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Eric Danbacourt: When engraving leads to drawing

Eric Dabancourt was first a painter, then an engraver, before refocusing all his work on what
is essential to him: drawing, with black ink on white paper. This is the story of a journey in
search of origins.

In the drawing entitled Urban Terrace, a large cubic mass occupies the center of the sheet. This mass derives its relief from its whiteness: broad diagonal white strokes for the top of the "cube", and finer strokes for the vertical face, more shadowy.
White masses emerging from the black, white lines.... Enough to make the onlooker feel puzzled: What exactly are we seeing? A black ink drawing on white paper? Or a white pencil drawing on black paper?
The artist elicits confusion in drawings where black and white alternately come first, as if the artist had two pencils at his fingertips... which is obviously not the case.


Eric Dabancourt,
more than a designer!

To untangle things a little, we must return to a somewhat atypical route.
Initially, after the first years where he already discovered artistic practice, Eric Dabancourt settled in Paris and painted. A painting that he himself describes as expressionist, therefore colorful, very colorful.
Fifteen years later, he left Paris, settled in Reims and began engraving: hollowing out the material and inking the unexcavated surface (saving size) or, on the contrary, inking the engraved lines and wiping the surface. (soft size).

A few more years, and the artist then turned to drawing, a practice that would never leave him. “It was through engraving and contact with ink that I turned to Indian ink drawing. I started working on different series. Black suits me, forces me to go to the essentials.”

This path is interesting and original: drawing is often the basis, the start in artistic research. Every painter or engraver begins by mastering drawing before moving on to a brush or chisel.
Eric Dabancourt took the opposite path and his work bears the trace: today he draws “in” paper as one engraves in metal. And he has also kept a clear artisanal side to the world of engraving: “I work with a really black Indian ink, an ink made from charcoal”.
With this ink, he will generously cover his sheet (with tools that he likes to make), drawing inspiration from the linocut technique: very often, the engraver passes a roller of paint on his linoleum before digging it with a gouge. This makes the design visible as the lines are carved into the painted surface. This technique (reserve engraving) is not a priori applicable to drawing, but Eric Dabancourt believes that it can be done: he chooses a particularly thick paper (380 grams), finds or makes the appropriate tool and digs into it. ink to draw out the whites.
Hence these white lines which give the appearance of having been drawn and which in fact come from cuts made in black ink... on a simple sheet of paper.
Hence also the attraction that we can have in front of his works which play on different in-betweens: between abstract and figurative, between imagination and real landscape, between engraving and drawing, between a black drawing on a white background or the opposite ….

In the Stone Age, a small life line appears in the drawing. A small line… drawn, scratched, a line which seems to emerge from the black while being anterior to it. Difficult to fix things, even though the work is extremely precise.

With each new sheet, the caress of Indian ink is invented on the cellulose bark.

“Finally, I practice the same method as the mezzotint, but I do not use an Agathe, but a scalpel to work in the paper. I diverted the engraving tools to be able to use them on paper. The strokes of the scalpel allow me to scratch and obtain white on my black surfaces.”

At first glance, they even look like pencil lines. Without forgetting that sometimes the artist adds pen strokes in the white areas cleared by the scalpel. Drawing in lines carved in ink. We lose our Latin there.
“I create my tools, but I can also take a wooden stick found while walking as a tool,” explains the artist, who nevertheless wants to ensure that technique does not take over the artistic desire.
Because the artist’s goal is to find the medium that allows him to represent what he wants. “There is one thing in common between all my works, drawing or engraving,” explains Eric Dabancourt: nature, near or far. The mineral, the plant, which allows a vibration of matter, of light. The mineral side came from walks in Sidobre. We took a trip into “Chaos” and it inspired me.”
The technique is therefore complex, but remains at the service of very simple things, inspired by landscapes that the artist sees in his daily life. He immersed himself in landscapes, discovered them, appreciated them and wanted to transcribe on paper what he felt on the ground. And to do this, he simply adapted the tools and techniques he knew.
Another way to describe this work. Once again between real complexity and great simplicity. A new in-between.

I can't help it, I have to draw, scratch out sketches. Not a single a day goes by without my drawing (in my head). Good or bad, it builds up as I go for walks. I don't get down to work on my blank sheet of paper without a certain amount of apprehension. The spontaneity of the gesture is tense, ink is demanding and so is graphite. The result is there in the midst of other creations, and which one will stand out from the rest... Tomorrow I'll surely know.



Eric Dabancourt and his wife moved from the Marne to Montauban in the summer of 2022, to be closer to their sons, one living in Toulouse, the other in Figeac. A child of the "régie Renault", Eric Dabancourt grew up in Mantes-la-Jolie. He soon began drawing at the Maison des Jeunes et de la Culture in Gassicourt, and later enrolled in painting and life-model classes. At the age of 16, he took the Auguste Renoir technical high school entrance exam and graduated in Applied Arts to design advertising campaigns, while at the same time joining a painting workshop in Paris.
He took part in group exhibitions in the capital. He discovered the work of Giacometti, Soulages and Basquiat, all free in their approach and a source of inspiration.

Article written by Anne Devailly

The Eric Dabancourt Gallery

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