Saturday, 12 March 2011

Moebius

Back in January I commented on how much a piece of Egyptian sculpture I'd seen reminded me of the work of the French illustrator Moebius. I was, it turns out, actually thinking of La Foire aux Immortels by Bilal, another French illustrator. But anyway, I thought it was Moebius and when I looked him up on the internet my brain was flooded by his vast body of intricate and mindblowing work. The best site I found was Quenched Consciousness which, I don't know if you've noticed, I put in my links.

Other than the work itself the most interesting thing I turned up was that the largest exhibition of his work ever put on was currently running. The only thing was it was in Paris. However, I was feeling saucy so I booked myself a Eurostar ticket.

I suspect the first drawing I ever saw by Moebius was the third panel of this cityscape from The Long Tomorrow,
which I think was included in some long forgotten sci fi anthology I borrowed from my school library. I'm a big fan of dense, vertiginous future cityscapes and this depiction is possibly the most simply satisfying I've ever seen. The original artwork (in black and white) was on display.

This coloured version is well done - most of the art on display was just black ink on white paper and the lines were so sharp. The addition of colour to most editions of his work seems to bland them out. Seeing the crisp, original pages in the subterranean gallery at the exhibition came close to bringing on sensory overload - it was all I could do to fight the urge to run, gibbering, between all the immaculate little masterpieces. I nearly wore my eyeballs out staring so intently at a picture entitled Chaoma (detail in the second column below) and three pages from Incal Book 4 (detail in first column top).

It's tough finding good images of the pictures I wanted on the internet, and even harder to get hold of copies of paper editions (Moebius should never be out of print). Sadly, I can't find any images at all of his depiction of Jimi Hendrix's disembodied head making its haphazard way, on ectoplasmic tentacles, down some freaky highway. Again, like all the best stuff on display, done in black and white - and somehow, despite how utterly clean the lines of the illustration were, managing to give an incredibly powerful suggestion of motion.

The exhibition catalogue cost 49 euros but having had a chance to look at it I decided it was worth every cent. While I was flipping through it though a bloke came up to the counter, asked about it (in French) and after a short conversation went away looking a bit disappointed. There was a little sign on the counter about le catalogue. I could only make out the last sentence which said "Thank you for your understanding in this matter". Hmm, the preceding sentence all seemed to hinge on this word epuise. After a bit of lurking I strode towards the counter and launched into my spiel: "Je suis anglais. Je ne parle pas francais". The attendant was very good about it but it was clear in about half a second that he didn't speak English. "Le catalogue...", I continued. "Ah, epuise", he said. I pulled my best puzzled face. "Er...sold out", he managed. "Ah, merci". And that was that. Bummer.

I had about four hours before my train so I went for a wander. I remembered from a previous visit a particular book shop and set off to find it. I didn't and drifted to a halt outside Notre Dame. After a refreshing slice of pizza I turned back into the Latin Quarter and immediately hit the motherlode, which, if you're ever comic shopping in Paris, is Rue Dante. Reprints were available in most of them but they were a bit too glossy.

The last shop I went in had a load of slightly earlier, slightly less glossy reprints. I nearly bought the first Humanoides Associes anthology but decided, after about 30 minutes, that I shouldn't really shell out about thirty quid for the sake of the four pages of artwork that I loved. Of course now I'm kicking myself. This was one of the pages that tempted me so.

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