SETH at the Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas West), through October 16. $8, stu/srs $5. 416-979-6648. Rating: NNNN
Sometime in the last 20 years, the airtight canons of literature and fine art sprang a leak and finally embraced comic books. The medium has proven itself a viable, even superior windsock for gusts from the post-whatever present.
The latest to seep into the art world is renowned Canadian comic book artist Seth . As part of the AGO 's Present Tense series, he shows some notebooks, original ink drawings from his Palookaville series, a small cardboard version of his fictional Ontario town, Dominion, and Hush, a piece commissioned by the National Post in late 1999.
It's always rewarding to see the work of good illustrators in their much larger, original form. Hush, which the AGO has acquired, reveals hidden secrets in abandoned bits of Canadiana. Glancing around the country, you see dark landscapes and detailed close-ups of little treasures, from a dilapidated drive-in to a forgotten snack trailer.
Twelve original pages from Palookaville 16 show Clyde Fan salesman Simon Matchcard as he fixes breakfast for his ailing, confused mother, whose inevitable death, when it happens, "will be like something that happened in the past."
Dominion, site of Simon's failed sales trip in Clyde Fans 2, takes shape as 36 small grey 3-D cardboard buildings arranged on a street grid, giving the feel of soaring over the detailed cartoon town despite the odd variations in scale. The familiar set makes a nice addition to the drawings.
Marker, ink and grease pencil form fabulous scenes on paper, with clean lines, depth and liberal use of shadows for dramatic effect, expertly guiding your eyes through each frame. In scene after scene, the quiet views reflect Simon's despondence.
The medium that comics most obviously parallels is film. Seth's work offers a distinctly cinematic experience, yet one that lets you take your time.
It's time well spent.