February 28th, 2019
There is no easy way to say it: the work by artist Manon Epsilon is dark, haunting, and disturbing. What else would you expect from someone who’s trying to give a voice to people who struggle with mental illness. Her work is the perfect representation of what so many feel yet cannot put into words. Her untitled characters have no gender - nothing to make them seem different besides their physical torment that takes what’s in their mind to expose it to their body. That’s the beauty of the message that mental illness can affect everyone and how so many try to hide it. It’s a beautiful message, and while the work is dark, seeing it and talking about it is the light.
Where are you from?
I am from the west coast of France. I have moved a lot but mostly lived in the city of Nantes. Now it's been more than two years that I'm in the east, next to Switzerland.
How did you get started on your artistic journey?
Creating was always part of my life when I was a kid. At around 11 years old, it became more important. At that time I started to struggle a lot with life, so creativity was necessary and the only way for me to release deep, painful emotions and feelings that I wasn't able to express any other way. Through my teenage years I used to draw but also write, sculpt, paint and take pictures. It was only when I was introduced to Nantes’s tattoo artists that I focused on drawing and painting.
Who had the biggest influence on you with respect to your art?
When I was a kid I was a huge fan of Tim Burton's movies, specifically the atmospheres, particularly The Nightmare Before Christmas. I used to watch it several times a year, and I still watch it every Christmas. I was attracted to everything that was creepy, grim, and gloomy. Later I discovered Amanda Palmer and her different bands. She's not a visual artist but her songs inspired many images and emotions that I could use for drawing.
I guess both of them have the same aesthetic that I love so much.
Where do you find your inspiration?
First, definitively in the vital need to be released/freed from my heavy emotions and inner demons. Secondly, the need to talk about bad experiences, about stuff that people around me were not used to talking about when I was younger.
Anxiety, depression, sexual issues, self-hatred were not common subjects at the time. Fortunately today thanks to social media and lots of artists, the dialogue about it is finally open. We still have to work to make these issues less taboo.
What do you want your art to say to the viewer?
You are not the only one to feel that way. Also, vaginas are precious. Treat them well.
How would you describe your art style?
Simple black pen, sad characters with big empty eyes. And bald.
What have people said about seeing your work?
Most of the time people say something like "I like your creations but I wouldn't hang one of them on my walls." More seriously, they share with me the discomfort they feel when facing my drawings.
Why do you make art about mental health disorders, obsessions and sexuality?
Because we need to talk about it.
Well... I needed to talk about it. When I began to be "aware" of the reasons that pushed me to draw what I drew, I understood there was a lack of conversation about mental illness, body issues and sexual abuse. Art was the only way to say something about it. It was not conscious then, it is now.
I made art because of my personal struggles, now I make art in the hope of opening a dialogue about the struggles that are common to so many people.
What is your favorite dinosaur?
Strictly speaking this is not a dinosaur. It lived 4 to 2 million years ago, was as big as a hippopotamus and as soft as a guinnea pig. Let me introduce to you the Josephoartigasia Monesi !
What is your process from start to finish? What materials do you use?
I have two methods. Either I have a specific idea for a series so I do research and sketches before. Or I have no idea what I'm going to do, take a blank piece of paper and follow my gut.
For painting I use acrylic, for drawing it can be black pens, china ink, colored pencils or alcohol markers.
Why is mental health awareness important to you?
I've experienced distress from the impossibility to share with my relatives the problems I encountered day to day because of mental disorders.
It is really important to encourage people to learn about the existence of these invisible illnesses, so they'll be more able to support those around them that are suffering from them. And for those who can't find support in their own home, I would like to believe that seeing art, reading words, watching videos from people who go through the same issues will help them feel understood and less alone.
How have you grown as an artist from when you first started to now?
I couldn't have done anything I've done without my friends. They pushed me to open an IG page, do my first exhibitions, make artistic collaborations, open a shop on the internet and, above all, convinced me to continue to create.
Without them, everything would have stayed the same as 15 years ago: me drawing whenever I feel the need to, without conviction, keeping the drawings in a plastic folder, hidden in a closet.
Now I feel more implicated in my art and am willing to share it with others.
Do the characters you draw have a specific name?
What’s the best way to describe your studio space?
"Dining table and shelf-chair" is a good way to describe my studio space. I live in a tiny place so I have to improvise with the furniture to create a proper "studio space".
When you are asleep what do you dream of?
Last night I dreamt of a plastic toy monkey singing "I wanna be like you" from the Jungle Book movie. Still don't know how am I supposed to feel about that....
But generally the persistent themes are: discovering new places surrounded by seas or lakes, getting lost in schools, airports or train stations (and, consequently, being late), being chased by all sorts of people, flying away from them. And, sometimes, lucid dreams (my favorites).
Do you prefer Oreo or Fudgee-O cookies?
Difficult question... I've never tried either.