It’s the first of September and we are extremely excited to introduce our ninth artist in residence of 2017: Nicky Arscott. In the first piece of his residency, Arscott presents Discovering Poetry Comics. Throughout 2017 these artists will take a leading creative role in what Wales Arts Review publishes, centring their skills on a challenging project over the course of a month. We were inundated with applications, receiving hundreds of emails about the positions, and it was no easy task whittling down all that talent to this final eleven. Our team of six editors debated long into the night, and in the end, we decided on a collection of people who we most want to work with, and whose work excites us. We think you will be excited by them too.
Discovering Poetry Comics by Nicky Arscott
Before the Arty Bollocks Generator existed, I always found artist statements a terrible thing to have to try and create. Even more difficult were the writer’s statements. They usually ended up starting something like: ‘As an artist as well as a poet, I like to explore the visual within the narrative,’ or: ‘As a poet as well as an artist, I like to explore the narrative within the visual’ and so on and so forth. ‘I am always seeking out the most innovative manner in which to combine my writing and my visual art’ was another one (I wasn’t).
It wasn’t until a friend asked me why I didn’t just write words on my paintings and I recoiled in horror that I realised I had some artistic compartmentalising issues that needed to be addressed. The idea of writing big letters on a painting felt like sacrilege. No one would want to buy a painting with words on it! Especially my weird words! Conscious that this was something I should probably try to overcome, I decided to start small. With drawings… and someone else’s words.
Somehow, I generated enough arty bollocks to convince Arts Council Wales to give me a Research and Development Grant (sincere thanks really do go to ACW for their invaluable help). I began a project exploring Llanbrynmair (where I live) and cross-Atlantic immigration, in collaboration with Texan poet Greg Koehler. I studied the letters and manuscripts (kept in the National Library of Wales) sent between Wales and Tennessee, where a group of people from Llanbrynmair had tried to set up a Welsh colony. These became the starting point for a series of pieces which includes ‘Gooey Door’ (below).
We were genuinely surprised by how enthusiastically these pieces were received. They have been published in New Welsh Review, Poetry Wales, and Nashville Review.** Having been told that what I was creating was something called ‘poetry comics’, I started to read up on the subject (there is an anti-manifesto that I really like here). I’m still not convinced that this is the best term to describe what I have continued to do ever since, but it’s better than the term ‘graphic narrative’, which makes me think of that sexy-times comic in The Sun.
Over the past few years I have fallen in love with comics of all kinds, although I would never go so far as to describe myself as an expert. I just really like a good comic and I hope to infect other people with the comics virus during this residency. I will be showing you comics made in collaboration with other writers, alongside several comics of my own, spanning the ‘high-brow’ to the ‘low-brow’ while hoping to blur the boundary between those two silly distinctions. I will be exploring the relationship between the word and image, as well as looking at what happens When Comics Go Wrong.
This piece, Discovering Poetry Comics by Nicky Arscott is part of the Artists in Residence series.