Tale of Unrealism
September 9 - October 5, 2021
Philippe Labaune Gallery is pleased to present Tale of Unrealism- an exhibition featuring a selection of large-scale drawings and illustrations by French artist Georges Bess. This is the first time the artist will be exhibiting in the United States. Bess, an illustrator of comics and graphic novels, is recognized as a master of line and ink and for his collaborations with renowned Chilean-French artist Alejandro Jodorowsky. In recent works, Bess breaks away from the parameters of the book, creating ornate worlds originating from a single page that he expands upon intuitively, in a trance-like state of drawing. Also on view will be a collection of original comic strips from Bram Stoker Dracula (2018) and his 1989 graphic novel Le Lama Blanc (The White Lama). Tale of Unrealism will be on view September 9 – October 5, 2021, with an opening reception on Thursday, September 9, 11 AM to 9 PM.
Within the large-scale drawings on view, Bess takes an approach akin to jazz improvisation. By beginning from a single mark on paper sprung from free association, a multi-paneled universe is forged. Bess approaches the work as a form of meditation where images are allowed to be born, morphed, or be held without consequence; to create a singular expression in its totality. The artist fills his drawings with details culled from cultures of Asia, baroque ornamentation, and bursts of flowering vegetation. In a style that Bess coins as naturalistic abstraction, the results appear to be suspended microcosms, brimming with a life of their own. The drawing Lieutenant Myrtille - Hommage a Jean Giraud borders on the scale of a mural, taking shape from a culmination of nearly fifty panels of paper. The drawing subtly pays tribute to his friend Jean Giraud’s, also known as ‘Moebius’, 1963 western graphic novel series Lieutenant Blueberry. Amorphous swirls of linework ebb and flow into shapes of bone and tendon. Fluid lines of ink surround a composition of finely detailed skulls in which various flora, birds, and cherubs emanate. A figure atop a horse is stripped down to the sinews, floating in the dark and beautiful underworld of Georges Bess’ making.
Also on view will be original comic strips from the six-volume series Le Lama Blanc (The White Lama) (1988-1995, Les Humanoïdes Associés) Bess created in collaboration with Alejandro Jodoworsky; a partnership which lasted over twenty years. Bess and Jodoworsky’s Le Lama Blanc is an epic spiritual adventure based in 19th century Tibet for which Bess was both illustrator and colorist.
In addition, original strips from Bess’ award-winning graphic novel Bram Stoker Dracula (2019, Glénat) will be on exhibition. When Bess began creating his intuitive-based large-scale drawings in the late 2010s, his publisher came across the works- and upon seeing the gothic, heavily inked drawings, immediately suggested that he adapt Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel. Bess was fascinated by Dracula as a child and after accepting the project, spent the next two years with the assistance of his artist wife, Pia, creating the 200-page graphic novel. Released in 2019, it was nominated for Best Album at France’s Angoulême International Comics Festival 2020. When creating the pages, Bess continued in his style informed by intuition and improvisation. The result is a richly detailed Dracula that borders the styles of gothic, modern, and kitsch. The haunting visualization of Stoker’s novel is bathed in black and white, a decision Bess made emphatically, stating “it has a force.”
Georges Bess was born in Tunisia in 1947. After moving to France and attending art school in Paris, he relocated to Sweden in 1970. There, he began drawing comics for publications Dante, Mika, Pellafant, and Anderssonskans Kalle. From 1976 to 1987, Bess worked on “The Phantom” for the Swedish Fantomen comic book. The collaboration that began between Georges Bess and Alejandro Jodorowsky in 1986 spans over twenty years, resulting in over sixteen volumes of work being translated in over ten languages. Over his extensive career Bess has created over fourteen graphic novel works under his name. His works have been published by Casterman, Dupuis, Glénat, Les Humanoïdes Associés, among others. Bess’ work in comics have garnered awards including: Angoulême Comics Festival (Juan Solo, 1996); Salón Internacional del Cómic del Principado de Asturias, Spain (Best Cartoonist, 1993; Best Coverage, 2002; Grand Prize for entire work, 2012); and Special Jury Prize at the Festival Imaginales d'Epinal (Bram Stoker Dracula, 2019). His recent large-scale drawings have been exhibited in galleries throughout France and Spain. Bess currently resides in Paris.