Leigh Rigozzi is a Sydney-based artist and the editor of Blood & Thunder, an infrequently published anthology of Australian comics. He is Projects & Communications Officer at the NSW Writers’ Centre.
Leigh has curated an exhibition of comic art for the upcoming Emerging Writers’ Festival Roadshow and will be speaking on a panel about book design.
We spoke to Leigh about curating a comics exhibition, women in comics, and designing zines.
The exhibition is being billed ‘an exhibition of comic art from Australia’s thriving graphic publishing scene’. What do you think has changed in the last couple of years so that we are at the point of the scene ‘thriving’?
There has always been great output from the comics scene in Australia if you know where to look, but the publishing culture is very homegrown and DIY. A lot of it is still like that, but there have been a few big events in Australian comics recently. Pat Grant and Simon Hanselmann, who are both represented in this exhibition, have each produced graphic novels which have gone on to become international successes. In fact, Simon’s book has just hit the New York Times bestseller list.
There’s movement happening in Australia, too. The Museum of Contemporary Art puts on a hugely successful zine fair every year, there are small publishers in Australia like Milk Shadow books and Pikitia Press doing some great stuff, and print collectives like the Rizzeria are making it easier than ever for creators to realize their visions in print. Perhaps the scene isn’t ‘thriving’ in the sense that people aren’t making money out of it, but there are more and more talented people coming out of the woodwork all the time.
Comics and graphic novels have traditionally been a male domain but with the work of female artists being recognised more and more, do you think we are beyond that point now? You have curated Katie Parrish in this exhibition, are there any other emerging Australian female artists you would recommend checking out?
There is no shortage of women in the Australian comic art scene. I think that is because it is largely based around creative communities driven by passionate creative individuals rather than an industry driven by commercial interests, where the types of stories that sell often seem to be based around hoary stereotypes and narrative tropes.
Some of the women who will be exhibiting in this show are Nicky Minus, Jo Waite, Natalia Zajaz, Katie Parrish, Lizzie Nagy and Mandy Ord, all of whose work I recommend highly, and there are a lot of other very talented ladies out there in the Australian comics scene.
Comics are appreciated as much for their storytelling and artistic merit as for their printed form. You used RISO to great effect with the Blood & Thunder Anthology, a form of printing with a cult-like following. Do you think comics need to be held to be truly appreciated; do you lose something viewing them on the computer screen?
Comics employ a visual language that can translate across many media forms. I enjoy online comics a lot, but I also have a fetish for print. A lot of comics are designed with physical publication in mind, so for that work obviously print is the most appropriate form. When we put together Blood & Thunder, we wanted to make a book that was as much about the variety and quality of print as it was about the narratives it contained. We used multiple stocks and print techniques to bring the book into being, and that tactility is obviously something that can’t be replicated on a screen.
In this exhibition I’ve tried to bring together some artists that represent a spectrum of what is going on between drawing and print in comics. I love the artifacts left behind by an artist on an original comics page, and I love the qualities that are unique to various print techniques, so to some extent I’ve chosen artists based on that relationship between original pages and printed work.
Along with curating this exhibition, you are appearing in the session The Look of the Book, a discussion on why book design is so important. Is there an example of interesting or exciting book design that has come out Australia in the last couple of years?
I’ll be talking from a personal perspective on that panel as opposed to some kind of ‘industry insider’. I’ve self-published a lot of work over the years in various forms, and in some ways the Blood & Thunder anthology was a culmination of that. I’ll be talking about some of the print techniques I’ve used over the years and how those techniques affect the design of a book.
Images: Mandy Ord, Fionn McCabe and Greg Sharp.
To read more about the Emerging Writers’ Festival Roadshow and to book tickets, click here.