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Lines AND notes

FOR THE past 17 years, readers of Le Monde, a French daily, have enjoyed his cartoons, with their morning cuppa.

With a few lines -- a circle, a loop and a few angular strokes-- Serguei makes people ponder over life.

His understanding of the socio-cultural and political issues across the globe is reflected in his cartoons. The 45-year-old artist has brought to bear his subtle sense of humour upon themes such as intolerance, cruelty, human rights, terrorism and violence, and sensuality.

One of the most admired cartoonists in France, Serguei became popular, lampooning the powers-that-be.

"Most often, a newspaper has its own perspective about the stories that it wishes to carry. Emphasis cannot be laid on certain sensitive aspects of an issue. When I'm given the subject for the day, I think about how I could add to the story through my cartoons. Le Monde gives me ample freedom to experiment," says Serguei.

His cartoons are simple but powerful. Serguei incorporates his observations about art, law, sociology and science into his works. "My main job is to draw. But I have a mission too - to reach out to people, beyond cultural and geographic barriers. I want them all to think beyond what my cartoons depict".

For instance, in one of his cartoons, a child is shown clinging on to the neckties of scary looking men. This cartoon, points out Serguei, is a poignant observation of how a child gets lost in a world riven by violence, oppression and abuse. The plight of the child is what readers should ponder about. "People should be moved to work towards peace and tolerance," he explains.

He has criticised politicians and ambassadors of various countries for their hypocrisy. Says Serguei: "They have retaliated at times, making life difficult for me".

Among his popular cartoons are those on "the hypocrisy of the West and the gravity of war".

Explains the cartoonist: "Poking fun must be done artfully. The flights of imagination must be guided by facts. One must be abreast of all current developments. War has been a constant theme of my work for the past few years."

How does Serguei describe his style of cartooning? "I prefer to say things in a few simple strokes than add a lot of squiggles, characters or abstracts shapes."

Earlier, says Serguei, circles dominated his cartoons; now he uses more of angular forms.

Serguei does not like to use words in his cartoons. Instead, he prefers to let his cartoons do the talking. "People don't need to be told about what they already know. I like to explore complex issues and delve into the core of the matter; I try to analyse each story in a different perspective," Serguei says.

His work has been inspired by his own experiences. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Serguei is of Russian descent. "I went to Paris when I was 20 and pursued my career by freelancing for a few years. I was also into composing music".

His latest book, titled 'Dieu, Les angles et la Femme' (God, Angels and Woman), brings to light the plight of women in nations that follow Islam and Judaism. "It is about the subservient lives women lead, and the intolerance and injustice meted out to them in the name of religion."

Serguei is also a pianist. He had brought out several albums and performed concerts in different parts of the world. "I love playing the piano. It is an extension of my creativity and self. Music is, perhaps, the only art you can share with the people around," adds Serguei.n

SMITHA SADANANDAN

Photos: S. Gopakumar

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