25 February 2010

Seth: Dominion Art Show

On Sunday, January 31st, Seth came to London, Ontario for a conversation with curator Andrew Hunter on his Dominion art show - currently on display at Museum London (until March 14th). Seth has built approximately 60 cardboard buildings of his fictional Dominion town, and they have been on display in 5 different art installantions now, each installation being a bit different from the other. 
Originally, Dominion was to be a graphic novel of 5 interconnected stories -- with the connection between the stories being the town itself. Over time, Seth began to construct building of the town so he could better understand it for himself. Along the way he lost interest in the graphic novel, but continues to explore the city.
Here's a blurb from the Museum about the London show:
"Dominion is the elaborate, ever-expanding, work-in-progress of the renowned Canadian cartoonist Seth. An imagined place combining elements of numerous early modern Canadian cities, Dominion captures the spirit of the booming small metropolis at a time of community boosterism and growth."
I've seen Seth speak a number of times now, and he's always articulate and interesting. I went with fellow cartoonist extraordinaire Jesse Jacobs and a couple of others friends to the event.
Here's some highlights from the afternoon: 
About Dominion and Canada
  •  Dominion is a fictional Northern Ontario town, but is really more influenced by Southwestern Ontario - especially Hamilton. There is also a lot of London, Ontario in Dominion. Seth likes how the quality of the past lingers into the present in these towns.
  • He admits that this is less so today than it was 20 years ago, as "The only place the past really exists is in your memory, which is nebulous and always just out of your reach." 
  • Not surprisingly, Seth finds the world today "ugly, cheap and vulgar".
About Art and Cartooning
  • When curator Andrew Hunter talks about Canadian art and art schools, he mentions a current distaste or ignorance in young artists about the famous Group of Seven (a group of famous Canadian landscape artists from the 1920s for the uninitiated. Their work is ubiquitous in Canada from postcards & posters to placemats and coasters), Seth's reaction was hilarious:

    "Really? I can't see the point in rebelling against landscape art."
  • Tom Thomson, Snow Shadows, 1917
  • Until recently, cartoonists have been forced to find their own ancestors. This has forced them to become collectors in order to learn from the masters who have come before you.
  • Seth grew up reading Peanuts, but as a teenager turned to Marvel Comics, he said was: "like going from cocaine to crack."
  • There is something about those Marvel Comics that play on adolescent minds - they're like an image of a raging erection going around in the world.
  • In contrast, Schulz's work is deeply personal which transmits through his work.    
On his own Cartooning Style
  • "I like digression -- where characters ramble on and give more of a flavour to the work. Where what happens is not essential to the plot."
  • Cartooning is not drawing, it's graphic design and symbols. It's all about moving shapes around on the page. It's main purpose is as a storytelling medium.
  • "Real drawing" is about looking and seeing the world.

My sketch of Seth at the event

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