October 30, 2009

WOMEN IN COMICS CONFERENCE  Cambridge New Hall, 25 October 2009

Chuffed to discover that Sarah McIntyre has posted some of my sketches on her blog . She was one of the speakers at this conference which I was very glad to have been able to attend on my return from France. I am not at all qualified to review such a comics-erudite event since my relationship to comics is intermittent and I'm an outsider in the vast family of comics creators who work in this medium full time and have made their mark in it. The sequential format does interest me very much indeed and I want to explore it much further (in my always-to-be-continued graphic novel) but there's a great deal of activity and information related to comics culture that I tend to pass by, probably to my detriment.

Having been an artists' book-maker for a long time, the creators I respond to most are those whose approach and ideas are in that vein and who use sequential images as part of their visual/verbal art practice rather than as comics per se. Pages filled with small frames, each loaded with tiny text and drawings, no matter how appealing the story or concept irritate my eyes and brain. I prefer layouts which spread over the available space, flowing in and out of consciousness as time itself does. Such an artist is Dominique Goblet whose work I was excited to discover at the conference. I saw some of her books on the tables and bought one immediately: Souvenir D'Une Journée Parfaite - atmospheric, quirky, melancholy and moving on different levels of time, space, memory and emotion, beautifully expressed in monochrome drawings and an evocative, scratchily handwritten text. Hearing her later in conversation with Paul Gravett (top right in the photos below) confirmed the impression that my concerns and aims were very much in tune with hers. We will keep in touch and I hope to visit her studio in Brussels some time.

About Paul Gravett, no praise can ever be too high: he is responsible for stimulating interest in comics, encouraging innumerable comics artists in the UK and elsewhere and writing about comics critically, perceptively and knowledgeably. Back in the 1980's when I was producing and self-publishing my mini-series The Augustine Adventures (Small Packages) Paul was one of the first to review them in his magazine Escape and he has always been supportive. I think he has a pair of wings tucked away behind his shoulder blades, enabling him to appear wherever and whenever comics creators are assembled, lighting up the place with his good will and open-minded attention.

Sarah Lightman  (who organised the conference along with Dr. Laurence Grove of the University of Glasgow) is another artist I've recently met whose work resonates with me. An exhibition of her diary drawings, In Memoriam, is currently in New Hall, focusing on ordinary objects (packets of biscuits, lace, toothbrush etc.) sensitively drawn in pencil, as conduits for autobiographical reflection. Each image has a pithy caption which leads you out of the object represented and into the artist's mind as she was drawing it. Sarah, along with illustrator Nicola Streeten, recently founded Laydeez Do Comics , a forum focusing on comic works based on life narrative, meeting once a month. I went along to one meeting and will be back for more.

I could write more about the conference but I'm going to stop here as I want to post this and get on with where I left off before I disappeared to France.

my sketches, women in comics

women in comics, photos

Asia,Sarah, Sarah Mc


October 29, 2009


I am back home but still floating in a nomadic space where 'home' is just the last bed you slept in and the last place you ate your breakfast. And despite the insecurity, strangeness and discomforts of that floating world, I must say it has its charm and its usefulness. For one thing it liberates you, temporarily, from the force of habit. Your time, your attention, your surroundings all undergo a transformation which may or may not be to your liking but it certainly kicks you in the inertia-zone and wakes up at least some of your somnolent neurons. I walked more, ate less, got up earlier, went to sleep earlier and thought less about myself than I have in a long time. Things which needed to be done got done and although a feeling of being a remotely-controlled robot occasionally surfaced, there were moments of zen-like discovery and intense engagement for which I am grateful.

Hotel balcony, Clamart

My hotel room balcony, Clamart.

My sister, continuing her astonishingly quick recovery, is going back to Rome with her daughter this week. They are together in Paris at the moment where Annie is enjoying her release from the prison, as she calls it, of hospital. I don't believe my presence was a factor in her speedy rehabilitation, she's got her own indomitable will for that. But maybe the old familiar rusty pattern of sisterly irritation takes on movement and meaning when seen out of an unfamiliar window.