Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Billy Mavreas

Share |
Billy Mavreas

Nathaniel G. Moore's Conflict of Interest column appears biweekly.

Billy Mavreas has straddled various artistic communities for nigh on twenty years; producing rock posters, comics, artists books, visual poetry, graffiti, mail-art, installation, web art, performance, essay writing and guerrilla consultancy. He has influenced and encouraged an entire generation of Montreal aesthetes. The author of Inside Outside Overlap (Timeless, 2008), which Kid Koala called his favourite graphic novel ever in an OBT interview, took time to speak with Nathaniel G. Moore about all things creative for his column, Conflict of Interest.

NGM:

When mapping out a graphic novel or comic, how do you do it? Does the story come first, or does it happen at the same time?

BM:

I map out a graphic novel or comic strip in fits and starts. I may see a sequence in my mind’s eye and sketch it out, followed by another sequence. I then 'fill in the blanks, so to speak, bridging the action with quieter moments. The story emerges as more and more is drawn. Sometimes I work intuitively and improvisationally, sometimes I have little bits planned out that I know must make an appearance in the story. Mostly though, it's just a collection of happy accidents.

NGM:

Your latest book came from a serial comic strip you did with Ascent magazine. How does yoga and comics intersect?

BM:

Well, my character in these strips, Boy Priest, is more of a ceremonial magician or wizard than he is a yogi! Comics, and all art forms for that matter, have a very close connection to ritual. Intentional behaviour, allowing room for spontaneous gestures and expressivity, is the root of ceremony and the launchpad for artistic work as well. My latest book was a departure from the short comic strips I made for Ascent magazine since it was my first longer narrative; the difference between one hour doing yoga and a full-on meditation retreat in the woods!

NGM:

You're a part of Montreal's publishing scene; how have you noticed things change in the last ten years? What do you miss about those days?

BM:

The largest change I have noticed in the last ten years is simply that the volume of materials and activity has increased. The 'scene' has grown beyond the bounds of any perceived cohesion. Ten years ago, I may have thought that everyone in the scene knew each other somehow, now I'm not so sure. Nowadays it seems I can line a ballroom with zines and chapbooks made locally whereas those items used to enjoy a certain obscurity. I am also able to meet new people every week who are interested in self publishing. I also find that the internet has created a certain homogeneity of visual style. It seems regional differences are no longer as visible as they once were and I suspect zine fairs around the country and in the U.S. to be sporting identical product.

NGM:

Just a while ago you edited a collection of comics, Monster Island Three. What was the process of collecting work from other artists and showcasing them to the public? Do you have plans on another similar project?

BM:

There is a huge impulse in me to curate and edit the work of other artists. I'm a generally enthusiastic guy and often want to turn other people onto the work that I enjoy. Monster Island Three was a trade paperback whereas the first two issues were hand collated zines of varying complexity. Number 2, for example, knocked me on my ass with all its differing paper stocks and fold-outs. The next one may be a portfolio of prints or a ratty little zine, I haven't decided yet. I have spent the last year organizing and curating visual art shows in my gallery space though, and that will certainly continue.

NGM:

In the introduction to Monster Island Three you talk about why you put this book together. You write "children raised on fantasy and science fiction get into art early and deeply" and then you write that you "discovered that each of the contributors here stars in his/her own origin story." How closely are you involved with the fantasy side of your work; do you feel you are continuously revisiting a specific plot or spot of land you've cultivated since early on in life?

BM:

I feel that there is a continual distillation, a narrowing down and pulling together of all my first true loves, from monsters to found objects. I have to honour my childhood interests but also my teen ones, and the stuff that turned me on in university and beyond. And, of course, as I sift through all my accumulated psychic junk I discover the larger themes that have been guiding my life and they aren't always pretty. My aesthetic interests have to collide against my emotional issues and mental habits, so the structure I'm building may seem to totter from time to time and have too many divergent wings. But I have to trust my process. In the end I hope to create work that entertains kids, gives mom and dad something to chew on, and delights the Jungian psychotherapists and Crowleyan qabbalists on their third reading.

Related item from our archives