My attention to the autonomous art of the picture strip, the graphic novel, dated from some twenty years ago. Before that I was concerned with Tintin, Asterix and later on some Dutch artists as Joost Swarte, who had already given this medium its autonomous power.
In my permanent research on visual sources, references and inspirations, in which especially painting and cinema play their part, next to photography of course, it has been the development of the graphic novel, which attracted my attention. There was a process going on in which the drawing artists were shaking up the classical comic strip by adding a new visual dimension and not just drawing in service of the story as illustration. Often there was cooperation between author and artist but also an exchange of roles, whereby the cooperation became more equivalent.
Loustal’s development has always been autonomous,not only in his approach to the classical comic strip or crime story, but also in his choices of genre and themes. Often crime stories are mixed with the film-noire, love stories and jazz music and always mixed with his subtle light ironic view on culture and design, the relational behaviour within the public area.
In Paris, at a friend’s home, I discovered Loustal’s work in some ‘Carnet-de-voyages’ and started looking for his books. I felt attracted to his free approach of drawing, his vision, his themes inspired by the cinema, the photography, a new way of telling stories in images. I recognized his investigation into dressing, design, lightning, attention at the mise-en-scène, the stage setting, how to portray a story visually, not always the same mise-en-page or using the same techniques. Sometimes working with a pencil, black graphite, or colour pencils, felt pen, everything is permitted but has to go with this story and that moment, in the classical comic strip the text’s place is mostly in a small balloon, bulbs or small clouds. In Loustal’s work the drawing, although not always, often becomes more and more autonomous. Perhaps the text is beside the image and as a viewer one follows both lines, the visual and the telling. This creates space for him to give attention to his perspective on the story, to zoom in and out, to create tension, to be close to the surface, to make the scene both physical and perceptible.
In an interview with the French writer Philippe Muri, in: Loustal, Chambres avec Vue, published by Festival International du Bande Desinée –where he has been guest of honour in 2011, he works out this idea, from which I take some thoughts to introduce him. He talks about his youth, the presence of books, photo books, also objects, images, postcards, and maps, also his hunger to discover the world, fed by this environment.
The interiors in his drawings are a lust for the eye, his attention to the design of the scene, the materials, objects, paintings on the wall, the fashion, tapestry on the floor, table-covers, always playing with this in his subtle, light ironic view on the world. No detail is from a sense of duty, on the contrary, it’s filled with all that comes together in his translated world. In that sense he’s not illustrating the stories, but creating a visual layer which places the story in a Loustallian light of a certain sadness, in which the story teller and spectator come together totally.