Comic Tragics: the exploding language of contemporary comic art

AGWA’s latest exhibition explores the medium of comics, proving they are more than just stories about superheros and villains, but works of art.

A variety of comics from around the world come together in a free exhibition that explores how comic artists, and their graphic works, reach out and connect with the audience.

Curator of contemporary design and international art, Robert Cook, says the exhibition broadens what we might consider contemporary art to include comics and illustrations.

“I’d been a fan of comics for decades and it was a gradual realisation that the works of the world’s best comic artists could absolutely hold their own on the walls of a gallery in the very same way that what we traditionally know as art or contemporary art can,” explains Robert.

The exhibition goes beyond what is hanging on the wall and looks at the messages of the art on show.

“So my emotional thematic was key to the show, putting together artists whose work has a personal depth and resonance. That’s how you would do a contemporary art show; you’d find works that have a greater meaning together. That was my aim here.”

There are 150 pieces in the exhibition, including those from Gabrielle Bell (US), Stephen Collins (UK), Aisha Franz (Ger), Anders Nilsen (US), and Tommi Parrish (the only artist from Australia), amongst others.

“Comics are a very strong art form in this country and there is no doubt there’s room for a show just on material from this country. As I made this show, though, I really was going with the thematic of the comic tragic, and for that Tommi Parrish’s work fitted just so well.”

The mixed mediums range from sketchbooks and paintings, to comic pages and videos. The pieces are presented in different stages of completion, showing the process of how the artist works.

“I think comics do not put any barriers up. They present honest stories (often heart-wrenching ones) in instantly accessible ways using picture forms that represent a whole way of looking at the world,” says Robert. “What I mean is that there is little actual decoding that needs to go on to “get” a work, but that the message is suffused so wonderfully through a sensibility, a way of using text and image that speaks about a very particular view of the world.”

Comic Tragics is running at the Art Gallery of Western Australia until July 25.
An associated event that ties in with this exhibition, Comics Big Day In, will run on Sunday June 5 from 11am-4pm.


Art Gallery of Western Australia