Pretending is Lying by Dominique Goblet, tr. Sophie Yanow, New York Review Books
Review: Sam Carter, Assistant Managing Editor
Dominique Goblet’s Pretending is Lying, translated by fellow cartoonist Sophie Yanow in collaboration with the author, immediately recalls the best work of those figures like Alison Bechdel, Adrian Tomine, and Chris Ware, who have done so much to insist on both the relevance and elegance of the graphic narrative form in the Anglophone world. Fortunately, New York Review Books is dedicated to showcasing the many voices contributing to an ongoing, worldwide comic conversation, and its latest contribution is this Belgian memoir. Originally titled Faire semblant c’est mentir, it centers on the experiences of Dominique—a fictionalized version of the author herself—as she navigates fraught relationships with her parents, including with her looming lush of a father. Also sketched out is a romantic relationship where Dominique attempts to grapple with that most fundamental question of heartbreak: why did he leave me?
A certified electrician and plumber, Goblet clearly understands a thing or two about the necessary connections running through structures to make them work, and her illustrations carry this skill into Pretending is Lying, her first work to appear in English. Image and text perform an intricate choreography, reveling in an aesthetic that frequently slips between the easily imitated and the utterly remarkable. If the easy analogy for reading comics is the process of examining a series of film stills—and even if we might be tempted to label parts of the construction of this work cinematic—I would instead suggest that Goblet offers something that more closely resembles a well curated series of photographs, each of which could easily stand on its own, given each frame’s clarity of vision and attention to detail.
In illustrations that move from Rothko-like explorations of pure color to nuanced collections of penmanship that gradually reveal a series of ethereal forms, the melancholia that we often find in other works emerges here as well—maybe there’s something about the form that lends itself well to expressions of such emotions in its ability to match words with alternatively visceral and measured strokes. The muted color palette of Pretending is Lying is also remarkably expressive. READ MORE…
Illustrator Andrea Popyordanova is Asymptote’s guest artist for the July 2016 issue. Her beautiful collages reimagined scenes from thirteen texts in our Fiction, Nonfiction, Drama, Writers on Writers, and Multilingual Writing Feature sections. Guest Artist Liaison Berny Tan interviewed her about contributing to Asymptote and how she develops her unique imagery.
Berny Tan (BT): The illustrations you created for Asymptote have this wonderful effortlessness about them, even when they’re composed of so many elements within a single frame. Could you take us through your process of conceiving and executing each piece?
Andrea Popyordanova (AP): I usually look at the most powerful descriptions in each text. I trust my intuition—if I vividly remember a particular expression or moment in a text, I visualize that. I start by composing the image in color, and then lay down the details that complete the whole. It’s all very quick, all about recreating a feeling or a striking image in my head. There isn’t really a process; it’s more of trying things until there is an image that works.
BT: You have a great way of visually setting a scene that feels almost like a memory of the narrative itself. In your editorial work, what are the challenges of balancing image and text, especially when you have to capture the text in a static image?
AP: I try to be slightly more analytical. I focus on the point of the text, and emphasize or extend it with my piece. An illustration in a magazine functions as a highlight of what the illustrator thinks is important in the text. I also try to figure out what’s appropriate for the readers of the article, and to match the style of my work to the publication.
Illustrator Gianna Meola is our guest artist for the April issue. Her effortlessly succinct images capture poignant moments in sixteen of our texts in the Fiction, Nonfiction, and Drama sections, as well as the works of our Close Approximations Contest winners. I interview her about her experience contributing to Asymptote, and delve into her processes as an illustrator.
Berny Tan: I really appreciate how you were able to distill every text into one distinct image. Could you take us through your process of conceiving and executing each piece?
Gianna Meola: I’m pretty straightforward—I read the text and thumbnail any ideas that come to me as I go, and then add notes and corrections before moving on to cleaner sketches. I also like to do some research into what I’m drawing if I’m not familiar with it; for instance, I ended up learning some truly useless information about constellations while researching ‘Anathema.’ It was great.
Illustrator Jensine Eckwall is our guest artist for the January 2016 issue. Her beautiful watercolour illustrations, which manage to be simultaneously delicate and vibrant, illuminate moments in eleven of our texts in the Fiction, Nonfiction, and Drama sections. I interview her about her practice, her experience contributing to Asymptote, and her upcoming projects.
Berny Tan: You’ve illustrated magazine articles, books, zines, and so on, in addition to the eleven texts in our January 2016 issue. Could you describe your process of conceiving and executing pieces based on existing texts?
Jensine Eckwall: If I can, when I receive a text to illustrate, I like to read the whole thing and pick out favorite phrases or words that are particularly evocative of the text’s theme for me. Then, in the corner of the paper I’m sketching on, I write those words out, as well as other phrases to which I’ve drawn mental connections. That’s often the seed for images, and I extrapolate from there. For commercial projects, I send a series of sketches to the client for approval. For non-commercial projects, I usually run the initial ideas by a friend or the publisher, if there is one. READ MORE…
Illustrator Samuel Hickson is our guest artist for the October issue. His meticulous and haunting images, often composed out of thousands of small dots, bring to life eleven of our texts in the Fiction, Nonfiction, Drama, and Multilingual Writing feature sections. I interview him about his influences and his experience contributing to Asymptote.
Berny Tan: Your work is usually inspired by “satire, horror, sci-fi and psychedelia,” but not all of the texts you illustrated belonged in these genres. How did you generate ideas for those texts?
Samuel Hickson: Most of the texts featured details or events which immediately conjured images in my mind as I read them. I’d sketch these initial ideas down and then develop the image which portrayed the overall atmosphere or emotion of the text in the most succinct manner.
As the guest artist for Asymptote’s summer issue, Singaporean visual artist Robert Zhao Renhui contributed our cover image and illustrated 15 texts in the Fiction, Nonfiction, Drama, and Latin American Fiction Feature sections. I interview him about this experience, as well as the relationship between image and text in his art practice.
I’ve been following your trajectory for quite a few years, but it’s safe to say that the Asymptote summer issue is presenting your work to an audience that is largely unfamiliar with your practice. How would you explain your art, and the Institute of Critical Zoologists, to our readers?
I am interested in both photography and nature, so in my work, I use photography to investigate our dialogue with nature. The Institute of Critical Zoologists (ICZ) is an umbrella concept under which I create and present my work. The meaning of the ICZ takes shape with each of my projects and exhibitions, which create different realities and fictions.
Could you describe the process of creating/selecting images for this issue?
There was a tension between choosing images that were too literal a representation of the text, and pictures that encapsulated a very personal connection to the text that regular readers may not get. My guiding principle was that my images should be in a jazz-like dialogue with the text, and occasionally surprise the viewer. I submitted a few pictures for each essay, leaving it up to the journal to do the final selection. In some cases, I didn’t know what was chosen until the issue was published. READ MORE…