'Aaron'.

Ben Gijsemans is a Belgian freelance animator, illustrator and comic artist. He gained praise with his groundbreaking graphic novels 'Hubert' and 'Aaron' (2020); both delicate portraits of characters with deep, inner struggles who take refuge in escapism to make their lives manageable.

Early life
Gijsemans was born in Lier in 1989. Unlike most graphic novelists, his background is not rooted in comics culture. Instead, he gets most of his inspiration from paintings, films, literature and fine arts, resulting in his highly original approach to the comics medium. In terms of graphic art and visual storytelling, Winsor McCay, Joost Swarte and Charlie Chaplin are important influences. Gijsemans also enjoys the works of the graphic novelists Chris Ware, Olivier Schrauwen, Simon Hanselmann, Brecht Evens, Jeroen Janssen and Cyril Pedrosa. He obtained his Master's degree in Audiovisual Arts from the Ghent School of Arts in 2012. He then spent another year at the Sint-Lukas School of Arts in Brussels, receiving his Master in Comic Art in 2013.


'Hubert'.

Hubert
His graduation project was the first three chapters of his debut graphic novel, 'Hubert' (Oogachtend, 2014). Hubert is an introverted, middle-aged man, who finds it difficult to settle in his hometown Brussels. His limited social contacts are clumsy and painful. Light in his life is his weekly visit to the Art Museum, where he submerges himself in the beauty of the female figure. Gijsemans' use of repetitive panels uncover the monotonous rhythm of Hubert's life. In this debut, the author reveals his great sense for the complexities of human behavior, which he portrays with meticulous care. 'Hubert' has been translated into German, French and English, and was the subject of an exhibition in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels.


'Hubert'.

Aaron
It took Ben Gijsemans six years to complete his next graphic novel, 'Aaron' (Oogachtend, 2020). Aaron is a twenty-year old student, who spends the summer at home to prepare his re-examinations. But instead of studying, he is struggling with precarious sexual desires. Gijsemans illustrates Aaron's fear for his paedophile feelings with great subtlety and nuance. Using very little dialogue and a strict lay-out of twelve panels per page, the author offers an almost claustrophobic character study, which leaves much to the reader's own interpretation. The character's refuge in comic books, lightweight pastiches of classic American superhero comics, offer a charming counterbalance to the otherwise heavy subject matter. Despite its controversial theme, 'Aaron' is widely praised for its literary qualities. In interviews, the author underlined that his book is not about paedophilia, but about a person who is trapped between his own inner struggles and the perception of others. He suffers from an addiction with no cure. Aaron "discovers what he denies, and denies what he discovers," as the book's liner notes say.

Other work
In addition to his graphic novels, Gijsemans works as a freelance animator and illustrator. His artwork has appeared in newspaper De Standaard and on LP records like the Isle of Men's 'Voluntary Blindness' (2015). During his studies in Ghent, he made the slapstick animation short 'Coppers' (2012), made out of various shots of 18 different Buster Keaton films.


Superhero pastiche from 'Aaron'.

Series and books by Ben Gijsemans in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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