Prints : Loustal

"Atomium - Le pavillon du Congo" - Loustal
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"Atomium - Le pavillon du Congo" - Loustal


Jacques de Loustal, artist and inveterate traveller, knows that the exotic lurks in every nook and cranny of our streets. He may be in thrall to the tropics, but for all that he has never abandoned Northern climes. He took great pleasure in surveying Expo ’58 with his graphic gaze, rediscovering in the process the Belgium of the era of the Congo.

Loustal was only two years old at the time of the inauguration of the Brussels World Expo. He recalls seeing the unique skeletal form of the Atomium “in a bande dessinée, I can’t remember which one.” He has since had occasion to visit it and is perplexed by its elusive quality. Normally, his travels all over the world result in notebooks crammed with sketches; the Atomium, however, is less cooperative. “It’s actually better to draw it from photographs than in the field.”

A Parisian, the artist behind “Coeurs de sable” sees in the Atomium “a symbol of Brussels, a sense of the modernity of the Belgian capital in relation to Paris.” For him, the Hergéan “ligne claire” style has little connection with the emblematic monument. “Franquin and the Marcinelle school are inextricably linked to it, and Jacobs, to a lesser degree. For me, the Atomium is part of an ambience you might call futuristic retro.” Many might have considered that Loustal would be somewhat out of step with the graphic trends that are typically associated with the Atomium. Does the “Dictionnaire Mondial de la bande dessinée” (Larousse – 1999) not state “his inspirations are not drawn from the world of bande dessinée, but rather from the world of painting (Fauvism, David Hockney, etc.) and cinema (Wim Wenders)”? That would be to overlook the aims of the “Atomium 1958-2008” collection; namely, to open up new vistas; to go beyond the expected visual responses.

The author of “Kid Congo” confides that “The structure has such a strong identity that it’s easy to suggest it, even if its extraterrestrial quality and its intrinsic strangeness in relation to its environment cause problems with perspective.” Loustal here opts to portray a clash of civilisations in his restoration of a portion of the pavilions of the Congo and Ruanda-Urundi, which at that time were Belgian colonies. “The inherent contrasts between this village and the science-fiction presence on its doorstep interested me. And as I am not entirely attuned to the type of African art featured in the pavilion, I grouped some fetish statues and “colonials” that are more in keeping with my style.” Whatever their inspiration, they make very striking visitors and are strongly reminiscent of the figures that populated “Une party chez l’Arumbaya”, a print published, in 1990, by Champaka.