When you look at the abyss, the abyss also looks into you.

“Lovecraft is a single sailor in his lighthouse; but after all, there are still sailors alone in their lighthouse today.”

continue !

The title of your last exhibition Continue! seems to be an injunction addressed to the slaughtered characters you represent.

It is in reference to the Title of a book by Jérôme Gontier, Continue. It is a collection of thoughts that he can have throughout the day by going to see his therapist twice a week. He tells the smallest facts. If the title of my exhibition is imperative, this word is less an order than an opening on the discussion.


These characters evoke a passive and naked humanity, sometimes evoking the work of Philippe Hérard. Do you always represent humans in this way?

There are many facets of my work, but this contemporary aspect is more relevant to my vision of the world. We must stop pretending that life is beautiful and that everything is fine. I try to transcribe this feeling in my drawings. Philippe Hérard has a very poetic vision of life, while mine is a little hardcore. For example, I enjoy Paris when it is grey and raining. At Hérard’s, there is colour and questions. In my work there are no more questions, only facts.

Zariel & Philippe Hérard
However, there are some colour escapes.

This exhibition represents 20 minutes of a lifetime, from bedtime to arrival at work. The character gets up, everything is dull and dirty, then he starts to feel like he’s growing wings, dreaming, thinking for himself. As he finally freed himself, he arrived at work, and fell back into depression. These coloured notes are there to tell him to continue, but they only remain in ideas.

tell a story

Does each image tell a story, or do you always create links between them?

I don’t lock myself into a preconceived idea so as not to always reproduce the same thing. With Continue! I wanted a narrative that would be long, take up space, even go out of the frame to resonate with the viewer. I didn’t want it to be just another story. I believe that the entire work of an artist tells only one story, only one questioning, only one direction. It is the embodiment of a personality.

Where does this narrative dimension come from?

The comic book had a great influence on me, this narrative probably comes from there. I also had an art history teacher who taught me that figurative work always tells something. And myself, without necessarily knowing why, when I draw or create a character I need to tell myself a story. So I have many comic book scenarios that I have never worked on before.

Somewhere writing therefore occupies a very important place in your drawing.

When I draw a character, my monkey for example, I assign artifacts to him, like an astronaut helmet “from a future seen in the 70s”, and when I draw him, I think he could travel back in time. When the drawing is finished, I have a character who exists physically, but for whom I have also developed a story and a chronology. I know when he was born, what he experienced, why he is smart and how he ends up in space. After the story is good or not, but it exists.

When I meet people on the street, I invent lives for them: one is a shrink, another has not had a good day. I want to share it, and that’s why I kept drawing, writing stories. When you work on a comic strip, it’s not to keep it to yourself. My first character was called Bidael, a little angel, before Inkman, a mutant with tentacles on his face and a shitty life, appeared.

Do you have any recurring elements in your drawings?

I tend to put bandages and bandages all over my characters. The one from Continue! has a scar on his nose. It is not necessarily to symbolize suffering, but rather to create an experience, a story that he could tell others. Everyone has an anecdote. I had made a poster for a festival, a kid who played guitar, covered with bandages. Even if it has nothing to do with the subject, I find it brings density to the characters, keeping them from looking too smooth. Although my favorite superhero is Superman, I don’t like heroes who are doing too well.

build an image

How do you build an image?

I have several ways of working: either I act very spontaneously, and I draw directly in ink on paper without thinking. But I can also think long and hard about what I want to communicate and I do everything I can to make it work, whether it’s digital or paper.

In Continue! however, there was a strong contrast between very drawn parts at the level of the characters and flat areas of more abstract colours in the background.

This plays on the duality of dream and reality. When you dream, it’s concrete, very formal, you remember it in the morning, feeling like you’ve experienced something. I find reality much more abstract than dream, because we decide nothing, we suffer what happens to us, and when we want something we sacrifice a lot to hope to have it. How do we know what we really love, between what we have been taught and the desires that the ads feed us? Our own feelings are thus very abstract.

In a dream our unconscious interferes, but our fears and desires belong to us. We either have the choice to flee them or to keep them, where we would have no control over them in reality. If I order a salad, I get the idea of a dish, and in the end I don’t get what I ordered. Like when I prepare an exhibition, there is a big difference between my original idea and what I provide.

Lovecraft and the abyss

Lovecraft has an important influence on your work.

At Lovecraft, everything comes from the alien, from the past and the future. Or that you seek, you always come back on inconceivable Deities, on a possible invasion from elsewhere, there are eons. That’s why this author is so great: it’s impossible to scientifically confirm or refute what he says, and his writing is so fantastic that after all this might well be possible. Lovecraft is timeless: his texts certainly contain references, and his racist accents testify to the fact that he is not a current writer, but he makes no description and his linear and non-contemplative narrative does not allow us to identify with a period. We identify with an atmosphere: Lovecraft is a sailor alone in his lighthouse; but after all, there are still sailors alone in their lighthouse today.

For your previous exhibition, you also quote Nietzsche: “If you look long into the abyss, the abyss looks at you too. »

It’s an idea that’s been buried inside me since I was a kid. There is always something wrong with everyone. Just the concept of death pisses everyone off. But we forget it, we put it aside, pretending not to know that our mother can die at any time. This is a fatality that Nietzsche describes: if you look your fear in the face, you realize what it is in you. You just have to know that. It is an idea of the mirror, when you see the abyss you realize its presence, but yet it has always been there.

For example, there are many people in the world of work who do not realize how they talk, how they behave with others. They do not consider the implications of this. The only person who realizes this is the one who is submissive. And she sees the abyss. For this exhibition “#INTOTHEDEEP” I tried to represent that. The definition of intelligence is to make connections between things, to gather ideas. If you create a connection between people, isn’t that a form of social intelligence? If you gather ideas that have nothing to do with each other by a fact, is it a form of intelligence or madness? This is a question to which I have no answer.

Can Superheroes also see the abyss?

In the DC Comics universe the characters are all crazy, even Superman who is obsessed with his virtue and his desire for the right at all costs. In an alternative version called Red Son he did not fall in Kensas but in the USSR. Growing up in a communist country he became the red son of the nation, with a sickle and a hammer on his suit.

With New 52 DC Comics has dared to redesign its entire universe to make it darker, with characters even more torn apart than before. They are living gods, with extremely strong problems. Flash fights against the will to go back to the past to save his mother when he knows he shouldn’t; Superman is so powerful that he can no longer act and only asks himself questions. These superheroes are like us, on a divine scale; that’s why I’ve always preferred ancient gods to modern religions.

Zariel & Codex Urbanus

The only Superhero I could draw would be an incomprehensible being, like Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen. He can do anything but no one understands him, and goes to live on Mars and lets people kill each other because they wanted it.

For the anecdote, it was DC Comics that published Watchmen following the acquisition of Charlton comics. The protagonists had to be characters we know today, but Alan Moore decided to create new characters. Nevertheless, we find a trace of these heroes in the characters of DC Comics: Dr. Manhattan is adapted from Captain Atom, Blue Beetle’s Le Hibou, Rorschach from The Question…

You can find Zariel on Instagram, Facebook.

Pictures: Zariel

Interview recorded in march 2019.

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