“A colourful, digital, sadly humorous, abstract, strangely familiar mix,” is how French illustrator Antoine Marchalot describes his work, and who are we to argue.
The underlying theme across his practice is seemingly one of fun, yet it must be said that some of his more illustrative pieces do possess a more ponderous, and even darker air to them.
“I make humorous and absurd comic strips, this is the main part of my work,” he tells It’s Nice That. “I also keep a more graphic and pictorial activity, as I do illustrations, exhibitions, or simply in my personal daily work. I like to move from a comic-based style to a more arty and abstract style.”
We last featured Antoine on It’s Nice That over four years ago, and whilst he doesn’t think he has changed his work too much, he does feel that his attitude and mindset is a lot clearer. “I don't think I fundamentally evolved. I still haven’t managed to set down my graphic style – but maybe the thing that changed is that I stopped worrying about that.”
He gives a rather nice analogy to back this up, explaining how he can often go off on a tangent, but that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. “Sometimes I think there are two types of illustrator. One wanders around, tries a lot of different things, enjoying every different thing that appears to him. Then there’s the illustrator that wants to go as far as he can on a straight line, improving and perfecting his style, making slight adjustments, step by step,” he says. “I'm probably more of the first kind.”
One of Antoine’s biggest pieces of work recently has been his anthology of his Leumonde comic, which is a sideways look at French politics published every Sunday in Le Monde. Adorned with a giant Beavis & Butthead-style head of Emmanuel Macron, he chose to satirise the newspaper format when creating the book, which contains his comics over a three year period.
“This big Macron head was a good way to draw the attention of the viewer, particularly with this very recognisable hairstyle,” he says. “As the book is folded in the middle, most of the time it's the only thing one could see of the book.” He also decided to make the book newspaper-sized as well, meaning that the head does end up extremely large: “as we make the book like a big fake newspaper, this cover was also a way to play and make fun of the usual traditions of newspapers.”
Although Antoine does some standalone pieces, much of his work is in this comic format, which allows him to delve into stories a little deeper. “I mostly do short stories or small comic strips, so I deal with a lot of different themes. This is what I like with short stories, you don't have to settle on one particular background or deeply-defined characters. I can switch all the time from one genre to another, from one era to another.”
His subject matter is, on the whole, extremely varied. One minute he is working on political cartoons that are entrenched in reality, and next he is creating his own alternate worlds that bear almost no resemblance to anything on this planet. His style also follows this trend too. You can see sketched caricatures of people with clear outlines in some projects, and then squiggly alien-like beings, with barely a defined line in sight, in others.
Working across the spectrum from politics to art, Antoine speaks very openly about how he feels the two interact. Surprisingly, he doesn’t class his work as political: “I indeed talk about politicians, and the political world as we know it, but I think real politics is somewhere else,” he explains. “What I tell myself lately is that the more of an artist you become, the less political you get. You can try to do both, but it's two separate things.”
He is very frank about this, and also extremely honest: “I don't take any risks, I'm within my comfort zone - I'm not sure I will really change people's mind with my funny stories about politicians,” he says. Ultimately he feels that whilst art can change perceptions, it struggles to make a material impact in a way that physically house refugees can for example.
“This doesn't mean that art is bad, I think it's wonderful and I couldn't do without it, but I just think we have to truly fight for a society, a world, where everybody could be an artist if they want to.”
About the Author
Charlie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in December 2019. He has previously worked at Monocle 24, and The Times following an MA in International Journalism at City University. If you have any ideas for stories and work to be featured then get in touch.