Geo Sipp - Eroding the Boundaries - Frêmok and the Experimental in Comics Narratives
Imagine comics as poetry, as theater, projected from a platform to an audience, asking us to mindfully construct a narrative from our response to a presented visual experience. From William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII – “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts….”. The creators at the Brussels collective Frêmok look at drawing as a language; the work is presented not just as printed material, but as projects. We tend to trust written and spoken language more than pictures. Yet the context of Frêmok projects tend to surround us with images as language, in both printed material as well as installation and exhibition. The work presented by the artists and writers of the Frêmok collective presents us with narratives reflecting the human condition, sometimes quietly and sometimes demonstrably. In their book Paysage Après la Bataille (winner of the Best Comic of the Year at Angoulême in 2016), writer Phillipe Pierpoint and artist Eric Lambé present us with an allegory of the loss of a child. Using metaphorical imagery and visual pacing, they quietly express life’s fragmentary nature, death, the processing of loss, the value of silence and escape. This is a large work that uses very few words; it asks us to view the juxtapositional relationship of images to form associations that support the emotional content of the narrative. In his book La Ville Rouge, artist Michael Matthys uses bovine blood to create starkly beautiful images of the city of Charleroi, Belgium. The images convey the sense of a dying industrial city. In Living in Frandisco, Thierry Van Hasselt interprets the world envisioned by Marcel Schmitz, an artist with Down’s Syndrome who works at the Grand Atelier of Vielsalm. Marcel creates an ever-growing world made of cardboard and tape; he constructs a personal mythology around this physical environment. Together they created a book of profound beauty, in which they share this mythology, and imbue it with pathos and significance.
Frêmok presents its comics as parataxis, asking the reader to create associations that challenge our normal perceptions of the world around us. Presented in this way, their comics evoke memory, whether accessed through images or through verbal structuring. And memory is always a flexible thing in our minds, affected by our disposition at a particular moment in time. And that can be uncomfortable. By looking at the comics published by Frêmok, we develop new methods for analyzing and appreciating this fascinating hybrid art form, which joins images, words and abstract symbols into elaborate compositions. Moreover, this group has changed the language of the art form by asking us to consider sensitive topical issues related to the human condition from a myriad of perspectives. Art influences society by changing opinions, instilling values and translating experiences across space and time. The essence of Frêmok is to create experimental, poetic work that evokes emotional consequences to our perceptions of the world.