In a culture that often seems to favour hyper-clever, narcissistic realism, it is surprising to encounter an artist as straightforwardly sincere and genuinely unaffected as Julie Delporte.
This lack of pretention can perhaps be attributed to the 30-year-old Montrealer discovering her artistic leanings almost by accident. After landing at the Université de Montréal in 2005 as a journalism student on exchange from her native France, Delporte was exposed to the city’s vibrant comics scene as culture editor of the student newspaper and co-host of a campus radio show. Eventually, she began studying for a master’s degree in the university’s film studies department, focusing on autobiography in comics.
For hands-on research, Delporte registered for an evening comics workshop at a local CEGEP. After finishing her degree, she began posting illustrated diary entries online, which were collected in Journal, published by Koyama Press last spring.
Delporte’s simple drawings are surprisingly effective. There is an almost childlike aesthetic to her roughly drawn, brightly coloured figures, which appear on pages void of conventional cartooning formats. Revisions are layered on with scrap paper and tape bearing smudgy fingerprints, an approach Delporte favours because it makes her books feel “more like a real document,” she says.
“My style is limited to what I can do,” she says via Skype from Brussels, where she spent the winter on an artist’s grant. “For a time, I felt I was missing something, but it’s probably what allows me to be so free.”
A high degree of ego might be expected from an autobiographical artifact such as Journal, but Delporte’s work is a humble rumination on universal questions of how to live, love, and lose.
Her latest book is a work of fiction, yet it contains a similar interiority and emotional depth. Published by Drawn & Quarterly, Everywhere Antennas is about a young woman who becomes hypersensitive to electronic waves, an alienating experience Delporte compares to battling mental illness.
“You are sick in something invisible that other people can’t feel, and there is no rational explanation,” she says. “I’m also very sensitive to what is invisible.… If there is autobiography in Everywhere Antennas, that’s where it is: being able to feel things in the situation that are not said.”
Early on in Journal, as the narrator struggles through a significant breakup, the reader is shown a sparely drawn array of furniture in blues and yellows. “May 5th: Your furniture is gone from the living room,” the caption reads. “It echoes in here when we’re loud now.” Here, the reader, too, is able to feel what is not uttered aloud.
From the May 2014 issue of Q&Q.