Studio Visit: Loïc Gaume
The idea is as simple as it is ingenious: arranging your experiences and feelings according to the places they occur in order to create a map of your life. This is what the graphic artist and comic book creator Loïc Gaume (1983) has done in his eleven-part, alternative-autobiographical Wafel project. “Wafelmaps”, the exhibition – a fascinating offshoot of the comic strip project – running at Galerie Artitude until 5 January, offers a small but fine tour through paper landscapes in which specific landmarks appear in relief. You traverse Geneva, Barcelona, Berlin, Pays du Bourbonnais, and Brussels in miniature topographical models. Like a self-sketched mental map, the Collection Wafel offers a glimpse into the life of its creator: “When I came to Brussels to study at La Cambre, the Dutch wafel sounded very good, and even somewhat exotic to a Frenchman. It stuck in my mind. The name relates to both the gaufrier (the comic book pattern consisting of little squares) and Brussels, which is in fact the starting point of the whole series. And to push the comparison even further: the photocopied fanzine I published at La Cambre cost exactly as much as a waffle: 1.50 euro.” [Laughs]
Loïc Gaume recorded over four years of his life in his fanzines and notebooks. Those stories display a wonderful sense of humour and have great attention to detail, both with respect to form and content. Life’s small but very recognisable vicissitudes appear in fragmentary scenes that shift from one original perspective to the other. For example, to the nervous passenger flying for the first time, an aeroplane might consist of no more than the section of the left wing and engine visible from the window: “To draw is to make choices, to reveal what fragmentary bits interest you. The logic of the cartographer, looking for the whole, doesn’t come into it. [Laughs] I used to live near Geneva, but I never thought it to be more than an airport and a lake. That was my image of Geneva. So that’s what I drew.”
The topographical form of Loïc Gaume’s project only became definitive in the Collection Wafel. “In the Collection Wafel, I stopped ordering the stories chronologically and arranged them all according to location. To that end, I drew all the topographical maps that envelop the various chapters. The models at the exhibition complete the project.” Imagining intimate stories in an apparently objective, scientific format like topographical maps gives the project an exciting friction, thanks not only to the manipulation and blending of the subjective and the objective, but also thanks to the visual narrative as a track, a physical space, a tangible mould for memories, and thus time. Just like visual stories are an inseparable tangle of text and images, they are also a temporal space summoned via visual and textual means.
It is impossible to discuss Loïc Gaume graphic stories without mentioning their manner of publication: auto-édition - which is also being offered some space at his "Wafelmaps" exhibition. The latter follows from the former: the Collection Wafel is an edition located on the border of the comic strip, illustration, and publication: “It was the direct cause of the implementation of my own structure, of self-publishing. Instead of merely giving the project my own name, I published it myself. And that changes a lot: you become an author-publisher. That approach alone has distanced me from traditional comics. If I would have just copied the classical comic book form, I might as well have published it somewhere else. All the reasons for self-publishing would have been redundant.” Under the heading Les Détails – “because that is what I’m looking for, that’s what interests me: details” – Loïc Gaume has already published two works: the eleven-part Collection Wafel and 37 Piers, a fantastic accordion edition, a kind of inventory of all 37 piers on the British coast, from the most rudimentary to veritable decorative palaces, in which he again indulges in his fascination for architecture. “I became a comic book artist because I drew. I read Tintin, of course, but I was never a comic book fanatic. It is quite funny, but it was drawing more than the desire to make comic books that led me here. But I certainly feel at home in everything that is going on in the world of comics – a whole new realm being thrown open.”
Loïc Gaume’s studio is at his home. “I thought it would be nice to meet here because the eleventh and last instalment of the Collection Wafel, the only story that I made specifically for the collection, takes place here.” The table he works at is in the living room, with a view of the window and the fine selection of books on the shelves. There are boxes with his own publications that still need to be folded and cut next to the table, and a small storage space. He also has numerous notebooks on hand, not only carnets with drawings, but also books filled with ideas that might suddenly come up. And yet there is a striking visual restfulness about the space: “I really need a visually calm space that is not too noisy. Before, there used to be nothing on the walls, but now I have had to compromise with my girlfriend [Laughs] and the walls are decorated lightly... With things that might stimulate me. Things that occupy me and that might help me to see things better. But it has to be calm. I used to draw often on the tram, I always had a notebook with me. Now I always work at a table. I need my own corner, wherever and however small it is. I don’t need much space. Drawing is not like painting, which requires space to see your work from a distance. I always tend to get very close.” For the details!
Exhibition: > 5/1, “Wafelmaps”, Galerie Artitude, Langehaagstraat 23 rue de la Longue Haie, Brussel/Bruxelles, www.artitude.be
Books: Collection Wafel (limited edition box), Les Détails; 37 Piers, Les Détails
Wafelmaps for children: Workshops: 3 > 5/1, Galerie Artitude, info: 02-641.14.12
Info: Loïc Gaume: loicgaume.blogspot.be;
Les Détails: www.lesdetails-editions.blogspot.be
Photos © Heleen Rodiers