Crossing Borders: Reality Viewed By The Viewer


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Pieter De Poortere’s hilarious Rapunzel cartoon, Marzena Sowa’s return to stalinist Poland and the art of Luc Dondeyne.

Once Upon A Time

Belgian Dickie creator Pieter De Poortere can count on some minor fame abroad. He has created a hilarious 3D animation featuring Rapunzel and his stand-in miscreant Dickie that is pretty funny.

once upon a time trailer from Boerke on Vimeo.

Don’t Kiss Just Anybody

Marzena Sowa is a relative newcomer to comics but her autobiographical graphic novel Marzi immediately turned out to be a success. Dealing with growing up in eighties Poland, it was a series of vignettes depicting life under a communist regime but where the magic of childhood still manages to shine through. In this sense Don’t Kiss Just Anybody threads upon the same ground but is lighter in mood and drawings despite dealing with issues like deportation and a stalinist regime of repression.

When Viktor tries to kiss a girl from his class in a cinema showing propaganda reels, the repercussions emanating from this incident endanger both himself and his father who is a writer of anti-state pamphlets. In a society driven by paranoia and secrecy, there’s no room for individual or emotional expression of any kind.

Where Marzi was structured as a series of vignettes, Don”t Just Kiss Anybody is one large chronological story and it loses something because of it. There’s an inherent preachiness that Sowa falls into when dealing with a larger canvas and especially the third act suffers from a wordy overemphasis on speechifying and the virtues of the individual and the power to dream.

The drawings by Sandrine Revel suit the story well. The soft rounded look for the children provides some comfort, contrasting well with the darker story by Sowa. The children stand out from their gray environment with bright clothing and flushed flesh tones. The only comment I would utter is that Sandrine is given page after page of conversations to draw and by the end of the graphic novel, she runs out of ways to illustrate these quiet moments. It all becomes a bit blasé both in terms of art and story.

Don’t Kiss Just Anybody is a worthy effort communicating a tale of innocence lost and the power of the state in crushing the virtue of children. In the end though, writer Marzena Sowa wanders around too much in her own moralistic views while the artist Sandrine Revel fails to captivate the reader over the 112 pages of this conversational graphic novel. Despite its heavy thematic matter, this is a nice book to while away a few hours but no more than that.

Don’t Kiss Just Anybody is published by Blloan in Dutch. It is a full colour hardcover counting 112 pages and retails for €19.95

Distances by Luc Dondeyne

Stories are not the only province of comic books ofcourse, any kind of visual art strives to tell a story. In a cultural landscape saturated by images, images have been reduced to ephemeral curiosa. Luc Dondeyne is a Belgian painter who clearly has something to communicate to whomever views his paintings, the message however is never that easy to deduce, meaning being transposed by the viewer.

Dondeyne paints in an impressionistic style with broad sweeps of paint but adheres to a more realistic streak, putting the characters clearly front and center. In every painting there’s an ephemeral touch of both story and personalities. It leads to a strange dissonance in his paintings where his subjects seem to be a sidestep from reality itself, resident in an ambiguous freeze-framing.

Art publisher MER. Paper Kunsthalle, publishers of Rogier’s superhero-on-acid graphic novel series The Hunger - reviewed right here, have published a beautiful hardback overview of his oeuvre from the last 25 years. It is a thick book with beautiful reproductions and I heartily recommend this to anyone interested in the visual arts. There's an interesting essay by Thibaut Verhoeven on Dondeyne's style of painting and a literary contribution by Oscar van den Boogaard whose prose piece perfectly captures the atmostpherics involved in Dondeyne's paintings being haunting, melancholic and contemporary.

Distances by Luc Dondeyne is published by MER. Paper Kunsthalle. It is a full colour hardcover counting 320 pages and retails for €29.50.

Some examples of Dondeyne's work:

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