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posted January 5, 2007
Editions De Seuil, softcover, 116 pages, January 2004, $40 USD
This is Lorenzo Mattoti's contribution to the Carnet De Voyage series, which I will no doubt now do a great disservice in describing it as a bunch of books where cartoonists were sent to different parts of the globe to record their experiences. Unlike some of the more straightforward comics I believe resulted, Angkor
is a sketchbook, a visual portrait in several artistic approaches of the temple-heavy Angkor area of what is now Cambodia.
I'm a great fan of Mattotti, so I may not be the most trustworthy witness, but I really liked this book. What little I know about temple building includes the notion that those making the temple were describing their faith, their cosmology and view of the universe in spatial forms as well as making a place that facilitated worship and awe. In his watercolors and pastels Mattotti seems to be seizing out of the hands of those builders his own interpretation of what they've wrought. His work, almost textural, delineates a world of boundaries and layers, horizons and landscapes that place man and man's efforts at the mercy of a world's sense of order. The best sequence is a series of black and whites where trees droop and drive into the rigid lines of the man-made shelves and courtyards.
I don't think there's any cartoonist out there as aware of hierarchies of visual record, the way our eye reacts differently to weight and to space, and the portrait of the area feels grand and lovely and sad. Look for an edition by Oog and Blik in English.