Agathe Toman’s world is black. “Black is simultaneously contrasts, lights, darkness,” she explains. “With no mistakes allowed, it spreads feelings and emotions with each strokes, never mind if it’s well sketched or not, it leaves nobody indifferent.”
From her base in Biarritz, the self-taught French illustrator and visual artist uses mainly biro, but also graphite, posca and paint to sketch out a dark and surreal world. As she develops a body of work, many of the pieces find their way onto wooden cruiser skateboards.
“There’s not necessarily a message, a logic or meaning in my work,” she explains. “I want to leave the viewer to feel their own response, which will be coloured by their own story and unconscious. It’s interesting to discover what each person feels about the same work.”
While she prepares her first solo exhibition in Paris at BarberShop, December 17-28, she’s working on the cover for Guillaume Grand’s third album (below). “His songs and lyrics always go straight to my heart,” she explains. “It’s poetry, hope, death, love, dream, disappointments.”
We reached out to find out more about her influences and inspirations.
I have always been in love with Batman since I was a kid. I’ve read all the comics and seen all the movies, even the bad ones…Yes, I was born with a dark side and wanted to be the Batman. But now I share that through my artworks.
Batman inspires me with his darkness and inner strengths. He has no super powers, only the ones he’s developed himself to become stronger. He also has his own demons which fight against him and a painful past which makes him more like a hero-human. And he’d never say a stupid joke in a fight, like all other super heroes. Of course, I couldn’t be more fond of the mask and costume he has in the Christopher Nolan trilogy.
Dave Kinsey is one of the most inspiring contemporary artists for me. He has a great way of blending strong colours which give heavy contrasts, light and depth to his canvasses. In many of his works, surrealism meets street art by mixing people faces, animals, hands, sticking papers and so on, on backgrounds which seem to have come from a crazy dream.
Each time I stare at one of his painting, it always gives me this desire to try many different techniques and drawing styles all together, pushing further at the limits of the white canvas. In a way, artists like Dave Kinsey help me to destroy the boundaries between what’s in my brain and how I want to represent that on paper or canvas.
Planets, stars and the universe
How can we be so small, living in such an infinite space and still think sometimes we can change the world?
I’m not trying to be a philosopher but the universe has always been an endless source of inspiration. I’ve always tried to understand it and wanted to know more. On that journey I’ve learned I’ll never know enough about tit but I can always admire the beauty of the planets, their colours, shadows, lights and how they could float in the space of universe. I have lyrics from ‘Astronomy’ but Blue Oyster Cult tattooed on my left arm.
I have always read a lot of all kinds of books, but especially poetry. Poetry inspired me a lot, mostly Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud. Their words as well as they lives they lived and how they lived their art. They share kinds of words that usually we didn’t even know, in a way that we didn’t even think about. I admire this talent to put words to a feeling and to create a story around it which allows the reader to understand it as far as possible.To me it can be as inspiring as looking at a surrealist piece of art. For each of the skateboards I’ve made, I always associate a poem to the drawing or painting I use for the deck.
L’angoisse (Anguish) – Paul Verlaine (1844-1896)
Nature, nothing of you moves me, not the nourishing
fields, nor the rosy echo of Sicilian countrysides,
nor the pomp and ceremony of sunrises,
nor the dolorous solemnity of sunsets.
I laugh at Art, I laugh at Man also, at songs,
at verse, at Grecian temples and at the spiral towers
thrust by cathedrals into the empty sky,
and I regard with the same eye the good and the wicked.
I do not believe in God, I abjure and disavow
all thought, and as for that ancient irony, Love,
I curse anyone who speaks its name to me again.
Weary of living, yet afraid of dying, like
a lost ship, at the mercy of ebb and flow,
my soul rigs out for hideous shipwrecks.
Click for the original French.
Rock ’n roll and wine
No, this is not the title of a song. These are the two things I need for my favourite nights, when I’m alone, at home, in my atelier, drawing, painting or just experimenting. Those days or nights spent alone, listening to my favourite rock bands really loud, like Arctic Monkeys or Black Keys, and drinking a glass of wine (yes, don’t forget that I’m French!) can sometimes drive my brain to some distant, unexplored lands. I suppose this could be my own specific creation process, but it’s more like an environment to put my brain in a good place.
My own life and everyday feelings
What I propose is what I am. Like everybody in this world I’ve already had my heart broken, felt the happiness, deep sadness, passion, jealousy, hate, love, death… the lack of someone or something, lack of confidence everyday. Therefore, each of my works have been inspired – at least at the beginning – by one of those feelings.
Landscapes and travels
I travel as much as I can. The different landscapes, cities, people, languages, cultures have an infinity to offer and share. The contrast in nature all over the world, I can’t get enough of it. I went recently to Palm Springs. It’s the first time I’ve seen such a landscape, it’s almost lunar, between rocky mountains that surround the desert. It’s breathtaking! In the middle there’s the city of Palm Springs, with its crazy houses and architecture from the ’50s. Landscapes like that remind me how much we sill have to discover.