I'm curious how "Julien Ceccaldi" became what google recognises him for now. What is the background story on how an illustration practice turned into a comic book, how the characters developed and how they then became actualised. Devolving from mix-matched mannequins flaunting your paintings/garments in your exhibition with Heji Shin at Mathew, to models wearing your garments while visiting art events in NYC and then the Dresden Dresses, music video directed by François Pisapia, for which your character "comes to life" by way of painted body suit..
I’ve been committed to manga since I was seven. I spent my whole youth drawing frail manga heroines, and I grew up alternatively ashamed and unapologetic of that. I began drawing sad, muscled women when the expectations of adult life and adult bodies hit me. It’s been a way to handle my resentment and my fascination for confident, fit people.
Because this type of character works hard to be treated like a valuable commodity, but a commodity nonetheless, it felt relevant to sell them like derivative products. So I started prostituting them in Montreal’s craft fairs, by painting them on cheap second-hand clothes that I’d sell for less than twenty dollars.
The more attention the clothes have gotten, the more care I’ve been putting into them. Now, I am less about making a spectacle of my despair.
So you're happy with the commodity you've created?
Sure, and I will be as long as what I make is still infused with my sweat and tears. In my eyes, the saleability of my artworks isn’t obscene as long as I earnestly pour enough of myself in them.
The narrative in your comics, usually featuring female characters, are discussing moral positions in the way a gossip magazine or tabloid would over-hype (or sell) banal or serious issues, but you add some reconcile, that is, your characters are often exposed with the flaws they are critiquing. I'm curious why, as a gay male you create mainly female dialogues and where your inspiration for these dialogues come from?
The way my characters talk is not wildly different from the voices I hear in my own head. It’s not that I purposefully focus on “what goes on in women’s heads,” it’s more that I don’t want to touch an especially masculine mind with a ten-foot pole; it would be unnatural of me.
I follow a ton of beauty gurus on YouTube. I look for them in my subscription box every day, especially the ones that are not gender-conforming: Gregory Gorgeous, DivaDarlingChic, Miles Jai, Cassidy Lynn…
One of my favourite movies is Chantal Akerman’s experimental musical Golden Eighties. It’s all set in a shopping arcade, and the story-lines follow fickle and melancholic personalities who can’t let go of safety to pursue romance.
Also, your males (who appear much less frequently) are Wile E. Coyote-esque, often aggressive dogs. This certainly doesn't seem to come out of a manga evolution, they seem more like a prop, or a background figure, an "extra" as they would call in the film industry… why do they take this position?
I’d done illustrations with these dogs before; they were more chilled-out gay lovers. At first, they were not compatible with the comic’s universe because I wanted all the characters to be these interchangeable women. But then I thought it’d be funny if their love-interests were of a different species, and there’d be this over-the-top caricature of hetero-normativity.
Another thing is, whenever I feel like I’m torturing my characters too much, their presence puts things into perspective. No matter what the girls are going through, the dogs are so repulsive, and proud of it, that they’re in a worse place by default.
Speaking of props and films, in Catherine Breillat’s movies, the grace of her heroines is heightened by contrast with the banal brutality of the men they abandon themselves to. I must be aiming for a similar effect.
The dogs also remind me of certain "young" male artists, your characters seem to dabble with an interest in art, maybe a naive one. Other than that they do seem to exist in public space.
That would be an unfortunate coincidence. These dogs are inspired by your run-of-the mill jerky club lurker; someone who tries to score with people as if in an arcade game. The closest anyone gets to art in my comics is when they enjoy a “graphic-tee novel” on a relaxed Sunday afternoon, that’s really it.
But I do see how some strips could look like they’re set in a sort of art space, with the general lack of backgrounds and all.
How did you know that the context for your work was ready to move from "just" a commodity to an art commodity?
Since everything has been hand-drawn to begin with, I haven’t thought about this kind of nuance.
Is it recently you've started to draw murals?
Murals are very fulfilling to paint because they are for people’s eyes only. I’ve only done one in the recent past, but I would love to do more. I’m not physically active enough, so I like that they’re a good reason for me to get off my chair.
Where do you think your work/ characters will go next, emotionally and physically?
Everything seems to be going towards a more sentimental route; bittersweet nostalgia in endless poppy flower fields.
As for upcoming projects, I’m trying to complete a couple of things by the end of the fall. One of them is a proper web shop; another is a video-lookbook we shot this summer with my friend Melissa Gagné. It stars Arielle de Pinto pole-dancing on this free-standing pole we brought to the middle of a wild flower prairie. She killed it, her moves are beautiful and she’s mesmerizing to watch. We’ll have that released at the same time as the unveiling of something I’m doing with Vfiles – which I hope people will support when they can.
See the video HERE!