Nicolas Vial is a well-known cartoonist and painter exhibited in many museums, he is a painter of the Navy since 2008; his work is marked by an imaginary world where a sharp surrealism is combined with a kind of contemporary romanticism and satire. He brings to life a dreamlike world inhabited by stranded ships, chained fish, urban cats, men in hats, Venetian villas, and more recently a mocking illustration calling out Vladmir Putin.
In 1982, he joined La Monde – a French newspaper, and became a permanent illustrator; but in 2014 he was dismissed for a drawing deemed too unfavourable to François Hollande (a French politician). He has created children’s albums and posters for cinema as well. He received the grand prize for tender humour at the International Salon of press cartoons and humour in Saint-Just-le-Martel ( Haute-Vienne ) in 1997.
Nicolas is no stranger to the exhibits of war as his father and grandfather were both participants in the world wars. Being the son of an editor, he greatly understood the impact of print media and on art. His work depicts the masquerades of war and capitalism can do to humanity.
Vial’s latest illustration of Russia’s leader Vladmir Putin portrays the deceased civilians as a badge of honour and the blood behind him as the bloodshed and war cries of the citizens of Ukraine. It highlights the horror that is taking place at every step he has taken and making his face seem more ugly in the eyes of the public to foreshadow his ruthlessness. He posted his work on Instagram as “a portrait of Putin” which was also featured in Le1 journal (a French weekly journal) this week.
Vial uses social media, mainly Instagram, to showcase his previous and present artwork. He posts multiple times daily with detailed captions of what his art is about and how it affects the socio-economic nature of the world.
“Here is a drawing about civilians during the wars”, captioned Nicolas, which is an old work which was published in La Monde. He very casually called out the newspaper for getting fired over a phone call and being crushed by the “politically correct”. In a YouTube video he had explained how he got inspiration from his great grandfather and drew him marching on the maps of France and Germany.
Be it a man-made event or natural disaster, the privileged are always on the top of the chain. And with wars becoming the reason for humanitarian crisis, its always the common people who are at the edge of it. And due to the capitalist nature of our society, the rich always try to make profits out of any given situation regardless of how it will affect the public and their interests. Both of these illustrations published speaks about how the freedom of expression is at risk.
In May 2015, Vial exhibited with 5 other Chinese artists their paintings on the theme “climate change” at the Hong Kong Art centre; there they shared their concerns about global warming due to pollution that has endangered the marine life as well as the natural habitats of the wild. Their paintings showcased how the profit driven industries are directly responsible for the destruction of air, water and land and the poor working conditions of the workers. They also included other social topics like immigration and human rights.
His illustrations of climate change were used for COP26. Nicolas is an environmental activist and a very vocal advocate of climate change and the effects of global warming. He every so often portrays the tyranny our oceans are in through his paintings. He also actively shows the “guilt ridden” procedures our capitalist industries do to “save the tress” through his illustrations, sometimes even a prediction of what our future will be if its too late. His illustrations on climate change is a warning knock on the door. Be it an event of past, present or future, his illustrations are eternally relevant.