Artslink Interview

A Story of Adventure: The Black Book of Falling - Comic Drawing by Peter Suart

Life is like an adventure. Reading The Black Book of Falling by Peter Suart is like experiencing life. It is the life of you and I, rich and poor, Italian and American, the ancients and Homo sapiens. It is about the life of everyone. Knowing that Peter Suart will have an exhibition, a book launch and talks this month, we invited him to an interview to talk about himself and his new book.

About you and your comic drawings

Esther Chan: As I know you engage in various art forms, you are an artist, a composer, a musician, a playwright, a performer, a set-designer, a lyricist, a poet and a writer. How is comic drawing different from all the other arts forms and which role is illustrating in your art life?
Peter Suart: Strip cartooning is cinematic illustration. Writing and illustrating have predominated for the last seven years. The illustrated book combines several pleasures ─ stories, narrative pictures, private reading ─ and is portable and affordable.

E: You have been raised in HK and have returned to England since 1999 ? Where do you regard as your homeland? How do you feel about these two places?
P: Not to have a homeland is a lack and a blessing. They say that Hong Kong and southern England are in one world, but their being connected by metal tubes in the sky makes it hard to think so. Making the trip by train fails to convince. England is about to acquire seventeen casinos. Spitsbergen?

E: What comic drawings or illustrations do you like most? Are there any real life experiences or any books, music, or movies that inspire you to create your comic drawings such as this new one?
P: The cartoon gods: McCay (Little Nemo), Hergé (Tintin), Uderzo (Asterix), Jansson (the Moomins), Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes). Their single-frame brethren: Nielsen, Dulac, Rackham, Shepard, Peake. The Black Book of Falling fell out of nowhere, but there is a debt to all above.

E: Why are you interested in Perennial Philosophy? Does it infuse into your comic drawings? Do you incorporate some segments from it?
P: What is real? The wish to know may stem from a misapprehension due to language (the word 'real' has no meaning) or due to a flawed sense of what constitutes the self. The Perennial Philosophy is found in wisdom traditions around the world. It is either humanity's deepest and highest insight or an enduring delusion. Simply: the small self is a spark of the flame of Self, and when it realises this fact it enters the eternal (timeless) moment; death hath no sting, and the desperate hurt of warring life is transcended, blissfully. Talking about this directly in art or life can be fruitless.

About the story of comic drawings

E: Why did you choose a boy, Tik, and a dog, Tok, to be the characters?
P: A human/animal pair can be richly comic and can present an amused and bemused view of humanity. This is a common device, as seen in the Tintin/Snowy and Calvin/Hobbes pairings.

E: At the beginning, Tik and Tok find their way out of a black hole into a bewildering world. Why did you start the story like that? On the last page, they are in the mouth of a man, who’s that? Could you further elaborate on that?
P: Being is bewildering. When we meet the man we will know him without introduction.

E: They meet a cast of strange peoples and encountering numerous perennial human problems such as war, hazard, death, and slavery. However, they look the same way throughout the whole adventure. Not for pursuing a physical goal, is there any implication behind that?
P: The book not being a Cold War thriller, the author is free to preserve his characters in the most implausible fashion. The requirement is not to be plausible, but to amuse and to intrigue. Tik and Tok have no goal. Their choice is to be still or to move through the world.

E: In the story, the characters keep falling and walking , what you want to express? Is there any symbolic meaning?
P: Falling is a profound metaphor for the human condition.

E: What do you think is an open-ending storyline? Is this comic different from others?
P: Good art is ever-opening. The Black Book of Falling's method of construction: five pages a week, written and drawn with no preparation, direction or plot outline. This method is akin to falling.

E: Does the comic have a certain theme? Is it about the Life and death?
P: There are many themes. If they hang together, that is a spooky indicator of an organising power in the unconscious. (See the answer of the above question.)

E: Do you express the whole story in black and white deliberately? What kind of atmosphere do you want to create with the comic drawings?
P: The scratching of an ink-charged metal pen on paper in a small wooden-floored room has a monastic ring and provides profound pleasure. The pen must be cleaned repeatedly or the weight of expletives becomes injurious to the work. The method is old, and cheap, and requires no electrickery.

About your exhibition

E: How many books have you published? Which ones are the most influential & impressive?
P: There are seven Tik and Tok books. North is a good place to start if you don't know them. Of the four Folio Society books, the latest, Robertson Davies' The Deptford Trilogy, is the best.

E: What is your expectation for this exhibition?
P: Doubtless a sum of money will be offered for the publishing and film rights sufficient to build a tower in the north in which to read Peake and Melville, through a glass, darkly.

E: What do you think about the comics market & comic’s popularity in HK? What about this market’s future or trend?
P: There is a considerable audience for comics in HK. The form is a good one for discussing ideas and for amusing ourselves before we hit the ground.

The Black Book of Falling- Comic Drawing by Peter Suart is a programme of the Comix Home Base Project. After the showcase of independent and mainstream comics presented last March and July, we try to widen our sight by exchanging with artists and audiences in other cities. o, we had Jimmy’s Secret Garden last August and Comix Magneto touring to Singapore this February. We are pleased to have Peter Suart from England this spring. Other than his latest artworks, he will be present at the Arts Centre to share his experience on drawing with the audience.

About Esther Chan: After studying Cultural Studies, she became a labor in the media industry. Writing, photography and cinema are part of her life. Spiritual food becomes necessities.
Co-presented by: Hong Kong Arts Centre and MCCM CREATION


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