Re-reading David B.’s L’Ascension du Haut-Mal (released in English as Epileptic), three images struck me. The book concerns his family, burdened by his older brother’s crippling seizures; looking for a cure, his parents turned to macrobiotics and metaphysics. David B. draws liberally on fantasy throughout, mixing childhood perceptions with spiritual maps and strange history.
1. He also includes his childhood art, not that far removed from his adult work. All children draw, usually until some too-harsh criticism makes them stop; at a young adolescent stage, they often focus on the detail at the expense of the whole.
This focus also characterizes the art of the mentally ill, repeating intricate patterns like fractals.
2. As the book progresses, the images increasingly give way to diagrams, which mix and flow into the normal world of David B.’s family. These images, drawn largely from medieval symbology and occultism by modern esoteric sects, show the world as a map, populated by strange creatures. So do the meridian systems of Traditional Chinese Medicine, as Jean-Christophe is early treated by an acupuncturist. They echo the scientific progress of mapping the body, always with an eye to control; they never do.
3. Likewise, the adult David B., cocooning himself in lines and meridians, only with his own pattern.