Among contemporary illustrators, the German Thomas Ott has succeeded best in finding his personal route to representing what darkness hides. Ott utilises the scratchboard technique, thin china clay tablets covered by black Indian ink that are then engraved utilising a punch, or just a penknife. Ott works by digging into the black in order to let the white emerge: light out of darkness. It is not a hazard that what he narrates reflects this approach: sombre atmospheres and stories without hope, as fascinating and mysterious as nightmares.
The French McBess is another author who adopts black and white as the principal means of expression. McBess’ large plates depict imaginary worlds, disquieting and enigmatic worlds that exist only in darkness, and that freeze only for an instant when the author’s direct frontal light portrays them, only to proliferate again as soon as this light is extinguished. Here is a splendid example. These scenes teem with characters hailing back to the dawn of animation, to writings and references in the author’s past, to what captivated and formed him. As the author himself details in his latest exhibition, named “The folding knife”, the jack-knife is one of the ever-present elements in McBess’ representations, and so is the axe. The exhibition shows, among other items, the penknife which the artist owned as a child and the fireman’s axe which he found years ago while setting up a show and which now, suitably customised, proudly shows itself.
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