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Renowned French comic book artist Enki Bilal exhibits at Hadrien de Montferrand Gallery
Enki Bilal in 2012 in his studio.

BEIJING.- The auction house, Artcurial, presents the most recent paintings of Enki Bilal in Beijing. These paintings are being exhibited worldwide before being sold at a special auction by Artcurial in autumn 2012. The exhibition is hosted in Beijing by Hadrien de Montferrand Gallery, which maintains a special relationship of trust with Artcurial.

Enki Bilal is one of the most renowned French comic book artists with a worldwide reputation. In recent years, Enki Bilal has felt a pressing need to go back to painting.

In 1994, for the first time, he produced a dozen paintings for a series that he entitled “Bleu sang” [Blue Blood]. This series will be exhibited and sold at the Christian Desbois Gallery and will give rise to a book of the same name.

For almost 15 years, each of the illustrative boxes in his albums was produced as a completely separate work of art. In the tetralogy, The Beast, that began in 1998, Enki Bilal changed technique, abandoning the traditional format of a plate consisting of a group of illustration boxes in favour of a box produced on its own as an independent picture. The narration of the plate then disappeared giving way to a silent work that was sufficient in itself.

More than 17 years had to go by before Enki Bilal returned to painting on canvas. This series of fifteen large format canvases depicts numerous themes close to his heart: women, sensuality, couples, the nature of animals, a vision of planetary science and chessboxing, a sport he invented.

Chessboxing was developed and organised recently as a completely separate sport, combining boxing with chess, two sports in which nobility of thought, mathematics, concentration, self-control and silence are diametrically opposed to visible physical brutality, disorder, noise and violence.

The combination and bringing together of these contradictory terms and concepts naturally led him to entitle this set of canvases OXYMORE, a rare term derived from the Greek word ξύμωρος [oxymoron] in which two terms or ideas are yoked together that are completely contrary to each other. This marriage of opposites summarises the work of this very complex artist who has never been content with a single mode of expression and has for many years been active in decompartmentalising the arts; in particular, for the recognition of the comic strip book as a major and contemporary visual plastic art.

This exhibition is an unprecedented event that decompartmentalises the frontiers of the comic strip and their artists and applies this dignified terminology to them and includes them in the exclusive world that is Contemporary Art. This is no longer about the comic strip or narration. In this context, narration is solely in the imagination of the spectator contemplating the work which does without any conceptualisation or explanation, being self-sufficient through its intrinsic force.

Enki Bilal was born in 1951 in Belgrade. He came to France at the age of 10. He drew comic strips from a very early age, producing work from 1971 for the magazine Pilote. He met the scriptwriter Pierre Christin with whom he produced the first works that led to recognition of the profession: Le Vaisseau de Pierre (1976) [The Ship of Stone], La Ville qui n’existait pas (1977) [The Town that Didn’t Exist], Les Phalanges de l’Ordre Noir (1979) [The Phalanxes of the Black Order]; and Partie de Chasse (1980) [The Hunting Party].

Whilst his early work focused on science fiction and the imaginary, he quickly developed in a vein that was much more historical and political, leading him to deal with subjects such as Communism, Fascism in a post-War world, the Spanish Civil War, the Fall of the Berlin Wall, and the collapse of the Soviet block.

La Trilogie Nikopol [The Nikopol Trilogy] – 1980 to 1992
In 1980, he started an important trilogy with the work La Foire aux immortels [Secrets of the Immortals], dealing with totalitarianism, extremism, sects and nationalism of all kinds in a futurist Paris. Uncertainty about the future and a work about memory are at the core of his creation. In 1986, the second album in the trilogy was released, called La Femme Piège [The Woman Trap], which was a great critical and commercial success. The trilogy ends with the album Froid Equateur [Cold Equator], chosen as book of the year by the magazine, Lire. This album gave rise to the invention of a new sport, chessboxing, which combines the art of chess with that of boxing. This theme is found in many of the paintings in the Oxymore series.

Le Cycle du Monstre [The Beast Cycle] – 1998 to 2007
The Nikopol Trilogy was followed by a set of 4 albums, Le Cycle du Monstre [The Beast Cycle], using even greater force and violence to depict all these themes that are so close to his heart. In working on this cycle for more than 12 years, he re-discovered more structured narration in 2009 avec Animal’z, then in 2011 with Julia et Roem.

Animal’z / Julia et Roem – 2009 to 2012
Both of these works deal with climate change and the capacity of human beings to survive it and continue to love. With these two books, Bilal returned to writing and writes with the elegance of the greatest writers. Julia et Roem is a loose interpretation of the Shakespearian play Romeo and Juliet.

An author doubling as a film-maker
Not being able to express all his ideas or to limit himself solely to the comic strip book, Enki Bilal was soon producing films. First there was Bunker Palace Hotel (1989) with Jean-Louis Trintignant and Carole Bouquet, then Tykho Moon (1997) with Jean-Louis Trintignant alongside Julie Delpy, Richard Bohringer and Michel Piccoli. He then produced a loose re-adaptation of his trilogy Nikopol with Immortel ad Vitam (2004) with Linda Hardy and Charlotte Rampling. He also inspired Ridley Scott to make Blade Runner and Luc Besson to make The Fifth Element.

Enki Bilal is one of the foremost authors of comic books who also makes films. He blazed a trail that has swallowed up younger comic book authors such as Marjane Satrapi, Joan Sfar and Pascal Rabaté.

Enki Bilal also collaborated with the choreographer Angelin Preljocaj in the ballet Romeo and Juliet. Also, in 2011, he adapted and directed the play Suspection by Fabienne Renault, performed by Evelyne Bouix and Jean-Louis Trintignant.

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