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Costume designer Adžić Ursulov says fabric is like emotion

Ljubljana, 7 February - Costume and set designer Bjanka Adžić Ursulov has made costumes for more than 250 theatre productions and designed dozens of scenes in her 40-year career, for which she will receive one of the two Prešeren Prizes for lifetime achievement tonight.

Ljubljana
Costume designer Bjanka Adžić Ursulov, one of the two winners of this year's Prešeren Prize.
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA

Ljubljana
Costume designer Bjanka Adžić Ursulov, one of the two winners of this year's Prešeren Prize.
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA

Ljubljana
Costume designer Bjanka Adžić Ursulov, one of the two winners of this year's Prešeren Prize.
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA

Ljubljana
Costume designer Bjanka Adžić Ursulov, one of the two winners of this year's Prešeren Prize.
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA

Ljubljana
Costume designer Bjanka Adžić Ursulov, one of the two winners of this year's Prešeren Prize.
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA

The jury praised her as "a lucid reader of plays with a rare gift of decoding invisible dramaturgical twists only to translate them into original costume design".

She is seen as a great expert on historical styles who plays innovatively with materials and has an incredible sense of detail and the whole, the jury said.

She says that in designing costumes, she is always careful for the magic of theatre not to get lost.

Adžić Ursulov was born in 1950 in Montenegro and graduated in painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Belgrade, Serbia in 1978.

She staged her first theatre productions, for which she also designed costumes and sets, already in secondary school, which she attended in Osijek, Croatia.

But as she has recently explained in an interview with the STA, it was when she ran into professor Dušan Ristić at the prestigious BITEF festival in Belgrade that she decided to go, to her parents' dismay, into costume design.

Her career in Slovenia began in the early 1980s; she started working for the film industry in 1982 and three years later also in the theatre.

She has most often worked with directors Ljubiša Ristić (Serbia), Slovenians Dušan Jovanović and Mateja Koležnik, and lately also with Matjaž Zupančič and Janusz Kica (Poland).

The Prešeren Prize jury said Adžić Ursulov continues the finest tradition of Slovenian costume designers Mija Jarc (1911-1989) and Alenka Bartl (1930-2018).

Indeed, the laureate feels the award makes her part of a special club which includes Bartl, the only costume designer to have received the Prešeren Prize before her, as well as Jarc and Marija Kobi (1929-2010).

As a painter, she has excellent knowledge of historical styles and plays with them with ease, adding her contemporary signature to her creations.

"I like playing with historical styles because I want a production to have its own time... What I want to achieve is timelessness, which is the hardest thing to do. And I appreciate minimalism," she says.

The jury praised her work as inventive when she works with different fabrics and other materials, such as metal, paper, rubber or polyurethane.

For Adžić Ursulov, fabric is like an emotion. "I like natural materials, I hate artificial ones ... so I'm careful not to use them in theatre."

She remains one of the few costume designers who still make sketches.

The jury praised them as masterpieces, noting her sketches are made so that they do not only show what costume a character will wear, but hint at the character's characteristics as well.

The laureate is also seen as "a superb ambassador of Slovenian theatre abroad", having worked for practically all leading theatres in the countries of the former Yugoslavia and with many in Italy, France, Austria, Great Britain and Germany.

When the Prešeren winners were declared last month, Adžić Ursulov said she was incredibly proud to have received the prize, which she sees as a recognition for all who work in theatre.

"For me and my profession winning the Prešeren Prize is an incredible achievement. I'd never dreamt of receiving such a prestigious award. I'm really grateful for it," she says, although this is hardly the first award for her.

In 1997, she was honoured with the Prešeren Fund Prize for theatre costume designs from the previous two years, and received the Vesna award, given out at the annual Slovenian Film Festival, for costume design in the omnibus Neke Druge Zgodbe (Some Other Stories; 2010).

German magazine Theater Heute put her on the list of ten best designers in Europe in 1994, and she received the Aphrodite for costume design for film Prehod (Transition; 2008) at the international film festival in Cyprus.

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© STA, 2019