Tuesday, 23 July 2013

A Work in Progress, and a Challenge Answered

I don't often think about my work in terms of a gallery context. The stuff I make is not meant to be hung on walls, mostly; it's meant to be printed in books. So the fact that I've found myself tackling multiple gallery-oriented projects this summer still confuses me a little bit. I was chatting with a friend on the phone the other day and he made an observation about my summer undertakings and the fact that last time we went for coffee I had waxed verbose on the fact that I hated gallery work. All I could do was verbally shrug. I blame Byron, actually. Byron Johnston was my sculpture prof for three years running, one of the most skilled, gentle, and humble men I have ever had the honour of knowing. One of the last things he said to me before he retired was a challenge, really: to find a way to blend my drawing and my sculpture. If this project is dedicated to anybody, it's Byron, our beloved old man from the sea.

These photos went up about a week ago on my Twitter feed (https://twitter.com/Vitaeleous) as I was preparing the last bit of the proposal for this project. That is now submitted (my first official gallery proposal!! WOOO!) and I'm waiting for the news with bated breath. While we wait, here; I'll give you some pictures to look at and the write-up I submitted to the gallery. It concerns cartoons, journalism, the nature of entertainment, and a liberal dose of nostalgia. Enjoy :)
Saturday mornings as a kid were a beautiful thing when I was growing up. This is not to say that I've stopped growing up, or indeed that I've grown up at all. It is simply to say that I remember those mornings: getting up before anyone else, before dad even started making coffee, and running downstairs (or upstairs, or wherever I needed to go) to turn on the TV and sit and watch as Jerry repeatedly outwitted Tom, and as Bugs mocked Elmer mercilessly.
Saturday mornings have become decidedly less fun as I have gotten older. Now I haul myself out of bed to check Twitter and Facebook and CBC.ca, and what I find there is rarely Warner Bros caliber entertainment. Somewhere a teenager has been shot, or a soldier has died in the line of duty, or a far-off government is collapsing into anarchy and its people are rioting. Saturday mornings, all mornings, are a serious business. They're a time when the world wakes up and collectively discovers what's going on, and starts talking about it. And yet, in the middle of all this global turmoil, we still have the blessed nostalgia to associate Saturday mornings with cartoons. So, why not? Why not use cartoons to start conversations about what's happening in the world, and to explore the conversations already going on out there?
Cartoons are a great way to understand things, and a great way to tell them to others. I as a cartoonist get to break these stories down into simple and communicable fragments to tell a story that everyone can get. That's what this piece is, this big, lumbering piece of metal that I decided to draw on. I want to tell a story that is happening right now and impacting thousands of people close to home. I believe it's important, and I am equipped to tell it using cartoons. So I shall. The story itself is a journalistic piece, composed by me from fragments of many other stories and scripted as a comic strip. The medium: an old and defunct satellite TV dish.
As with all my sculpture work I believe that the material is as important to the piece as the form that I am creating from it. This dish came from a house in which children had been raised and grandchildren entertained; it has had many decades of cartoons streamed through. It has a history of cartoons embedded in its being. It was perfect for this piece. I want this piece to speak to many aspects of both the story and the cartoon form. I want to address the issue of news being used as entertainment, of real-life pain being dramatized for profit. I want to explore the cartoon as an informative medium. I want to play with this synthesis of three-dimensional support and two-dimension image. More than anything, though, I want to tell a story, and have it understood.

"Stay hungry." - Byron Johnston

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