Eating some mushroom with Gabriel Delmas at Fungus God's Shrine
Michele Nitri VS Gabriel Delmas
MN: Hey Gabriel! So, what kind of mushroom do you suggest me to eat?
GD: Mushrooms in my comics are metaphorical. They are like the ancient greek Chorus in theatre. The scenery is very important, it’s a special character. That's why my sceneries often move, and mushrooms sometimes have tentacles, like octopuses or sea anemones. Surely, they are sexes, both female and male, they are penises and vaginas.
MN: In the past you have called your art "Mushroomic Art", do you need to take drugs during the creative process? Is it necessary to create psychedelic comics or is it possible to imagine an unreal world with a clear mind?
GD: Yes, It appeared to me that I like decay, punk stuff, ill foetuses and monsters, octopuses and mushrooms too much. They are characters and parts of the background at the same time. When I called my comics “Mushroomic Art“, my designs, my lines were very smooth, a bit like noodles or worms, like a troubled "art nouveau". After 2006, I changed my way of drawing but I kept these background characters. As I said, "mushroomic art" is a sexual obsession. Drugs don't change my
visions or ideas. And even if I have written fantastic dark stories and poetry, the main themes, often hidden, were sexuality and madness, together. Xuwwuu follows this obsession.
MN: Yeah! Let's talk about XUWWUU then. First and obvious question: can you explain me this terrible title? what's behind?
GD: Xanthochroid Ursine Witch Wunderkind Urchin Uranium. But maybe it means something else.
MN: I can‘t imagine something different from painting for this work. But why this choice?
GD : Boards are painted with acrylic. It dries fast and it's easier on paper than oil. The Face on the cover is painted with tempera with eggs. This is the ancient technique of painting. It was mainly used before the XVIIIe century. For this project, I thought it was better for me to use painting because this is not the same logic. With painting, I can feel flesh and blood, and limpness of monsters directly with color. And also lights, atmospheres are more complex, more subtle.
MN: did the story come out instinctively? Or is there some reason inside? I ask this question because you’ve already made some psychedelic comics, mostly short comics, instead there is a prominent story in Xuwwuu...
GD: I think, the best comics are the ones created instinctively, with few or no words, with dense images. I want to feed the reader’s imagination and sensations. I don’t want to explain and describe everything. I want to use drawings/paintings as they are: art, and not to use them as tools for narration. I don't want to help the readers to read the story. I want them to feel something with the drawings first. After that, of course, there is reason inside, there is always reason in my work. Fobo was also a sexual metaphorical story. Instinctive works are not opposed to constructed works. For me, it's the same. Drawing is both instinct and reason. Impossible to separate.
MN: So, let's go deeply in XUWWUU. I love the contrast between the black metal title font and the beautiful woman, or should I say the female. The whole comic seems to have this contrast between her very innocent appearence and the many monstrous creatures. Why this contrast?
GD: I always have this contrast in my works, because it is in me. I must express dark feelings, but I also laugh at myself, because I know how ridiculous I am, as a human. So my work is always dark and at the same time ironical. You know, it's like this painting of Goya (Saturn): it's like a child nightmare. It is horrible and funny at the same time. We will all die, it is sad. But at the universe scale, it doesn’t matter. Life is absurd, meaningless. We cry and laugh. We are both great and ridiculous, beautiful and ugly, clever and stupid. And there is no help, no way out, no gods, nothing except this funny vision of death devouring us. We can't escape. We can't forget this sexual obsession that kills us. We live for that. We are like slaves. We organize everything to survive through our children. This is so funny. We are funny. This is so beautiful and ridiculous. I can't chose only one way. I must express this contradiction.
MN: Besides, she is the only human in the story. Here, everything is far from the humans world, maybe the only links are those horsemen in the horizon of page #4...
GD: Yes the far background of the story is a war. In a dark devastated landscape. The horse is a chtonic figure.
MN: Just to be clear, Is the woman a result of some event linked to horsemen? Or is she a miracle by Fungus God in the first page? Or again, maybe are the weird guys just praying the God to thank him for this so unexpected and awesome apparition?
GD: Yes, in this nigtmare, she appears like Eve. The whole creation acclaims the witch. The comic begins with the horse head. In fact, this is a mare. The mare of the nightmare. Because Nightmare means mare. And this animal is chtonic, psychopomp. There is no separation between nightmares and reality, life and death, and everything is superposed. The door is open. This human witch has opened the gate between earth and darkness.
