Gérard Trignac’s Invisible Cities


I wrote a short appreciation of French artist Gérard Trignac back in 2006, and he’s been mentioned a few times since, so it would be remiss of me to not include his etchings in this week’s illustration series. Trignac is a favourite of mine among the current crop of French etchers and engravers for his superb renderings of fantastic architecture. Most of this work is from his own imagination but he’s also illustrated Borges (The Immortal) and Calvino, producing plates for expensive limited volumes. Les Villes Invisibles was published in 1993 by Les Amis du Livre, Paris, in an edition of 200. The combination of a small print run with a series of ten etchings makes this a costly volume; the cheapest edition on Abe.com just now is going for €1500.

Scarcity aside, these are marvellous depictions of Calvino’s cities, as detailed and meticulous as any of Trignac’s other works. One thing that becomes apparent when you start looking at illustrations of Calvino’s novel is that artists tend to pick the same few cities. So in Trignac’s case we have more views of Armilla, Octavia, Zenobia and so on. All of these may be seen at Trignac’s website, while one of the expensive volumes is for sale here. For those who can’t afford the latter I recommend Les Portes du Silence (2004), a collection of Trignac’s work that includes all the plates for Les Villes Invisibles, the Borges’ illustrations, and much more besides.


Thin Cities 2: Zenobia.


Trading Cities 5: Esmeralda.

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The art of Roland Cat


The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Axium, 1969).

The work of French artist Roland Cat is less Surreal—although some of it could be classed as such—than Fantastic in a manner similar to that of contemporaries such as Michel Henricot, Jean-Pierre Ugarte, Jean-Marie Poumeyrol, Gérard Trignac and others. Art of this nature receives support and encouragement from the French to a degree which often seems inversely proportional to the ignorance it receives from the Anglophone art world. For years the only example of Cat’s work I’d seen was the picture that Dave Britton used on the cover of the Savoy edition of New Worlds magazine in 1979. The examples here are the result of a web trawl, hence the missing titles and dates.

The Coleridge illustration above was for a volume that was part of a series produced by a French publisher in 1969, each edition of which was illustrated by a different artist. This forum post has more details. For more about Roland Cat see this short appraisal at Visionary Review.


Sleep (1980).


Dagon (Belfond, 1987).

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The art of Mark Reep



Artist Mark Reep sent me a link recently to his gallery of meticulous pencil and charcoal drawings which he calls “dreams in black and white”. The combination in many of these of isolated settings with minor architectural features is something I always enjoy seeing but don’t find often enough. Offhand I can think of Gérard Trignac‘s equally meticulous etchings, and Jean-Pierre Ugarte‘s paintings. Mark Reep has cards and prints of his drawings and photographs available for purchase at Bluecanvas and Redbubble.


Abandoned Waterworks.


Not All The Old Doors.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The art of Gérard Trignac

Mars architectures


Mars Architectures 3

Italian architect Stefan Davidovici was in touch recently asking whether I’d be interested in his speculative views of Mars architectures and an imaginary Jerusalem. I am indeed interested in work such as this, whether the designs resemble Frank Lloyd Wright sketches for David Cronenberg’s unfilmed adaptation of Total Recall or the Piranesian buttresses of the Jerusalem pieces. As to the question of “why Mars?”, Davidovici says this:

Because the functions of any Mars settlement, be it made by near-future humans or by far-future post-humans or by the famous little green local cousins of humans are so, so, so completely obscure to us – answering to an unknown society in an unknown environment – as to become totally, completely, absolutely irrelevant. Therefore we can read the architectural space of such a place as pure art.

A range of his work can be found at his blog, the architecture draftsman.


Mars Architectures 6


Mars Architectures 9


Mars Architectures 10


Mars Architectures 9

Previously on { feuilleton }
La Tour by Schuiten & Peeters
The art of Pierre Clayette, 1930–2005
The art of Erik Desmazières
The art of Gérard Trignac

The art of Paul Noble


A (2002), etching.

During the last six years, British artist Paul Noble has invented a city. Named for its creator, Nobson Newtown comprises extremely large and meticulously crafted pencil drawings, each depicting a different building or location within Noble’s fictitious industrial town built on the edge of a forest. Although they are precisely rendered in realistic detail, Noble’s creations are much more than a feat in naturalistic representation. They embody the sly wit that characterizes the best of British satire. Each blocky construction is crafted out of a grouping of letters that identifies its owner or function. Each structure is then individually modified to take on the needs of its inhabitants in ways that often render its name unreadable. Representing a utopian vision gone awry, Nobson Newtown is a meditation on city planning, modernism, and life at the turn of the twenty-first century.

Noble’s work is currently on display at the Site Gallery, Sheffield (details below).


Ye Olde Ruin, (detail) (2003-04), pencil on paper.

In the City of Last Things
Katja Davar, Paul Noble, Torsten Slama
9 Sep–21 Oct 2006

Katja Davar, Paul Noble and Torsten Slama use drawing and animation to present projections of alternative urban and social possibilities. Skirting dystopia, perhaps closer to the literal meaning of utopia as ‘no place’ the artists project personal no places which blend flawed utopian fantasies and altered ecosystems and which question the possibilities for perfected urban-industrial societies.

Forking Ocean Path is a new body of work by Katja Davar comprising 3D animation and large-scale drawings. These works address the self-destructive nature of mankind and posit a possible outcome. Making reference to Leonardo da Vinci’s treatise on water, which addresses the integration of land and sea, Davar presents an undersea world devoid of human life. In one animation, a creature, part marine and part machine, slowly floats upwards through the remnants of an industrial city at the bottom of the ocean. The imagery is poignant and the short, silent animation is an understated reminder of the precariousness of our civilisation and the force of natural phenomena. The animations are set within carefully designed three dimensional screens which enhance the enigmatic combination of traditional drawing and sophisticated computer-aided animation.

Paul Noble’s Unified Nobson is an animation that ‘unifies’ the various sections that make up Nobson Newtown, the fantastical town depicted through drawings on paper. Named for its creator, Nobson Newtown comprises extremely large and meticulously crafted pencil drawings, each depicting a different building or location within Noble’s fictitious industrial town. Modelled on the new towns devised in the early 20th century to create a perfect fusion of the urban and rural, the drawings offer aerial perspectives over a fantastical cityscape in which each blocky construction is crafted out of a grouping of letters that identifies its owner or function. Representing a utopian vision gone awry, Nobson Newtown is a meditation on city planning, modernism, and the possibilities for renewal within dysfunction.

Torsten Slama’s coloured pencil drawings from the cycle Gardens of Machine Culture are inspired by Chinese paintings and recall the aesthetics of vintage science fiction. Modernist architecture and industrial constructions merge with rocky, cyclopean landscapes, sparsely grown with arboreal vegetation. Even if there are no humans on the scene; the buildings, just like the rocks and the muscular, sinewy trees function as their dignified, mineral or vegetable counterparts, as the individual personalities of which this civilisation constitutes itself. The depicted worlds are anti-cities in which industry and architecture, like the humans who built them, are part of an evolved nature.

The exhibition title references the dystopian city in Paul Auster’s novel In the Country of Last Things—’a haunting picture of a devastated futuristic world which chillingly shadows our own’ in which the ‘last things’ in the title refers not only to the disappearance of manufactured objects and technology but also the fading of memories of them and the words used to describe them.

Katja Davar was born in London and now lives and works in Cologne.

Paul Noble was born in Dilston, Northumberland and lives and works in London.

Torsten Slama was born in Schwarzach, Austria and lives and works in Berlin.

In collaboration with The Drawing Room, London.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The art of Arnau Alemany
The art of Gérard Trignac