A few months ago a friend of a friend introduced me to this crazy French guy. He was in Daegu with a crew that was doing fabric printing on-site. He showed me a plethora of stuff he’s done, from comic books to t-shirts to coffee mugs to screen prints. I’d say his style is somewhere between R. Crumb and Pee Wee’s Playhouse. We chatted via skype recently, and I found out all sorts of stuff about him. Even his name.
[b]: So what is your name? You’ve told me facebook names and other things but I don’t know your actual name.
BZ: My name is Boyane.
[b]: You’re like a member of the Wu-Tang or something with all these different monikers.
BZ: Ha ha.
[b]: Can you tell me a little about your art background?
BZ: I’ve been drawing since I was a kid, and reading lots of French and Belgian comics. The American superhero comics wasn’t my style. I guess when I was about 15 I started to take drawing seriously, and I started drawing objects, people, buildings…it was about this time that I discovered graffiti. I met some other graffiti artists and we did graffiti in the streets of Paris for 4 or 5 years, squatting and meeting artists. Later on I went into art school, but it wasn’t for me. I decided to quit that and continue doing graffiti and drawing comics with other artists who had the same vision as me.
[b]: What was unappealing about art school?
BZ: Art Schools in France are too interested in modern, conceptual art. They want you to speak philosophically about everything you make. The plastic quality of the work isn’t the biggest question; for me a good artist must know how to draw, to make shadows, to be inventive. I like figurative works and I like it when I can say: “Okay, this artist has given all he has in this piece.” It’s more important than the idea to me.
[b]: So you were doing all this work in France, focusing on comics and graffiti. How did you get to Korea?
BZ: I met my wife (then my girlfriend) when she was studying in France. She’s Korean, and we lived together in France a long time. She told me she wanted to return to Korea for a few years and I thought that could be nice to experience another country and culture. We live here now and I like how different it is from Europe.
[b]: What kind of a reaction have you gotten from Koreans when they see your work?
BZ: They’ve reacted positively. I think they like it. Korean people are curious and have an open mind for art, I think they are very inventive in the arts.
[b]: There’s an obvious Zap Comix influence in your work–who are some other artists that are important to you?
BZ: I like the 70’s underground American comic book movement, but my first inspiration was Belgian comics like Asterix, French comic book artist [Jacques] Tardi, and a crazy French magazine called Fluide Glacial. The futuristic magazine Metal Hurlant was also important to me. My primary influences are all European.
[b]: It’s a shame that a lot of that stuff didn’t make it over to North America.
BZ: Maybe, but I saw Fantagraphics [books] edit Tardi recently.
[b]: Ah, Fantagraphics always has good stuff. I’ll have to check that out. So tell me, what tools do you use to create your work?
BZ: I usually use a brush or quills with black ink. If I’m working in color I use colored ink or water color.
[b]: Your style is really clean, do you ever start with loose sketches in pencil, or do you just put pen to paper?
BZ: I usually use some lines to begin the drawing. Sometimes pencil drawings end up becoming the final product, and sometimes I just use the pencil to draw the forms of the characters. Then I use waterproof black ink to work into the drawing. Waterproof ink is important because if I want, afterwards I can go back in with watercolor.
[b]: I see. You put so much detail in each of your frames–why not leave some empty space? Is that amount of detail important to you?
BZ: It’s like a game for me, sometimes I try to make them as crazy as possible. It makes the comics aggressive, and it can make it difficult for the viewer to breathe! I like it when there are hidden characters and little details, you can find something different each time you look at it. I liken it to the Art Brut movement and Jerome Bosch.
[b]: There’s a big shift towards comic illustrators in the U.S. now, small publication artists are also doing work for magazines like The New Yorker and other “adult” publications, R. Crumb had a retrospective in The Philadelphia Museum of Art a few years ago, and Art Spiegleman travels the country doing speaking engagements at important universities. Do you see Korea ever giving that sort of attention to comic artists (the kind of work you do)?
BZ: No, I think in Korea drawings and comic books are not really considered an art, it’s more of a product for kids and amateurs. Silkscreening is the same. In a certain way it’s good because artists here work harder than in Europe. For example, in Japan, comics aren’t considered an art and cartoonists work like a factory worker; they are payed poorly and their work is printed on cheap paper. This way of working has pushed Japan to be at the forefront of comic production in the world. When you think you are an artist sometimes you sleep too much. Koreans and Japanese people have their feet planted on Earth, and don’t have the big ego that many western comic artists have.
[b]: I never thought of it that way.
BZ: Sorry, my responses go in many directions!
[b]: Don’t be, it’s all very interesting.
BZ: I just want to say that an artists’ life has simpler conditions, and it can be both good and bad.
[b]: You seem to have found a pretty good group of artists to work with here. I know a lot of people that make art here have a hard time finding other artists to talk with or work with. How did you make the connections you’ve made?
BZ: I met Dekal through facebook, we were talking together and meeting in Seoul and realized we respect each others’ work. We had an exhibition together. He’s an amazing silkscreen artist, he can make anything. I met Jimmy SK and some others through Dekal.
[b]: So you just found his work on facebook and messaged him?
BZ: Yeah, the internet can be a good thing!
[b]: I feel like a lot of artists here just sit and wait for art to come to them, I think what you did is important. Find someone’s stuff you like and get in touch with them.
BZ: I was really happy to meet Dekal, he is the best t-shirt maker in Seoul.
[b]: Do you have any projects coming up?
BZ: Yes. I’ve been making a lot of comic books, and I’ll be making t-shirts with Dekal soon. I just finished a book of illustrations that I collaborated on with a friend named Omick. I’m also hoping to have an exhibition here soon.
[b]: Sounds like you stay pretty busy. Before you go, tell me about this ridiculous cartoon that you showed me at Barbarella’s last time we met up.
BZ: Oggy et les Cafards (Oggy and the Cockroach) is a crazy Canadian cartoon that I love. It was always on French TV and everybody knows it, it’s about a lonely cat who lives in a house and is always fighting with these annoying cockroaches. The style of animation reminds me of Tex Avery’s classic cartoons. They are so cool and dynamic.