Works by more than 30 women artists are on display at the 16th edition of the Drawing Now Art Fair in Paris this week, including some of the world's top comics talent.
Spanning the last 60 years of creativity, the Drawing Now Art Fair is an opportunity for visitors to rediscover art by well-known artists in a different setting.
Running from from 23-26 March, Drawing Now features 73 galleries and includes artists from Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and Serbia.
The main prize, awarded on Wednesday evening to French artist Suzanne Husky, includes a €5,000 grant, €10,000 in production aid and a residency.
This year's key exhibition, "The feminine prism: Machines, Oocytes, Threads, Potions" pays tribute to the women overlooked by conventional art history – such as Tania Mouraud, the "grandmother" of street art, or Vera Molnar, a pioneer in computer drawing.
Another of the highlights is a focus on the world of comic books, with several galleries featuring women cartoonists who explore different styles and techniques of illustration.
Women artists celebrated
Roxane Lumeret, a French author and illustrator from Alsace, has published children's books, comics and other works, and is represented at Drawing Now by the Modulab Gallery. In 2021, she won the UK Music Video Award for best animation for a music video she co-directed for the song Hematome by French band L'Impératrice.
Paris-born Elene Usdin, with Barbier Gallery, started out as a set painter for the cinema and is now a comic book author. Her work “Renee Sleeping Beauty” (Renee aux Bois Dormants, published by Sarbacane in 2021) is an impressive graphic novel in watercolour and gouache that has picked up several prizes.
Also present are works by Canadian pioneer Julie Doucet, winner of the 2022 Grand Prize at the Angoulême International Comics Festival, who is represented by the Anne Barrault Gallery in Paris.
Originally from Quebec, in 1988 Doucet created her first fanzine, "Dirty Plotte", which has since become cult. During the 1990s she experimented with other art forms, including poetry, screen printing and collages. But she never strayed far from drawing, and notably created a journal composed over a year of daily autobiographical drawings.
Doucet is a model for other young artists who are coming up through the ranks, especially in France, which has a number of prestigious art and design schools.
Many of them now have dedicated courses in comic book illustration and graphic novels, and in some cases, in Japanese-style manga.
Events like Drawing Now and the Angoulême International Comics Festival are a sign of the enduring appetite for illustration in France.
According to market research company GfK, the sale of comics and graphic novels represented just over 25 percent of all French book sales in 2022, putting it in second place behind the general literature category.
Eugénie Ygouf is in her fifth year of studying illustration techniques at the the EESI school in Angoulême, and hopes to make her mark in the world of comic books in the future.
She was one of 20 finalists nominated for a Young Talents award at the Angoulême festival in January 2023.
Telling stories in the form of a comic strip is “a very liberating format”, she told RFI at the Youth Pavilion in Angoulême. “With a few pen strokes we can tell just about any story.”
Nearby, Noam Lebeau presented his colourful plates of Mexican wrestlers, drawn entirely with highlighter pens. About to finish his diploma at the Estienne School in Paris, he was enthusiastic about the future, especially when it comes to alternative forms of publishing.
Judging by the diversity of ideas on display, it is clear that France has no shortage of talent.