their first manifestations in the pages of the Linus supplement Alter with the "magazine within a magazine" Valvoline Motorcomics, and then with their own section in Frigidaire. Later contributors to the group's productions were Massimo Mattioli and the American Charles Burns, who resided in Rome at the time. Valvoline marked a turning point in the world of international comics. The experimenting artists mixed old genres and techniques and reformed them into new narratives. They even had their work published in Art Spiegelman's RAW anthology in the USA.


Cover of the first issue of Il Pinguino Guadalupa, drawn by Igort as an hommage to Charles Biro's classic comic book 'Crime Does Not Pay'.

Igort's creations subsequently appeared in several national and international artistic and alternative magazines, such as Frigidaire and Vanity (Italy), Métal Hurlant and L'Écho des Savanes (France) and The Face (Britain). He also set up his own magazines, like Dolce Vita (two issues, 1987), Fuego (six issues, 1990) and Due, all a mix of comics, illustrations and journalistic/artistic chronicles. Besides work by Igort himself, Fuego further ran material by upcoming talents from the Zio Feininger comics school, where Igort was a teacher. The second half of the 1980s saw his first book publications. His first major work was 'Goodbye Baobab', a Japan-themed story about a sumo wrestler and the Yakuza. It had been serialized in magazines during Igort's Valvoline years and was published in book format by Milano Libri in 1987. In that same year he also produced two fully-painted stories about suppressed desires for Dolce Vita. One story was set in Russia and the other in Japan. Like with his work for Valvoline, Igort mixed elements from pop-culture with more highbrow art. Their book collection 'Dulled Feelings' (Catalan Communications, 1990) was his first English-language book release, and a Japanese and Russian edition quickly followed.

Cucu, by Igort

Among the other books that Igort produced for Italian and French publishers are 'Nerboruto' (Edizioni Becassine, 1987), 'La Léthargie des Sentiments' (Albin Michel, 1988), 'L'Enfer des Désirs' (Humanoïdes Associés, 1991), 'That's all Folks' (Granata Press, 1993), 'Cartoon Aristocracy' (Carbone, 1994) and 'Perfetti i Invisibli' (Skirà, 1996). In addition to drawing, Igort was a musician with the New Wave bands the Slava Trudu Orchestra and Los Tres Caballeros. With his first band, he released the album 'Mélodico Moscovita' (1985), for which Igort designed a Cossack-inspired cover. He later collaborated with other musicians like Yello and Ryuichi Sakamoto and with labels like Alchemy, Alessi, Memphis and Swatch. In 1994 he exhibited as a visual artist and musician at the Venice Biennale.

During the 1990s Igort spent several long periods in Japan, during which he produced artwork for the Japanese market. He went to Japan for the first time in May 1991 and lived in Tokyo for six months in 1994. He did his first manga attempts for the publishing house Kodansha and the anthology Morning. These included the Sicilian maffia story 'Amore' and most notably the series about a space baby called 'Yuri'. He also made more experimental works for the alternative label Hon Hon Do. Igort later chronicled his Japanese experiences and his meditations about the country's culture in the graphic novel 'Quaderni Giapponesi' ('Japanese Notebooks', 2015).

5 is the perfect number by Igort
5 is the Perfect Number

Igort was co-founder of Coconino Press in 2000. The label has become one of the leading publishing imprints of graphic novels in Italy, and has released most of Igort's productions since then. Their line of books further includes work by Italian authors like Gipi, Davide Reviati, Francesca Ghermandi, Davide Toffolo and Sergio Ponchione, as well as the Italian editions of the the foremost American, Canadian, French and Japanese graphic novelists. Coconino Press is a partner of the Seattle-based Fantagraphics Books under the imprint of the Ignatz Series. Coconino published what is probably Igort's best-known work: '5 è il numero perfetto' ('5 is the Perfect Number') in graphic novel format in 2002. This moody crime noir about a retired Mafioso who returns to his former trade seeking vengeance was first printed in three comic books from Daniele Brolli's Phoenix Press in 1998-1999. Other books released by Coconino Press are 'Sinatra' (2001), 'City Lights' (2001), 'Il letargo dei Sentimenti' (2002), 'Brillo Croniche di Fafifurnia' (2003), 'Yuri, Asa Nisi masa' (2003) and 'Alligatore' (with Massimo Carlotto, 2007), several of which were reprints of previous work for French and Japanese publishers.

comic art by Igort
Baobab

In 2004, Coconino Press and Vertige Graphic joined forces and co-published Igort's book-format anthology 'Black', as well as his ongoing series about Japan, 'Boabab' (2005-2006). With writer Carlos Sampayo he made a comics biography about 1930s jazz legend Fats Waller (2004), but he then returned to the country of which the culture was so omnipresent in his youth: Russia. Initially he set out to make a comics biography about author and playwright Anton Chekhov in 2008. He was however moved by the misery of the people he encountered in Kiev, Ukraine, and decided to work on a whole different project: a comics documentary about the hardships endured by the common man during the Soviet regime. He spent two years in the Ukraine, Russia and Siberia collecting the stories of survivors and witnesses. But also recent events were depicted, like the murder of award-winning journalist and human rights activist Anna Politkoyskaya, who criticized Vladimir Putin about the Second Chechen War. Mondadori released the two non-fiction books under the titles 'Quaderni ucraini' (2010) and 'Quaderni Russi' (2011). Reprint editions followed through Coconino Press in 2014, while a one-volume English collection was published by Simon & Schuster under the title 'The Ukrainian and Russian Notebooks: Life and Death Under Soviet Rule' in 2016. A third installment which dealt with the victims of the Chechen conflict, 'Pagine Nomadi', was published by Coconino Press in 2012. A portrait of Igort's research for the Russian trilogy was made with the documentary 'Igort, il paesaggio segreto' ('Igort, the secret landscape') by director Domenico Distilo in 2013.

For his next books, Igort decided to look back at his own past. Aforementioned 'Quaderni Giapponesi' was a memoir of his years in Japan. In his widely illustrated novel 'My Generation' (2016), which includes some comics pages, he looks back at his childhood and his years in the Italian punk and New Wave scene.

Miners Strike, by Igort

www.igort.com

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