Prints : Swarte

"Atomium : Belga ‘58" - Joost Swarte
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"Atomium : Belga ‘58" - Joost Swarte


Joost Swarte is the originator of the term “klare lijn” (“ligne claire”) or “clear line.” He doesn’t allow himself to use this graphic style in an unthinking manner. Like Ever Meulen, he is a disciple of intelligent, sophisticated imagery of the kind that rewards the observer with infinite possibilities and layered meaning. His homage to the Atomium is a sparkling summary of an entire era.

As a worthy successor to the “De Stijl” group, and also to Vermeer’s aesthetic, Joost Swarte applies an almost Calvinistic rigour to bande dessinée. His accomplished concept of “ligne claire”, with its fascination for modern art and its wide-ranging references to everything from Hergé to the Underground movement, allows him to create memorable images. The drawing produced for the “Atomium 1958-2008” collection bears eloquent witness to this. The author of “L’Art Moderne”, a book that proved to be a cult classic for Champaka, here gives his views on the subject:

What does the Atomium represent for you? “It’s the symbol of the spirit of the future, but especially the symbol of the 1958 World Expo.”

Does the Atomium exist “merely” as a representation of an era, or is it an aspect of “modernity”? “It’s chiefly a symbol of the era.

When did you become aware of the Atomium? “In 1958, when my mother returned from her visit to Expo ’58 and gave me souvenirs and the official guide to the Expo.”

Does seeing it in reality alter one’s perception of it, especially when one is an artist? “The Atomium is more powerful as a symbol than in reality.”

In the history of bande dessinée, who, in your opinion, best represents the essence of the Atomium? “Without question, André Franquin, with “Modeste & Pompon.”

Is it easy to pay homage to the Atomium, or to the spirit that it embodies? “Yes, it’s a homage to the future of the era and to naivety.”

What graphic possibilities and difficulties does the Atomium pose? “One loves it and one draws it.”

Did your concept for this Champaka screen-print come together immediately? “No. I wanted to show aspects of life in 1958 and, in developing the drawing, I discovered that in those days, absolutely everyone was a smoker. That’s why I’ve shown a society rotten with cigarettes. Hence the title of the image: “Belga ’58!”