North and Centre Ivey Galleries
Guest Curator: Diana Tamblyn

Until recently, comic books have regularly been dismissed as disposable, “low brow” items of popular culture, often overlooked in larger discussions of the visual arts. Within the past 20 years, however, comics and graphic novels (sometimes referred to as “sequential art”) have been recognized as a sophisticated art form, and cartoonists as artists. Masters of the form, such as Jack Kirby, Robert Crumb, Herge, and Osamu Tezuka, are now acknowledged to be among the most recognized and influential artists of the twentieth century. Southwestern Ontario has produced some of the world’s most celebrated and innovative of these artists, of which twelve are featured in this exhibition: Marc Bell, Scott Chantler, David Collier, Michael Cho, Willow Dawson, Jesse Jacobs, Mark Laliberte, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Jeff Lemire, Joe Ollmann, Seth, and Jay Stephens.

These individuals work in diverse styles, some using the more traditional grid format, and others playing with and challenging the conventions of the comics form. Words and Pictures also examines how the region of Southwestern Ontario has informed and shaped their work, as it has for other creators like authors Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, and James Reaney, or visual artists such as Jack Chambers and Greg Curnoe. Although comics are popular, the process of creating and producing them is mysterious to many. Traditionally, comic books have been created by teams of people, such as a writer, a penciller, an inker, a colourist, a letterer, and an editor. A cartoonist, however, is someone who for the most part takes on all of these roles. Words and Pictures reveals the steps involved in producing sequential art. Selected works—Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim, Jeff Lemire’s Essex County, Seth’s Palookaville, and many more—showcase original, finished comic book pages, thumbnails, preparatory drawings, printer’s proofs, and three-dimensional objects. Together, they offer insights into each cartoonist’s methods and approach, and show the care, detail, and artistry in each project.

Image: Jesse Jacobs, By This Shall You Know Him II, 2017, five-colour silkscreen print on paper by Strane Dizioni, Italy, Collection of the artist