Angoulême – Exhibitions Galore

Posted by on February 6th, 2011 at 2:27 PM

Being at the comics festival in Angoulême, France, means visiting a great number of exhibitions, as this is one if the major means of communicating with the audience here. The last four days I have tried to visit as many as possible given that I had a lot of meetings, signing sessions, lectures etc. to attend to as well.

One exhibition that I never got to visit was the one just outside of the press centre (which is the epicentre of all my stays in Angoulême)… The reason being that the theme of the series Trolls de Troy doesn’t interest me much, even though it is one if the most popular French comics right now. Also, when the festival got going, there was a constant queue for several hundreds of meters, enough to disparage all but the most fanatic of readers. Trolls de Troy is a traditional French mainstream comic, meaning that it is a genre story (sci-fi/fantasy), contains gratuitious violence and sexist nudity in abundance and quite clearly emphasizing the impact of the images over the quality of the scripts. So, not ranking high on my list I gave this one a miss.

Probably my favourite exhibition this year was the one on the alternative/avantgarde cartoonists from Belgium, showing that there is a lot going on in this country which is not necessarily a take on the classical European album format/style à la Tintin. And yes, that’s the always stylish Swedish artist Knut Larsson standing up front.

The major exhibition of the festival was of course the one showcasing the art of festival president Baru. This huge exhibition was tastefully done, with an enormous number of originals on display, showing just how meticulous Baru is when creating his comics (they all looked like printed pages).

There were other things as well, like the gigantic wall showing all the pages from Baru’s masterpiece L’autoroute du Soleil, screens showing documentary footage from the times and places of some of Baru’s stories and so on. All in all, this was a good exhibition, if not exceptionally so though.

One great disappointment this year was the exhibition for Selection officiel, i.e. the chosen 50 best albums/graphic novels of the year. The last few years, this has been designed as a big reading room, with small alcoves for each book and huge eye-catching reproductions of all the covers, making it ideal for walking around, getting a feel for the comics culture in France and being able to sit down and read whenever something caught your eye. This year, the selection was presented as a clutter of covers on one of the walls, with reading places in front of it, neither really serving their purpose as well as the old system. I was in and out in a matter of minutes, taking the brochure to read at my leisure instead.

A small but nicely done exhibition was based on the comic Petit Histoire des colonies Francais by Gregory Jarry and Otto T. The curator had focused on the iconic quality of the artist’s work, consisting mostly of advanced versions of stick figures and produced houses in the same style, containing thematically oriented mini-exhibitions from the books in the series.

Another exhibition that I liked was the one on parodies, presented in the new comics museum. Here parodies of all kinds were presented thematically, both the more readily expected, like parodies of literature, films, art and so on, but also more (for me anyway…) unexpected variations like self-referential parody, parody of style of genre and so on. Quite enjoyable, not the least since the museum has such varied collections to draw examples from.

Outside of the museum was the, now traditional, outdoors exhibition, this year focusing on the American comic strip Peanuts. Nicely done, but too general to be of any interest to yours truly.

And then there’s of course the permanent, historical exhibition inside the museum, which I like but have already browsed extensively and didn’t have the energy to give more than a passing glance this year.

Heading back up to the city (the museum being located somewhat outside of the city centre) you always stumble upon Maison des Auteurs a studio that usually exhibits the work of the present artists, something that is always interesting.

Just a stone’s throw further up the hill, you find the tent containing the exhibition of “young talents”, a competition arranged each year, usually showcasing comics by a few new names to keep track of.

Well, there you have it. As you can tell, I have not exactly been idle while at the festival, but have endeavoured to see it all to be able to report back to you. Now I’ll head out into the Parisian night, looking for some good Belgian beer and a quiet place to do some reading. Cheers all!

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3 Responses to “Angoulême – Exhibitions Galore”

  1. Matthias Wivel says:

    Hey, that’s me in the penultimate photo! Ahem, anyway, the last image is from the Hong Kong show, not the Jeunes talents.

    It was good to hang out at the festival — see you next year, if not before!

  2. Hi Matthias. Ah, dammit, I chose the wrong image… Many images to keep track of. Oh well, will fix. And yes, sad that we need to go to France to hang out.

  3. There you go, the right image on the right place :) Thanks. And yes, that is you on that strange corridor in Maison des Autuers.