Ms. Marie Jacotey

The seductive drawings by French artist Marie Jacotey invite the viewer into uncanny yet all too-familiar scenarios: a world inhabited by disillusioned but romantic characters reminiscing on bittersweet memories of past loves. Using coloured pencils which make each stroke evident, imbuing her drawings with grainy, textural qualities, Jacotey recounts dark, filmic stories of sex and broken hearts through scenes overlaid with fragmental, diary-like texts. Her women are modern day femme fatales: however overtly sexy and lightly dressed, they are still feminist role models, in control of their own actions and bodies.

Jacotey grew up in suburban Paris in a family of architects and studied Printed Image at Ecole Supérieur des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, as well as printmaking at the Royal College of Art in London from where she graduated in 2013. She now lives and works in east London. Here she speaks to us about comics, nostalgia and space, and about how setting the right atmosphere in her drawings helps frame her sexy women within a wider political discussion.

(Above: 'Knowing you sucks', January 2016)

How much of your work is autobiographical, if any?

None of my work is strictly autobiographical, but it is always personal. Often my stories draw inspiration from emotions and accounts I have either experienced myself or have had recounted by friends and relatives.

Your aesthetic often makes me think of the 1960s. Do you have a relationship to this decade?

Not a conscious one, though I do love the cinema and the fashion from that time.

There’s something childlike, but still very sophisticated about your drawings. Is this combination of tones intentional?

Yes! I’m very interested in the tension and the playfulness that arises when both accurate and naïve depictions are brought together. I experiment a lot with various media, oil paint, dry pastels, ink and pens on various surfaces such as dust sheets, plaster, Japanese paper and textiles. My coloured pencil works are the ones that have received the most attention during the last couple of years but my process remains rather eclectic.

(Above: 'The picture' and 'Vanessa', Autumn 2016)

A lot of your work plays with text and image, and your titles are often long. Can you tell us a little bit about your work process?

My process is very spontaneous: most of the time I don’t make sketches before making the actual drawing. I write a lot during the day—I carry a sketchbook with me most of the time and when I don’t, I make notes on my phone. I tend to draw only when properly seated at my desk, I don’t really do life drawing. The titles can come to me at any time: before, during or after a drawing.

The women in your images are at the same time heartbroken and strong, often angrily looking back at a broken relationship. It makes your work so relatable because we often spend so much time looking back on those relationships that didn't work out. Is nostalgia frustrating or empowering?

I don’t find nostalgia neither frustrating nor empowering but rather I like the romantic idea of it. It’s easier to see situations clearly in retrospect, when the emotions felt in the moment are no longer there. I’m fascinated by memories and how we distort recollections by relentlessly chewing on the past, and how our individual mythology shapes our identities.

(Above: 'Cyrano', 'Come to play' and 'The morning came too fast', October 2016)

Your work is very influenced by comics and graphic novels—did you read a lot of them growing up?

Absolutely! And I still do. As a kid, I read the French-Belgian classics such as Tintin, Astérix and Lucky Luke. When I moved to Paris to start university, I discovered contemporary graphic novels, both French and international, through authors like Blutch, Riad Sattouf, Anouk Ricard, Chris Ware, Art Spiegelman, Daniel Clowes, Robert Crumb, and Chas Addams, to name a few. I’m interested in the storytelling aspects of comics, they are a strange hybrid between novels, movies and paintings. I don’t have a preferred genre but I love comics that combine a captivating narration with spiffing drawings.

Which is your all-time favourite comic or graphic novel?

Very hard to choose, but if I must It’s a tie between Ghost World by Daniel Clowes and La Beauté by Blutch. The latter isn’t a proper comic per sé but it has such mind blowing drawings–great composition, jokes, weird subjects, sex—all drawn with astounding technique! I learn something new each time I look at them and I I keep coming back to them over and over again.

Comics often hide a deeper social critique behind the allure of super powers or fantastical stories. Would you say there’s something political at the core of your drawings?

I don’t really feel in control over whether my work is read as political, but it’s often perceived as very feminist. My drawings emerge from my observations of relationships and human interactions—but I think the often innocent-seeming intimate problems faced by my (mostly female) contemporaries and characters need to be be somewhat politically relevant and revealing. And I am happy for my work to travel beyond my little personal sphere into a wider feminist realm.

(Above: 'What have I done' and 'Bye bye honey I wish you were dead), June 2016)

The stories you tell in your work often revolve around a person, but the space and ambiance is also central to your characters and your captions. You zoom in, and zoom out, you show street curbs, and kitchens, and bedrooms, and corners and windows. What are some of your techniques for manipulating space to tell your stories?

I often make a drawing based on the visual excitement I get from a certain situation, scene, object or detail. I rarely if ever choose the way I depict spaces based on the narrative itself, so I wouldn’t call it a conscious technique. This being said, I strongly believe in the power of visual surroundings and spaces to tell stories by and in themselves. In that sense using techniques such as zooming in out creates a sense of atmosphere rather than a literal illustration of the state of things. It’s core to how I approach a subject.

Both your parents are architects, and your brother’s currently in architecture school. What is your relationship with architecture like?

My grandfather, my great grand uncle and more members of my family that I never met were architects too… I would call it a very visual friendship. I was made aware of architecture very early in my life, rather organically and almost unconsciously. I can now see how much of it has defined my taste in shapes, colours and ways to occupy a space that I nurture when looking at the art; from photography, fashion, contemporary dance and painting to design.

(Above: 'The studio', Autumn 2016)

You grew up in Paris and now you live and work in London – how do the two cities compare in terms of their creative scenes? How would you characterise the two (scenes)?

It’s hard to tell as I was a student and not a yet a practicing artist when I lived in Paris. However, I do have a sense of great freedom in London. I am surrounded by open-minded, energetic and positive people who are generally free of prejudice, which is something I don’t recall experiencing in France.

What are you working on at the moment?

There’s a few editorial projects, including a couple of zines that I’ll try to publish in the next few months. I am also kickstarting an animated short film written by Lola Halifa-Legrand which I am very excited about. Right now I am working on a new series of large-format, pastel drawings for a book in collaboration with the talented poet Rachael Allen, as well as a gigantic textile painting that will be shown in my next solo show at Hannah Barry Gallery in September. A giant mockup version of the textile painting is currently on display at The Brick Cube until the end of May.

–Images courtesy of Marie Jacotey. To see more of her work click here and here.