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Conversational Euro-Comics: Bart Beaty On Chronographie By Dominique Goblet And Nikita Fossoul
posted June 14, 2010


By Bart Beaty

By far the most extraordinary comic book I have read this year is Chronographie, by Dominique Goblet and Nikita Fossoul (L'Association). Moreover, many readers will dismiss it as something "other than a comic book." They'd be wrong, and they'd miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime aesthetic experience.

imageThe book's concept is very simple: Nikita Fossoul is the daughter of Dominique Goblet, the Belgian cartoonist and visual artist who has published Souvenir d'une journee parfaite and the astounding Faire semblant c'est mentir. In 1998, when Nikita was seven years old, the two made a pact. They would draw portraits of each other, one per week, for ten years. Chronographie is a collection of those hundreds of paired portraits.

In the afterword (published in both French and English), Goblet writes that her goal with this book was not to capture the likeness of her daughter, but to try to depict the bond that exists between them. This bond, a lifelong connection, could only be depicted over a vast period of time. Further, it could only be developed in collaboration, as it is reciprocal. In Chronographie we have a record of a mother looking at her daughter, of a daughter looking at a mother. It is an incredibly special gift that they have chosen to share with us, opening this rare and intimate portrait of their love for each other.

image"When I look deeply in your eyes, they are very pretty," writes Nikita on a portrait from February 2003. She was 12 years old then, and learning how to really capture the essence of her mother. What is amazing about Chronographie is watching the development of Nikita's skill as an artist. Goblet is one of the masterful visual stylists working in comics today, ranking with the likes of Stefano Ricci and Anke Feuchtenberger in terms of the raw, personal expressivity that she captures on her pages. Under the guidance of such a powerful teacher, Nikita struggles as a young child to find her own unique voice. By the book's end, it is clearly there and you can see that she has the talent to become an interesting artist in her own right, should she so choose.

Some will try to tell you that this isn't "really" a comic book, that it's just a beautifully produced (L'Association has never before made a book that is this lovely to hold) collection of drawings, paintings and collages (the mixed media involved here extends even to portraits made of masking tape). Don't listen to them. There is a story here, and it's a profound one. It's a story of struggle, of growth, of understanding, and of seeking to understand the ones we love. Chronographie is one of the towering achievements of recent comics. Honest, moving, and completely original.


* Chronographie, Dominique Goblet and Nikita Fossoul, L'Association, 9782844143877 (ISBN13), 2844143873 (ISBN10), May 2010, 49 Euros.


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