“[My sword] would be very beautiful but harmless because I hate violence.” French illustrator and handpoke tattoo artist Marie Besse lays before us her linear, spiky and prodding visions resembling prickly vines and sparkly fata morganas.

Let’s start with the future. Any new projects for the upcoming year?

As I’m graduating in May, yes, of course! I’m currently working on several projects, mostly images and comics, but I try to diversify more and I’m still very attached to performing even if the COVID-19 crisis made it difficult. I hope I’ll finish my biggest project in time for May, it’s a full-length comic  of approx. 100-120 pages about a tribe of neanderthals living beside a lake, a kind of a slice-of-life but with an archaeological twist. I’m working with a great French paleontologist. I plan on drawing a kids’ book about self-love, gardening and the meaning of being called “bad” and “mean”. I also have a few projects here and there with friends, a performance where we’ll cosplay as sexy demons in a room full of metallic plants, and, of course, I also want to become a  professional tattoo artist by the end of the year! 2021 will defo be a better time (fingers crossed).


Sounds like there’s a lot on your plate! Is the place you were born, and perhaps its history, reflected in your artwork?

I was born and raised in the south of France where there’s a heavy presence of castles and  medieval ruins, and a lot of old villages in the countryside. My parents used to move a lot because I think they couldn’t find the right place and the way to live as a family, so I saw a lot of small villages. Churches and castles are very present and important in France, the medieval times are kinda crucial for the way the country wrote its history and culture. I think that it influenced me a lot, being in nature and finding ruins of old castles, travelling through the countryside made me  imagine stories and old tales. When younger, I was a big fan of fairies and elves. My mom is from the northwestern part of France, which is called Bretagne – a place where Celtic and medieval history is still very much alive in the people’s imagination. I used to spend every summer vacation there and we moved there, next to the ocean, when I was 15.


What inspires your artworks? 

Mostly manga and japanese animation, I’ve always been addicted to the melodrama and  edginess that constitute them. I think my imagination is also really rooted in words, so I tend to  directly portray concepts and metaphors I hear in songs, and sentences I caught in movies. Demons, monsters in horror movies and medieval engravings interest me a lot, too. And,  recently, I fell in love with Gregg Araki who is probably my main inspiration now, you know, aliens and queer shit.


Is there any repetitive theme/tale/story that appears in your artwork? 

I always try to create from a place of hurt, I use the stuff that harmed me to nurture my creativity.  That might be the reason I’m obsessed with demons and stories of breakups. I put a lot of  importance in placing monsters as principal characters in my stories and artworks, and  performance work. 


Do you feel the new dawn of the medieval theme in culture?

It’s cool this question is addressed because through Instagram, social media and also my friends  and the people who surround me directly, I feel it’s something very palpable. I think medieval times were mostly looked upon as “The Dark Ages“ and, as you learn in history, the name is a construction of the “Renaissance” period that followed. The problem is that Renaissance and modernity, “siècle des lumières” (the age of enlightenment, a French concept) were rewriting history with a contempting twist. They looked at times past with disdain and justified colonialism and patriarchy by saying ancient times were harsher when, in fact, they were just different paradigms (of thinking, beliefs, behaviours and representations). Realizing that, I think, makes people realize how “universalism” and “realism” are in fact Euro-white-cis-male centered. To me, bringing up medieval themes is a way to show that humanity and arts are not evolving in a constant line of the so-called “progress” – from worse to better. it’s more of a rhizome of thoughts and representations that can all be valid and criticized. I’m very curious what will happen next. For me, there’s still the need to bring this medieval-inspired art and philosophy to the next level and confront it with our hyper-communicative technologic era. I think it’s really exciting!


How would you define your style and which techniques do you use the most? 

I’m a drawing artist, I use every technique I can to draw what I want to give form to. I’m more  comfortable with lines than with complex layers of colours and surfaces that painting implies. For years, I’ve been drawing sharp black lines but the last few months, I’ve been feeling more and more at ease with pens and gradients. My style is always moving but there’s a tendency that’s always present, so I would say I’m spikes, thorns and sharp things artist. I’m very attached to editing and printing my own stuff, and to the micro-underground self-publishing scene in France. It’s very important for me to reclaim printing techniques such as silk screen, offset and engraving as well as more contemporary ones like laser and inkjet or risography. I’m not a very big fan of artworks as unique pieces when multiplying them can be a better and cheaper way of sharing and discovering new stuff. That’s why I started doing and buying zines.


If you were a fortune-teller, what would be your prediction for the next years in the art world?

I think the world we know is running towards its end. Not in a pessimistic way but I really get an “end of the world” vibe from everything I hear and see. And I’m mostly speaking of this capitalistic and colonialist western world. I think the barriers betweens genres, genders and binaries are collapsing and it can’t happen soon enough for me. I think we, as westerners, are slowly gonna lose our material privileges. I hope it won’t come at the expense or more exploitation of the poor and underprivileged but I highly doubt that. I think art is gonna disappear and blend into everyday life. I hope every institution that limits art forms and expressions will die out. My dream is for flowers and trees to grow upon the dead bodies of capitalists and cops.


If you could pick one medieval weapon, what’d it be and why? 

I would wear a sword because they look badass. It would be a light sword but forged with refinery  and plant-like patterns all over it. It would be very beautiful but harmless because I hate violence.



Demons and angels / Those two images go together in a 45×60 cm poster I made for a friend’s 

zine (Collectif Comtesse). They were offset-printed in two colours, bright red and blue. They show a macabre devil dance and angels who are afraid/curious of the fun the demons are having. 

Flashes / excerpts from my handpoke flash tattoo catalogue.

Gob ¼ / drawings of an all-female goblin tribe I initially made for a goblin-themed zine. It was  supposed to be a 4-page comics about a kind of amazon-like goblin tribe who make no sexual or  gender differences or discrimination, the only things they crave are murder, jewells and star-themed tattoos.

Portraits / a brief series of portraits of my friends I made during quarantine to keep on drawing and seeing faces I love. 

Sightseeing / 3 pages from a comic I made back in 2018 when I was living in Berlin. It tells the story of sightseeing, a character born from a mountain, a woman and an alien who tries to find their way into reality, figuring out whether they’re a concept, a being or an image. It was made for a performance by Julian Weber, a Berlin-based artist and choreographer. It’s made as a  complement to the performance but it’s also standalone.


BIO / Marie Besse (Sombre Marie) is French-born, fierce transgender comics and tattoo artist, and performer. She graduated from EESI, the École Européenne Supérieure de l’Image in Angoulême, France. During her studies, she curated a few exhibitions in Angoulême and performed in Berlin with Julian Weber and Mariana Nobre Vieira back in 2018.


Artworks / Marie Besse @whos_your_momma__now

Interview / Markéta Kosinová

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