For French illustrator Marion Jdanoff, animals are always reoccurring in her work. Fans of hers will notice this too from seeing “dogs and wolves on one hand and big cats on the other, especially tigers and jaguars,” she tells us.
Drawing creatures, particularly big cats, isn’t a stylistic tendency of the illustrator’s, but rather an exploration of many different themes through time. “By drawing these animals and being fascinated with them, I find myself entangled in a complex history,” the illustrator explains. The themes which Marion picks up on form a vast and varied list, from “colonialism, empire and racism,” to “French universalism, a fascination for others, a very situated way of seeing nature, the wild, and ideas of conquest and separation.”
Rather than translate this interest and subsequent research into illustration, Marion fully recognises that “it is there,” she says. “I try not to ignore it. But, I keep going back to the problematic tigers, nearly magical creatures that I can invest with a lot of symbolics: night, freedom, wildness, struggling with capitalism, danger and protection.” Marion’s first exploration of this is documented in her latest book, Léopard = Nuit, where the illustrator tries “to figure out what they mean for me,” but it’s still very much a work in progress, an ambitious attempt to understand the different subjects.
A combination of written text and screen printed illustrations in Marion’s signature scratch-like drawing style, Léopard = Nuit, published by Palefroi, is an honest depiction of the thoughts the illustrator describes. In her text, displayed in a rambling, natural handwritten style which ties in nicely with her illustrations, she voices this. “Big Cats can be great allies to attack fences and walls,” she writes, “to make the ivory towers tremble, to track mercilessly preconceived ideas even in their most secret entrenchments and to disembowel certainties.”
Publications are often the medium Marion chooses to display her work, developing narratives from page to page. Léopard = Nuit may even be her most detailed book to date, illustrating and writing not only her own thoughts but ones that link to history and nature too.
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