Say what you will for Canadian artist Devon Marinac — and you can say a lot — but his work consistently refuses to be not just pigeonholed, but even categorized together. I mean, yeah, his new work Pussycats, Paperbacks, Pennants, And Penance is a ‘zine (and one self-published in an edition of just 30 copies, at that!), but beyond that? All bets are off.
And isn’t that what good art is all about at the end of the day — as well as the beginning and all points throughout? As you flip through this, every page promises a unique and inimitable experience, even — self-contradictory as this no doubt sounds — when themes and scenes are repeated, as they often are herein. There are two ways of looking at this, of course — one can choose to say to themselves “this is the third time we’ve seen a black cat going for a stroll along a crowded bookshelf in this mag,” or one can say to themselves “this is the first time we’ve seen a black cat going for a stroll along a crowded bookshelf for the third time in this mag,” and if the artist has a penchant for keeping things fresh, new, exciting, and engrossing, then you’re going to find yourself far more inclined toward the latter viewpoint — suffice to say, Marinac invariably keeps things fresh, new, exciting, and engrossing. As well as confounding. And yes, that’s very much meant as a compliment.
If you feel as though you’re obligated to be downright confused by this “comic,” however, rest easy — nothing could be further from the truth. Granted, you’ve got to do a fair amount of decoding and deciphering — not least of which in relation to the artist’s own aims and intentions — but this is also disarmingly straightforward stuff in many respects that gives the game away right off the bat with its title : while the meaning and inclusion of penance is a bit of a mystery, the pussycats, the paperbacks, and the pennants are all right there, present and accounted for, from first page to last. And my best guess is that the smoking, drinking, basement-dwelling (okay, that’s an assumption on my part, but probably not an unreasonable one) “protagonist” of the piece with the avian appearance, as seen above, is our penitent, but how he/she/it is performing their act(s) of contrition, and in response to what infraction (or series of them), well — answering that query takes some detective work. Or maybe just some intuition. Or maybe both? Perhaps they just need to make amends for having such a cluttered apartment, but hey — the cats don’t seem to mind.
There are meanings to be inferred, and chuckles to be had, from some of the book titles, bottle labels, and pennant designations/insignia displayed throughout these pages — for some reason the pennant that simple reads “Unsatisfied” was a particular favorite of this critic — but even if they were all gibberish, this would still be something guaranteed to transfix the attention of the curious, perhaps ultimately because it’s such a curious item itself. Like calls to like, after all, but that doesn’t mean you’ve necessarily seen anything “like” this — and if you have, it probably also came from the mind and pen of Devon Marinac.
Still, there’s a natural impulse on the part of not just me, but any critic — especially one worth his or her salt — to attempt to explain a given work. To offer broader context so as to fairly expound upon why it does or doesn’t succeed at what it’s attempting to do or to be. All that’s out the window here, though — and that’s what makes it such a damned exciting thing to consider. Defying convention, expectation, categorization — that’s all well and good, but if something defies explanation ? Then we’re really in some rarefied air.
Here’s the thing, though : with Marinac, that’s just par for the course. Which is to say, everything he produces it an utterly unique entity, and yet it’s all recognizably his more or less immediately, as the cover to his other new ‘zine, Mix Yourself A Dead End (right above these words), ably demonstrates. When you can do that as an artist — create work that is like nothing else you’ve done on the one hand, and like nothing else anyone else has done either on the other — yet still infuse it with a vision so unmistakably your own that it fits in seamlessly with your larger ouevre? That’s when you’re really firing on all cylinders.
Pussycats, Paperbacks, Pennats, And Penance is available for $8.00 from Austin English’s Domino Books distro at http://dominobooks.org/pussycats.html
Review wrist check – whiling away the late night/early morning hours at work with my Zodiac “Super Sea Wolf 53” in the iconic “Blackout Edition.” Okay, maybe “iconic” is a reach for a relatively new variation on this timeless design, but I dunno — I think you generally know an icon when you see one.