MN: The woman's beauty obviously gives birth to an incredible and aggressive conflict between all the biggest creatures. It's funny how every event is surrounded by smaller creatures. Are those creatures harmless because they are smaller? Or because you see them as an audience intended to observe your work?
GD: She destabilises this world of ugliness and ridiculous monsters. People always want a part of beauty, money, glory, and are ready to fight until death to have the better place. People are like spermatozoons with the ovule. This is instinct. But if you are not the strongest, it's better to pass by, and wait your death far from this stupid competition. There is so many things to discover in the nightmare of life.
MN: The conflict ends with another ambiguous scene, a giant hand with an eye on the palm smashing the one that seemed to prevail on the others, it sounds like the artist's hand, the artist's intervention, again like a divine act...
GD: Yes you can read it like this. Artist hand needs eyes.
MN: And then, the biggest creature mates with the woman/female, because it‘s the winner or the chosen one. Can we interpret the hidden red figures in the sexual scene page #10 like the metaphorical representation of the act? In fact after that, even if it is a monstruous creature, it stays there, crouched like a guilty human having surrended himself to his instincts. So what's the connection between creatures and humans in your art? Is there a tangible difference or is it only a particular taste for this esthetics?
GD : After ejaculation, it is not crouched because it feels guilty, but because it is dying. And its soul is joining the ghost, under the form of a skeleton. This giant creature is a funny monster, a mix of a furry plush fantasm and a lemurian god. All the scene could be a creepy cartoon scene. I thought of snow white forest scene when I wrote this. Of course, hidden red figures are sexual representations, something like prolapsus.
MN: It's rather strange how the woman holds a bouquet in page #12, like a married woman, as if the creatures of that world have taken care of her... and then a hand intimates her to give birth here. And she’s always surrounded by iconic creatures of death, guys with skull heads, hordes of microskeletons etc. It's interesting how this comic speaks of birth and death at the same time. I would like to know what's the connection for you, or what's your vision of the cycle of the life?
GD: She is like a married woman. Skull heads tell her what will happen. No hope. No magical possibility to survive.
MN: And then the birth. Interesting representation of the growth cycle within a couple of images, always surrounded by other creatures, as in real life, the ones that have an important part in our life, the ones that partly determinate what we will become.
GD: And like diseases. Surviving is difficult. In this world, everything participates in killing us. We should fight each day to survive, and we are always alone. The baby is cute and grotesque. Ridiculous. Seen without any love. Love transforms the vision. But in Xuwwuu, horror takes off the veil of love and reality seems weird.
MN: Last page, everything ends with the explosion of the baby. As always, it seems impossible to understand the meaning of life, can you tell us why you ended the story so compulsively?
GD: The Nightmare of Reason Produces Funny Monsters. And they explodes. This is once again the same vision. Life is short. Death can happen suddenly, with no reason. There is no explanation to look for, no god to pray, no punition to be afraid of.
MN: This work seems like just a small part of what we could see, do you think you will continue to explore this universe in future comics?
GD: Xuwwuu is short, but was very difficult to make. I think this is a step in my work. This is very close to Nefas Negator, another recent work. This is expressionnist, with superposed paintings/drawings. The style is "plastic arts", not graphic. I'm not sure if I want to go back to the "graphic" way of drawing. This consideration seems to be technical only, but it's not. Creating this way changes the things I see. Because I stay on images longer than before. Works are shorter but dense. Before, I needed a lot of drawings to say something, but it was fast, like handwriting.
MN: It was a pleasure for me to make this long and interesting interview with you and to analyse your work. I really want to congratulate you because with XUWWUU you have given me a feeling that is missing in the world of comics, that same feeling you have when you are observing a painting for hours to try to analyze the details of the work and the emotions of the artist.
XUWWUU is like an enormous and unique painting to me, divided in many images.
GD: Thank you. This is exactly what I wanted. I was inspired by Dix, Grosz and by Renaissance Painters like Bosch or Grünewald. Some works are polyptychs, on panels, and are like stories.
MN: So, this is the end of the interview, let's eat some more mushrooms!
GD: Yes, we always need sex.