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Women (RI)visible in Rijeka

As the COVID-19 lockdown eases in Ireland and Europe, museums and cultural spaces are opening up again.

So I’m pleased to hear that the next stop in the Wom@rts Roaming Exhibition is set to open tonight!

Photo from the Womarts Instagram account.

The exhibition, called ‘Women (RI)visible‘, kicks off tonight at 19:00 at the Tower Center Rijeka and will be in place until 18:00 on 21 July. Thanks to the Womarts partner, Akademija primijenjenih umjetnosti u Rijeci, Melinda Kostelac and her team for making this happen.

The work being exhibited tonight comes from the 10-day Comics & Illustrators Residency I was a part of in September 2018 in Angoulême, France. The list of participants is:

Xulia Vicente (Cariño, Spain), Nanu González (Oviedo, Spain), Meriem Mesfioui (aka. Durgmaya (France), Scotty Hervouet (France), Raquel Lagartos (Oviedo, Spain), Korina Hunjak (Rijeka, Croatia), Akvilė Misevičiūtė (aka. Akvilė Magicdust, Vilnius, Lithuania) and Samira Kentrić (Ljubljana, Slovenia), Fionnuala Doran (Ireland) and me (Ireland).

Photo from the Womarts Instagram account.

During our time at the residency each of us had to complete a two-page comic book narrative, or two large illustrations, inspired or informed by The Second Sex, the influential feminist work by Simone de Beauvoir on the 70th anniversary of its first publication.

The story I created was called ‘Interview with a Sphinx’, and here’s my artistic statement for the piece:

I’m primarily a prose and comic book writer so this work was a challenge as I had to develop a character and visual narrative that I could complete with my skill set and within the time frame. Simone de Beauvoir’s work was hugely inspiring, and I was struck by the quote ‘A woman is not a fixed reality but a becoming’. My writing is always inspired by mythology, and I often ponder the way stories are told by past generations to justify their methods of control.

The Sphinx is a powerful hybrid creature of many parts and in the original story serves as a metaphor for the ‘monstrous regiment of women’. I think it unlikely that such a fabulous beast could be toppled by a man solving a simple riddle. A Sphinx, at peace with her diverse nature and aware of her power, would not be easily overcome or fooled. People who accept their dynamic natures are a force to be reckoned with in this world.

 

 

This image is from the top of the first page, and introduces the narrator of the story, the Sphinx herself. Those fond of mythology will note that I’ve modified the ‘traditional’ look of the Sphinx, but that’s the great power of art and fiction: we can transform the narrative. I wrote, pencilled, coloured (primarily using colouring pencils) and lettered the pieces on my own, but with great support from the fabulous artists who were on the residency with me.

I have terrific memories from this residency. Angoulême is a comic book creator’s dream: an entire picturesque village in France devoted to comic books and artists, from its colleges, museums, artists’ residence, and large murals dotted around the town on its buildings. The weather was hot and sunny, and we worked almost every day from 9 am until 6 pm apart from a couple of excursions.

In the evening we often dined together outside a café or shared food and drink together in the outside space of our apartment building. In the morning I brewed a pot of coffee in my tiny ‘kitchenette space’ and shared it with fellow caffeine addict, Korina, as I ate fresh French strawberries and prepared for the day’s work.

The experience strongly reminded me how inspiring it is to have the time and space to work exclusively on a single project in the company of fellow creators, and I am so grateful to Womarts for the opportunity to attend.

During this current era of limited travel those memories of friends and France offer me solace and also remind me to keep pushing and stretching my creative horizons.

Here’s a short set of images from my stay in Angoulême.

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