Apr. 30, 2008 - Issue #654: SNFU
Stories my imagination told me
Spyder spins a twisted cartoon web
In the art world, the lowly editorial cartoonist doesn’t get
much respect. Actually, scratch that—the editorial cartoonist gets no
respect at all, or maybe just a little more than the folks churning out those
godawful three-panel groaners in the “funny” pages.
And truthfully, when was the last time you saw an editorial cartoon you might consider clipping out and framing? Probably never, right?
Well, Spyder Yardley-Jones (the prolific Edmonton artist who created
some of the music scene’s most memorable gig posters, including many
for SNFU, throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s) begs to differ. His
dad, the Edmonton Journal’s long-serving editorial cartoonist (now
retired) refined the craft over his four decades behind an easel, and
Spyder, though not a cartoonist per se, hasn’t been able to avoid his
father’s opinionated shadow.
“That’s my background,” Jones says. “So
unfortunately—or I don’t know if it’s unfortunate,
necessarily—my artwork always seems to have that editorial element to
it, always needs to have some kind of statement.”
Jones has long been a character on Edmonton’s art scene—but
despite being our beloved artist/cartoonist/punk rock scenester, Jones has
been most notable by his absence from local galleries in the past few years
(though he’s been busy with several exhibitions in Phoenix).
That’s set to change this week, as his new exhibition, Stories My Imagination Told Me, opens up at the Art Beat Gallery in St Albert—and yes, the work on display is obviously influenced by his dad’s work on the opinion pages.
The new black and white pen drawings resemble editorial cartoons, but are
executed with far more subtlety, humour and intellect than your standard
op-ed caricaturist brings to the opinion page. As with all (good) editorial
cartoons, Jones’ pieces are stuffed with visual allusions and
shorthand, and there’s obviously some kind of moral to decipher in
each one. It’s just that the statements, for the most part,
aren’t all that clear, and most are willfully enigmatic, tableaus
across which anthropomorphic reptile-men drive cartoon tanks and
aristocratic families of grotesque lizard-people pose for a formal
portrait. (At the risk of sounding superficial, they really do look like
editorial cartoons on acid). There are exceptions, such as a piece
depicting a gigantic Rube Goldberg-esque piece of heavy machinery churning
apart a huge rockface to produce, at the other end of its mechanical guts,
a single drop of oil. But most are up for interpretation—which Jones
“I’m not titling any of them,” he says, “because I
want people to come up with their own idea of what’s going on, what
the story is. I figured if it had a name, they’d have preconveived
notions. At the show there’s going to be a piece of paper and a
pencil next to all the pieces, and people can title them
Jones won’t be out of local galleries for long after this
year—another exhibition is scheduled at Harcourt House next year, and
Jones promises the most controversial work of his career to date (not an
empty threat from a guy whose most famous past work includes a caricature
of himself gunning down the Family Circus clan, and a homoerotic depiction
of Bert and Ernie).
“Those are going to cause trouble. I’m taking on everyone,
pro-lifers, the Middle East, politicians, the pope ... ”
“Oh,” says Jones, “this new one, he’s low on the
pope-scale, don’t you think?” V
Thu, May 1 - Sat, May 31
Stories My Imagination Told Me
By Spyder Yardley-Jones,
Art Beat Gallery (26 St Anne St, St Albert)
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